Monday, May 13, 2013

SHADOW OF THE BAT #18 - Early October 1993

The God of Fear - Part Three
Credits:  Alan Grant (writer), Bret Blevins (penciler), Steve George (inker), Tod Klein (letterer), Adrienne Roy (colorist)

Summary:  Batman scours the city for Scarecrow, who’s preparing to infect Gotham with his fear serum.  Anarky spies on Scarecrow, wondering when Batman will arrive.  Eventually, he shows, and with Anarky’s help, subdues Scarecrow.  Scarecrow orders the brainwashed Phil Herold to distract Anarky, enabling him to inject both Batman and Anarky with his fear serum.   Batman’s programming allows him to fight through the fear, forcing Scarecrow to order Phil to jump off the roof as another distraction.  Batman ignores Phil and knocks out Scarecrow, forcing Anarky to save him.  When Anarky questions Batman’s motivations, Batman threatens his life and leaves.

Irrelevant Continuity:  I believe this is the first time the younger Herold is given the first name “Phil.”

Total N00B:  Azrael/Batman makes numerous references to his “programming” and curses the mysterious “St. Dumas” for taking away his ability to feel fear.  Once again, this makes no sense to anyone who hasn’t read the original Azrael miniseries.

Review:  Many threads in this arc, none of which truly come together.  The “fear as a new religion” concept only receives one line of dialogue this issue, Scarecrow’s connection to Phil’s deceased father never amounts to much, the brainwashed teenage Scarecrows just kill a few pages, Anarky barely factors into the main story, and we don’t even get to see what the new Batman fears, because he’s already been programmed not to fear.  

In terms of advancing the overall theme of “Knightfall,” there is one significant scene, as the reader learns that Azrael is more than willing to sacrifice an innocent if it’s for the “greater good” of the city.  And when someone questions his reasoning, he threatens to kill him.  So, Azrael is now more Punisher than Punisher, but the story fails to make this work as a parody or an overall statement about what the true Batman is supposed to represent.  The general execution of this arc just feels shoddy.  I like the idea of Scarecrow encountering the son of his first murder victim, but Phil remains a nonentity throughout the storyline.  And the significance of his father’s connection to Scarecrow doesn’t serve any obvious point in the story.  In addition, this issue plays up the idea that this new Batman isn’t a detective and isn’t going to have an easy time finding the Scarecrow’s hideout…until he magically appears with no explanation in time for the climax.  Since I can’t imagine Shadow of the Bat, one of the more “prestigious” Bat-books, could normally be so disappointing, I can only assume Alan Grant’s just doesn't want to do this crossover.  Hopefully, he adjusts in the future, because this thing is far from over.

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