Review: Batman: Kings Of Fear #1

“Split Decision”
Writer: Scott Peterson
Artists: Kelley Jones & Michelle Madsen
Review by Steve J. Ray
I am a very happy comics fan. Not only are James Tynion, Álvaro Martínez Bueno and Raül Fernandez revisiting the horrors of Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing in the superb new Justice League Dark, but former Detective Comics and Batman: Red Reign superstar (and Sandman alumni) Kelley Jones has returned to draw our favorite Dark Knight in Batman: Kings Of Fear. Add to all this the fact that one of the all-time great Batman editors Scott Peterson is on writing duty, and the alternate covers are drawn by legendary artist Bill Sienkiewicz, and you can understand why I feel 25 years younger!
Ah, nostalgia… how much I love thee.

Batman Vs. The Kings Of Fear

From the very first page the art in this issue is eye-popping. Take a look above if you don’t believe me. I know that Kelley Jones is what we in the UK call a “Marmite” artist. Like the world famous sandwich spread you either love it, or hate it, there’s no real in-between. Personally, I love it. It’s super stylised, but detailed, rich, atmospheric and perfect for dark tales. Perfect for Batman.
As for Scott Peterson’s script? Let’s just say that he’s being very clever. This is the first in a six issue series, so what he’s done is basically set the stage. There’s nothing ground-breaking here, but the writer clearly knows the artist and plays to his strengths. I’m sure that Mr. Peterson has one heck of a tale prepared for us, but issue #1 is Kelley Jones’ playground.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s some nice dialogue in this issue and Mr. Peterson’s writing in the opening sequence, showing us just how well he knows both Joker and Batman, is brilliantly written. The great part is that he also knows when to just shut up. There are a good few pages where there is only one sentence, or just one word and even four pages where there’s no dialogue at all.
Letterer Rob Leigh has pulled double duty on the books I review this week; he’s performed stellar work here, and on the pages of the second issue of Justice League Dark. Excellent work in particular on the dialogue free, but sound effects heavy fight scenes. Thanks, Rob.

Conclusion

Kelley’s Batman is a wraith, a shadow and a force of nature. The fight scenes in this issue are absolutely terrific. The way that the Dark Knight handles his enemies is firm, decisive and completely in character. The use of color, shade and light by Michelle Madsen also fits the tone of this book perfectly. I’m not very familiar with her work, but if this issue is anything to go by, then I’m definitely keen to see more.
Kings Of Fear. The title of the book could just as easily be a description of the two main characters, Batman and Scarecrow. The first chapter of this series, and that terrific cliffhanger, have set the pace, and I’m happy to be along for the ride.
Images Courtesy Of DC Entertainment
(This review was originally published on the Dark Knight News website on August 21st 2018)

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