The Terror…The Terror….
The Batman graphic novel read through (sometimes I say it’s canon sometimes I don’t cos I get in trouble in the comments) IS BACK. With a Bang….
This week we are focusing on Batman: Terror, a sequel to the book Batman: Prey. If you’ve read my review on the previous entry then you’ll know that I enjoyed it. However, in the last few books we’ve seen some steep competition rise and knock it down the leaderboard slightly. Does this sequel make up for lost ground? Check out my review to find out.
First appearance of bat boat
People Are Strange, When You’re A Stranger
The book’s first issue focuses on the return of Hugo Strange. When we last saw him he had fallen to what was surely a watery grave, however, he’s back! And he wants revenge on Batman Badly! He opens the book up for us by murdering someone as they sleep whilst dressed as Batman, nice! It comes across like he is trying to frame the caped crusader but we get the feeling that Strange knows the police won’t buy it. It’s great to see the police finally on Batman’s side and being open to working with him instead of getting in the way. Oh Gotham how you’ve changed.
We are introduced to Batman in this book when he breaks up a drug deal, it’s nice to see the Bat Boat make an appearance but it’s pretty clear that this is probably Batman’s first time taking it for a spin when he accidentally sets people alight with it’s flamethrowers. They jump in the water so I assume they’ll be fine…look….fine….Batmobile electrocute and runs people over in Arkham Knight? Fiiiinee. Batboats sets people alight and leaves them to swim to shore in freezing cold water? They’ll be fiiiiine.
It kind of highlights just how inexperienced Batman still is at being a vigilante, he’s still young, he’s still inventing himself and he will make mistakes.
Curiosity Killed The Catwoman
Another clear indication of just how fragile the relationship standings are is apparent in Batman’s dislike to Catwoman. He tolerated her in the previous books that featured the feline fatale but this time she is clearly a criminal and he wants to take her down. It really shows the reader how much the Caped Crusader actually knows about Catwoman. They are both masked vigilantes, similar to each other than either would like to admit.
The dynamics of the book really start to take shape when Strange infiltrates Arkham as a psychiatrist and psychologically builds up The Scarecrow to the point where he feels like his former self. When Hugo first comes across the villain he is broken, completely devastated in the realisation that he is no longer the master of fear and that Batman has pretty much beaten him every time they’ve came into contact with one another. He gets through it though.
I’m really interested in the psychological side of Batman so it’s brilliant that it shows just how Strange operates. He can methodically build up and empower someone or dismantle them using only his voice, it’s almost like a super power and one that he wields with terrifying results.
Through this book we get a vivid picture of Scarecrow’s early life, back when he was Jonathan Crane. Doug Moench and Paul Gulacy do a brilliant job of grounding what could be simplistic and cliché. We learn of how he was bullied and how his obsession with fear drove him to become the man he is today. He studied the chemical effects of fear and learnt how to instill it in his victims. This duality with Batman really is hit home in the subtext of this chapter. Both characters had something that they were afraid of, they conquered it and now control it, unleashing it on who they see fit. Scarecrow’s childhood bullies have been replaced by Batman now and we can emphathise as to why he wants to take down the Dark Knight so much.
I’d never put Strange and Crane together but it works in more ways than one, both are sinister and driven to use their knowledge to make the Fear Toxin even more potent. It’s nice that the two have been combined to use both psychology and scientific knowledge to make a terrorising duo.
One of the best moments psychologically and a highlight of the book is when Strange breaks Crane out of Arkham, he’s been helping the guards to quit smoking, telling them to imagine straw and ignore the sensation. Initially this struck me as strange (no pun intended) however, when he simply walks Scarecrow out of the Asylum after covering him in straw we see the brilliance of his mind. It really speaks volumes to the level of Strange’s planning and just how deadly he could potentially be should he need to. He could talk you to death and not in a boring way.
Bat Signal Solidified
Finally! Gordon paints on the Bat Signal instead of using a cloth one. This reiterates my earlier point in so many ways. Finally the police department is accepting of Batman and he is welcome in the city. It’s during this moment that Batman also states how Strange cannot beat him physically so he will try to fragment his mind. It’s great having a caped crusader who is one step ahead of the villain and able to begin summarising strategies in his mind.
The art in the book has a real ‘Batman Returnsy’ feel to it. Though it debuted 11 years after there is still a lot of alusions to the Burton film in it’s gothic landscape and costume. Even the Batboat resembles the movie version and I went back to the original film today to see how many things line up and honestly there is an abundance. This isn’t a bad thing of course, that movie is stylistically brilliant and one of the best takes on Batman as far as aesthetic goes.
However, there are some strange (need to stop saying strange) angles taken in some of the character designs and at moments the work comes off as sloppy. That’s not to say it’s bad, but we have had better in the run thus far.
Bloody hell, the Mannequin sex is back and what’s worse is that it’s even weirder. It’s got tongues in mouths, spitting…it’s horrendous. I don’t really get why they decided that Hugo had to have this fetish but she wears a bat cowl….i’m calling the mannequin “she” now fml…the mannequin wears a Bat cowl so I suppose it’s commentary on Hugo’s obsession with the Dark Knight.
Like in Prey, I feel this element takes away from Strange’s ferocity and I wish they went more with the persona that he had in The Monster Men. This weird part of the book is quickly glossed over when Scarecrow turns on Strange and betrays him. Strange thought he had control over the villain but he is insane, so there’s no controlling him really.
Strange regrets building up Crane when he turns on him, much in the same way that criminals inadvertantly built up Batman and now regret creating their nemesis.
Strange is impaled and for all purposes dead.
Scarecrow is now the rightful enemy of this story.
Whilst it is a shame to have Strange go so early in what was ultimately his arc the writers have done a brilliant job at creating a suitable replacement in The Scarecrow. I just wish we had’ve got the Strange that we had from Prey and The Monster Men and not this broken man who is quickly thwarted.
The Scarecrow And The Cat
Scarecrow captures Selina and takes photographs of her face, unmasked. However, he has absolutely no idea who she is but blackmails her anyway, stating that someone will recognise her should he release the pictures. Nowadays you’d just put it on Facebook straight away, but they haven’t invented time travel in Batman….yet.
Using Catwoman, Scarecrow leads Batman into a trap and beheads one of his highschool bullies infront of him. They fight and are actually quite evenly matched. Apparently Crane has been practicing “The Flying Crane Martial Arts”….that’s not even a bad joke…they say that in the book….so…don’t hate me yet. The issue is really tense and you think that Batman could really be getting his comeuppance for dressing up in a Halloween costume and bossing an old man about every day.
Even though Catwoman tricked him and he’s been trying to arrest her for the past month or whatever, Batman still wants her though. He’s proper whipped….by that whip….fml these jokes get worse. This is the book where the run stepped up for me. It had been meh till this point but throughout this section you can see it improving. I love it for it’s addition of Cat woman’s duality. You can see the good and bad within her clashing, though she always does the right thing in the end.
“Can’t expose Bruce can’t let the Bat die”
Chapter Four opens brilliantly with Catwoman almost revealing who Batman is. The psychological side of this issue is crafted brilliantly and it really adds astonishing depth to the book. Batman states that he is prepared to let Bruce die should his identity be revealed. This speaks the subtext that Bruce is already dead and always has been. He died in the alley with his parents. Batman is the phoenix rising from the ashes, trying to avenge their deaths. He wishes to find purpose from their purposeless murders. Make sense of the senseless. Even though he accepts that Batman is Bruce and Bruce is Batman, I still see it as a lie he tells himself to perhaps convince himself that he is normal and not insane.
The books climax begins when Crane captures some of his school bullies, poisons them with the fear toxin and lets them loose in the mansion of Horror.
Batman teams up with Catwoman (they make a Cat Signal….it’s terrible btw) and they head towards the Scarecrow’s lair.
House Of Horrors
Scarecrow is really evil and at the same time, completely relatable. Who doesn’t have fantasies of tormenting their childhood bullies, inserting them into a haunted house, drugged on hallucinogens and then beheading them? Ok, maybe not the last part but we can sympathise with Crane.
Scarecrow is really evil, good portraying of him if not a weaker strange, really get the threat of him and how wicked he is, sort of sympathise with him if you could get back on your own school bullies.
The final showdown is really Gothic and dark. It’s similar to the horror sections of Arkham Asylum, this really amps up the fight knowing that Batman is not just dealing with the physical side of things but also the mental.
‘And you go to hell’
‘No thanks, I just got out of it’
Like the house from Home Alone there’s traps everywhere, saws dropping from the ceilings, the lot! McCauley eat your heart out. The two finally get trapped in the basement and this is the biggest test so far. Batman has to tend to water rising, fire above and an idiot in a straw costume trying to kill him. Then DUN DUN DUN Hugo Strange comes back to life and grabs Crane, hoping to take him to a watery grave. Whilst it’s a bit comic booky and a shock for shocks sake it still made me happy to know that good ol’ Hugo wasn’t out of the game yet.
Batman escapes, dragging Crane to the shore and Strange drifts off down the river. Surely he’s dead yeah? Got to be! Surely!
Batman breaks the truce with Catwoman and the book ends on a comedic note and makes for a fun finale in the prey storyline.
Overall the book is quite a fun read, if not a little drab for the first two issues. If you have Prey then it’s a nice little follow up that doesn’t quite top it’s predecessor. If you can get it as part of Prey in the one graphic novel like I did then I’d recommend picking them both up. Otherwise you can completely miss this book out and still have a great time in the canon.
Overall I give it a
If you’ve been following my reviews then you know that i’m ranking the books as I read them in what all the fans of me lovingly call ‘Rank As I Read’ or ‘Rank As You Read’…I don’t know, I can’t remember, you do though as you’re a proper fan.
So here is the leaderboard so far.
- Batman The Long Halloween
- Batman And The Monster Men
- Batman Dark Victory
- Batman: The Man Who Laughs
- Batman: Year One
- Batman: Venom
- Batman: Gothic
- Batman Snow
- Batman: Fears
- Batman: Prey
- Robin Year One
- Batman And The Mad Monk
- Batman Ego
- Batman: Shaman
- Batman: Terror
- Batman: Faces
- Batgirl: Year One
- Catwoman: When In Rome
- Batman: Madness
- Batman: Ghosts