Collecting issues #626 to 630
Writer: Judd Winick
Artists: Dustin Nguyen (p), Richard Friend (i)
Publisher: DC/Titan Books (ISBN 1-84023-914-X)
I could almost write the complete opposite of last week’s Batman: War Drums review for this book, as it differs in so many ways: a single creative team instead of many, leading to consistency of art throughout and a focused story; a single self-contained storyline instead of being part of a larger tapestry, meaning it’s the perfect Bat-dippable book for lapsed readers instead of mainly aimed at collectors.
The story: Various gang bosses in Gotham are being killed by a nasty Scarecrow-like creature – except it’s two foot taller, ten stone heavier, and has dirty great claws. What links the bosses is they are all lieutenants of The Penguin, who’s been trying to unite the gangs under his leadership. The Scarecrow himself – in his alter ego form of Jonathan Crane – also works for the Penguin with an ex-Doctor assistant, attempting to devise a new formula of his fear serum, to keep the gang bosses in fear of Penguin. Enter Batman, to stop the deaths, to find out if there’s any link between Scarecrow’s old and new, and basically be the big hero (along with the “old” Tim Drake Robin).
Being a five part, self-contained storyline, you actually get yourself a beginning, a middle and an end, and can effectively take the book completely out of continuity and read it almost anywhere in comparison to other Bat books without feeling you’re missing something. The writing is tight and focused on the story, giving more time to events outside of Batman and Robin’s experiences for the reader’s benefit – which has a slight downside in you begin to suspect some things are not quite as they seem a little too early, it makes the denouement a little less of a surprise. The final scene with “Fright” is also a little disappointing, as it brings to mind the ending of Batman: Death and the Maidens, the entire point of which seemed to be to replace one Ra’s Al-Ghul with another. It leaves the ending a little more open than I’d personally like from an otherwise self-contained piece – ultimately Batman achieves little than nullifying an immediate threat to his health, he seems ineffectual regarding the big picture.
The art works best when it’s showing us the creature in all its glory – Batman on his own is fine, it’s just that Robin looks too small, too waif-like, too childish – Tim Drake is, what, 18 or so? Robin looks like he’s ten. Other than that, no complaints, the book is mostly dark throughout (although never murky or unclear) and every Robin appearance is a shocking use of bright colour – which is as it should be, good job guys.
The other good news is that there’s actually some detection this time around, as hinted at in this exchange between Bats and Robin:
Robin: “So, what do we do now?”
Batman: “We watch. We wait.”
Robin: “Exciting. I don’t have to dress up as a chick again, do I?”
You just know he loved every minute of it.
What did you think of this book?
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