Batman has broken free of the Scarecrow’s toxins, but can he shake what he saw while he was under? Would Gotham truly be better without the Bat? Answers abound—from several quarters—in Batman: Kings of Fear #6, as the miniseries wraps up.
It’s a miserable life
If you’re just now checking in with this book, here’s the basic gist: Scarecrow escapes from Arkham with a guard as hostage. Batman tracks him down and gets gassed. Scarecrow insists that he be given the opportunity to observe and analyze Batman, and promises in return to show the way to the hostage. What Crane has actually been doing is attempting to convince Batman that he’s (“he” being Batman) done more harm to Gotham than good. And last issue, he presented a sort of inversion of the classic film It’s A Wonderful Life—a “what-if” reality in which Bruce sunk his intellect and financial resources into the betterment of the city, and his rogues gallery—having never become obsessed with the Dark Knight—were reformed and went on to do great things (most of them, anyway).
This issue picks up just after Bats injected himself with adrenaline and pushed through the hallucinations. He wraps up with the Scarecrow and saves the hostage, but the toxin-induced reality, as well as the question of Batman’s net effect on the city, continues to haunt his mind. Your mileage may vary, but I feel like Peterson has done—and in this issue, continues to do—an excellent job with a high-mileage Batman trope. This story could easily have felt like a rehashed plot, revived only so that Kelley Jones could draw Batman again; but it didn’t. Instead of giving us lots of Bruce navel-gazing, Peterson lets three allies counter the Scarecrow’s thesis. I won’t spoil what was said, or who said it, on the off-chance you haven’t read this yet, but it is in these rebuttals that this issue’s greatest strength lies. Two of them are testimonies of actual events in which Batman had a far-reaching positive effect, but the final—and most stirring—is the “last word” of the book: one that is perhaps more emotional than logical, but is probably also the most convincing.
A slight dip in consistency
You either love or you hate Kelley Jones, and I fall into the former camp—though I started on the other side. His work throughout this series has been very much in character—lots of ink and shadow, distorted proportions and anatomy, and plenty of detailed, imaginative takes on backgrounds and cityscapes. This final issue has almost none of the background/cityscape work, because those don’t make as much sense for the script; but there’s plenty of the other stuff, and for the most part, it’s vintage Jones, and I love it. But for the first time in the series, I did notice a few panels where it seemed like maybe he was rushed, and he wasn’t able to put all of the ink-work in that he normally does.
I’ve blurred out the rest of the artwork to focus on Batman. Look at his lips, in particular—that’s not a very Jonesy-looking mouth at all. There are too many thin lines, and not nearly as much ink adorning them as we would expect. Here’s another one:
Jones’s hatching tends to get thick and tight before long, but here, there’s lots of spacious hatching on the lip line, and even leading into the cheek bone, and it looks out-of-character.
None of this is a huge deal, particularly because it is rare, and because the visual storytelling is (nearly) impeccable, but it does stand out when it happens, and you kind of hope that in a limited series, you’ll get the best work all the way through. Regardless, this final issue of Kings of Fear is jam-packed with outstanding work from Jones and Peterson, Madsen, and letterer Rob Leigh, and if you’ve enjoyed the book up to this point, I can’t imagine you won’t be satisfied with its conclusion.
- You dig Kelley Jones’s unique aesthetic.
- You like It’s A Wonderful Life/Perchance to Dream type stories.
- You don’t mind a fresh take on a familiar trope.
Batman: Kings of Fear closes with a poignant rebuttal of the Scarecrow’s anti-Bat thesis. There are a few inconsistencies in Kelley Jones’s artwork this time around, but the team nevertheless manages to deliver what is an incredibly satisfying conclusion to what has been an enjoyable Batman tale.