Batman: Fear Itself By: Michael Reaves and Steven-Elliot Altman
This was a refreshing tale involving not only a desperate horror author but also one of my favorite Batman villains, The Scarecrow. I really loved the analysis of horror writing “going too far” with scaring readers, and whether the potential liability falls on the shoulders of the author. Of course that question gets ramped up since this involves the Scarecrow.
I grew to like Ulysses Cutter, the afflicted henchman that worked with Crane. However I struggled to like Maggie as a character since we ended up having both Bruce Wayne and the Horror Author fighting over her attention. I had some issues with the ending, but if you read enough comics or watch enough comic book movies, it’s not terribly surprising.
I enjoyed the characters and the setup, and I chuckled multiple times at the literary references and classic horror movie references. I may be biased toward this story since I am a horror author myself. 😉
Wow, but it’s been a long time since I’ve done a comic book review! I looked back and I think the last one I did was in 2011 for the Batman: Year One movie (which doesn’t quite count, does it?). Well I’m hoping to remedy that!
Why Comic Books?
I’ve love doing book reviews here on my blog, because as an author, I think it’s important to show some love when you finish a book. It’s tough out there for us authors, and every bit of love you can give back is appreciated.
I also love reading comic books though, and I find again and again that really great comics don’t get the attention they deserve, either because they’re considered juvenile despite the wide acclaim the comic book movies have gotten in the past decade, or because people don’t think it’s worth the money. For me, I think comic books are a perfect mixture of art and story, with both methods adding together for a very unique experience.
I grew up on Batman comic books, and now with the ease of availability of comic books, I can finally get access to read series that I’ve missed out on for too many years. (A big thank you goes out to DC Universe, cause I can already see me reading quite a number of those back issues!)
So since I got a good number of votes over on my Instagram story for it, I’ve decided to do a full review for the Fear of Faith series of comics, that were released back in the early 1990s. They featured my personal favorite Bat-villain, The Scarecrow.
Fear of Faith: Part 1: Fanning the Flames
The first issue of Fear of Faith shows up in Legends of the Dark Knight #116. It takes place during the No Man’s Land series, which is when Gotham City is hit with a huge earthquake. When the city is practically annexed from the United States, most people evacuate, but the ones who are left work to carve the city into territories. Resources are low and Gothamites are forced to work together or battle it out in order to survive. This of course includes some of Gotham’s notorious villains, such as the Scarecrow, who we find horrified on the title page.
Scarecrow is watching a huge bonfire made of burning books, and knowing that he’s an academic, he’s outraged. One of he most wonderful lines in this book is when he states “I have never known a cold so bitter that it must be staved off with books.” And if we take into account the Scarecrow: Year One series (which I hope to review later), we know that he has probably experienced many cold nights. Scarecrow values knowledge above all else, even if it means life and death.
His attention is pulled though when one book is not burned: the Bible. Suddenly the tone is set for how Scarecrow plans to harm these people: through some form of religious manipulation.
We’re introduced to a church that is run by Father Chris. His church accepts anyone who wishes to be part of it, no strings attached, and he also rejects any attempt at police protection.
Across town we see a gang who used to work under Black Mask, but who now travel together. They break into a morgue in order to fish out any bullets from the corpses there. It’s distasteful work and morally repulsive, and one of the members, Mikey, refuses to be part of it and gets ostracized from the group. Batman questions him about it, and we later discover that he drops Mikey off at Father Chris’ church so he an have a safe space separate from the gang.
We find Jim Gordan having to sleep in jail cells since presumably the Gotham Police Department building is no longer livable. From him we learn that he has tried to convince Father Chris to allow the police to protect his area, but he refuses, claiming that he has immigrants who would be intimidated and frightened by their presence. Then Huntress approaches Father Chris, trying to get them to allow her protection. However once again Father Chris refuses.
Then Huntress finds that the Scarecrow is casually reading a book, and she goes into attack mode. Father Chris has to remind her that she has no authority in his church and that everyone, even someone like Scarecrow is welcome. We start to understand the dangers of Father Chris’ decisions, but also understand what it looks like to others taking refuge there when Huntress attacks him.
Another interesting line here is what Huntress says, “I confess that my own morality has at times been questionable, but I do know the good guys from the bad guys.” To which the Scarecrow responds, “Do you? Are you sure?”
And we have setup the moral dilemma here between Huntress and Scarecrow, who turn out to be our main contradictory characters for the storyline. Huntress, unlike Batman, has no trouble killing but she is also a very religious woman. She is more a vigilante than Batman is, and often is far more violent.
There are several pieces that make this story fascinating to me, as a Scarecrow fan. First of all, this is one of the few storylines where Scarecrow must work without his famed toxin. This turns this short 4-book series into a game of politics and persuasion. The series really puts his mind to work, which I rarely see from many comic books.
Another piece I enjoy is that each of these books have Scarecrow’s mental dialogue going throughout. They show as the dark tan speech bbubbles with jagged edges we saw in the first screenshot, but often have him diving deep into philosophical and scientific or even chemical concepts. In this book, he tackles the question of why humans fear other humans.
“Are we truly, as a species, inherently mistrustful and unkind? Or have thousands of years of evolutionary coding left us justifiably competitive and aggressive? Is it truly the unknown nature of our neighbor that terrifies us so… or is it, rather, the secretly known nature of ourselves?”
This runs alongside Huntress attacking Scarecrow and the violence that ensues, almost as a parody of the events taking fold. Inside the Scarecrow’s mind, we see that even when he is being attacked, that he sees himself as winning. This is evidence of his mental instability, and sets the stage for what happens next in the series.
Despite the numerous points of view in this comic, it gives us a really juicy setup for the trouble and danger we know is coming. Despite Scarecrow requesting Father Chris to take him in out of kindness, we see that he only wanted to get closer to start his philosophical battle.
I hope you enjoyed this! I’m looking forward to doing a deep dive into parts 2-4 of Fear of Faith, where we learn the Scarecrow’s plans and see what’s in store for Huntress and Batman!
So apparently my muse decided to take a bit of a detour. I was reading over an interesting discussion on the Livejournal community batfic_contest where folks were talking about the various reasons they haven’t been following Batman fanfiction much lately. I admit I’ve been just as guilty of this as the next person, but I was curious to see why other folks have been veering out of the Batman writing world for the last few months.
Almost everyone was talking about how the latest Batman comics have really turned the fandom south. I personally haven’t collected comics since the early 2000s. I tried a few years back but couldn’t get involved in the storylines. They didn’t feel as interesting and epic to me as they did then, and now I’m seeing that plenty of other folks feel the same way. Regardless of how well the movies have been going, the latest comics have just been… well, downright awful. Take a look at what Hefner had to say about Harvey Dent’s few appearances back in April.
No, you know what? Why don’t you see a picture?
This in my opinion is one of the main reasons folks are disenchanted with Batman comics lately. Imagine that you’ve seen The Dark Knight for the first time. You didn’t believe all the hype and waited around before finally getting exposed to it. You love it. You want to read more about this world, so you go out and buy a few issues of The Dark Knight comic series. You’re thinking, hey this is probably in the same vein as the films, right? Surely DC is learning from the popularity of the movies and is trying to market this, right? No, no, think again. The above picture of Two-Face (hyped up on some venom or toxin more than likely) is from the second issue of this comic, proving without a doubt that it wasn’t following in the same tone, style, or interest as the popular Nolan films have.
Anyway I’ll step off my soap box for a bit and give you my word count for the day. It’s not on Ghosts of Pike’s Peak, but a Batman fanfiction piece instead. The next film’s coming out soon and I feel like I ought to get primed for it somehow. Even if the comic industry refuses to help out. The story still needs some cleaning up and some polishing, but the rough draft is done. It had Kelley laughing aloud earlier, so it passed my litmus test.
If you’re interested in reading it, I’ll be posting it at some point over the next week or so in response for the latest Nolanverse contest, Why Do We Fall? I hope you’ll take the time to drop by and read the entries, vote, and maybe even add your own writing as well.
Project:Told You So
Summary: An explosion destroys a building, flinging Batman and Dr. Crane in opposite directions. Surrounded by fire and smoke, police dogs are in the distance and a helicopter hovers above. Both of them are badly injured, but somehow must work together to find a way out of this mess. Post-TDK. From Crane’s perspective.
Current total words: 2,942
Total Words for 2012: 55,431
Anyone who claimed they knew these tunnels so well obviously didn’t know a damn thing about them. Crane told him so. The Batman glared and continued regardless. Sometimes even the brightest pupil would only learn by making a mistake on their own. The Batman was apparently one of those types of students. Crane was not in the least bit surprised.
A bit of a switch up for me this week, I decided to post a snippet of the Scarecrow fanfiction I’m working on at the moment. Sometimes inspiration to veer off into fanfic is the best way to let my mind mull over where to take the plot for my book next. And after beating Arkham City last week, my mind’s been been revolving around the fandom!
Setup: Locked in Arkham Asylum, Crane has been informed that his mother is visiting. Considering that the last time he saw her he tried to kill her, he’s not too thrilled that she’s been asked to visit. Here he’s mulling over the simple desk in his cell.
It had taken him four months of good behavior to earn the right to have it, and other than his books and magazines, it was his most prized possession in here. She wouldn’t notice anything special about it though. To her it would be a rickety, lopsided desk with graffiti carved in on all sides, a dilapidated thing that would only be fit for a trash heap were they outside of the asylum. She wouldn’t know all the time he spent smiling at dim-witted doctors, all the drugs he’d swallowed down willingly knowing full-well that the side effects would be worse than the cure, or all the boring daytime talk shows he’d been forced to watch in the recreation room. She would only see an ugly, unfinished desk that was too big for such a tiny cell, and too big for the scrawny man that sat at it.
Well it’s not at all what I was expecting to be writing on, but when the muse strikes you certainly can’t shrug it off regardless of your best efforts. Most of my writing update today comes from two fanfiction pieces I started. Yes I know, shame on me! But when I’m this close to the end of NaNo I’ve all but given up on the event. If I do get my word count in time this year, trust me – I’ll be more surprised than anyone. 😉
If I don’t, I’m not really that upset. My wordcount for the entire year I think is pretty impressive. This is only the second year I’ve been writing on a regular basis like this and that I’ve participated in NaNo. I won Camp NaNo in July, so I’m just not too upset. Doing two NaNo’s in a single year is tough work I’ve discovered! Especially if you’re an easily distracted pantser like myself!
Expect much nerd-talk about Arkham City in the weeks to come as I start getting into the blogging groove again now that NaNo’s almost done. There is sooo much to talk about!
Project: The Secrets of Leekston (Working) Deadline: End of 2011 (Preferably much sooner) New words written: 126 *sadface* More stuff is in my journal written by hand, but I haven’t had time to transcribe it yet. Present total word count: 52,230
Project: Black Friday Deadline: End of December – fic exchange with a friend. New words written: 1,298 Present total word count: 1,298 Synopsis: While setting up for the Black Friday rush, Crane runs into some well-known faces at an unexpected time. Great minds think alike?
Project: Crane’s Mom Deadline: End of December, might toss this in for the fic exchange I’m doing – just for fun. 🙂 New words written: 1,134 Present total word count: 1,134 Synopsis: Crane thinks its just a regular day of therapy at Arkham Asylum again, even though his doctors know his true beginnings in Georgia. However when Dr. Bartholomew tells him that his mother will soon be visiting, Crane finds he can’t hide his rage.