- Writer: John Rozum
- Artist: Tom Mandrake
- Colours by: Nathan Eyring
- Letterer: John J. Hill
- Associate Editor: Jeanne Schaefer
- Editor: Mike Marts
Everyone knows Batman has one of the largest galleries of rogues that he has faced over the many years since his creation. Names such as Joker, Harley Quinn, Poison Ivy, Penguin and Mr. Freeze have become household names thanks to the multiple visual media adaptations over the decades, but one rogue I find is still very underused and under-appreciated, despite having major roles in Christopher Nolan’s first instalment to his Dark Knight Trilogy, Batman Begins, as well as being the main antagonist of the Arkham Knight videogame. That rogue is Dr Jonathan Crane a.k.a Scarecrow, the master of fear.
He is often outshone in his media appearances by other characters. In Batman Begins we discover he was nothing more than a pawn for Ra’s Al Ghul, and in Arkham Knight it felt like despite being the main antagonist, much of the attention from the early game focused more on the Arkham Knight which turned out to be nothing more than a modern twist on an already established story.
Because of this, I love finding stories where Scarecrow is the main villain and challenges the heroes of the story, and so one day I was able to pick up Batman Detective Comics #835 & #836, in which a small story arc known as Absolute Terror, unfolds with Scarecrow as the antagonist.
Jonathan Crane is locked in Arkham Asylum, and without his fear gas & his terrifying mask, he’s nothing more than a brilliant mind in a scrawny weak body, fearing the other low-life’s that he’s been locked up with because they are bigger and tougher than he is. Only one man understands fear like Scarecrow, the man who locked him up at Arkham Asylum, the Batman!
Bruce Wayne is trying to balance the lives of his two identities, and with help from his faithful butler and oldest friend Alfred, as well as his ward Tim Drake, he sets off for a dinner date. However, as most of his dates go, Bruce is called away, after hearing that Crane has escaped from Arkham again.
Batman and Robin set up cameras at the multiple chemical plants throughout Gotham City, in order to catch Crane as soon as he goes for his ingredients to make his famous fear gas, but their plan backfires.
In most of these stories, you know how it’s going to go, but with this story, even Batman thinks he has Crane’s plan figured out before Crane does, but what makes this story so great is that Crane has changed his memo entirely and becomes unpredictable, even for the world’s greatest detective.
After responding to a call that claims the police have Crane surrounded, Batman and Robin discover that the scarecrow in sight is in fact a decoy, a real scarecrow with straw for insides. Over night, Gotham discovers sixty-seven decoys all around Gotham, which instils fear into the city’s citizens once again. Even when Batman thinks he still has some idea of Crane’s psyche, he soon discovers that he’s wrong as the issue leaves us on a cliff-hanger.
The art in this book is uses heavy shadows throughout most of it, as the text says that fear works best in the dark, so the art implements this in the panels, as the reader is constantly guessing whether something will emerge from the heavily shaded areas.
Whilst there is plenty of colour to this book, I reckon it would have worked well as a noir book, with simple black and white pencil sketches. Batman dons his blue cape and cowl in this book which helps him stand out more and really adds to the visuals.
The design of Scarecrow in this story is excellent, especially with the mask as it emphasises on a singular eye and a sewn together mouth design.
This book is brilliant for changing up the usual fear stories that have been published. Giving us a new perspective on just how dangerous Scarecrow is, even without his gas, really makes him stand out as one of Batman’s most dangerous villains, which is why I constantly point out that he is underused in many media adaptations of Batman stories, though he was given quite the limelight in Batman: The Animated Series back in the day, which is where I first learned about him.
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