Comic Book Review: Fear of Faith Part 1

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!

Waiting patiently for TDKR… sure, right

So I’ve been on a big Batman kick lately. I’ve been really looking forward to the next film, and looking for whatever I can find to hold me over until the movies comes out this time next month. It’s the final part of the three-part series, and I have big hopes for it. Bane will be amazing, I’m sure, and even if one of my favorite villains doesn’t make an appearance, I’m sure Bane will keep things interesting. He’s good about that after all.

I was thinking about going back and reading through Knightfall again just to refresh my memory of Bane and his various henchmen, but I think I’ll wait until after the movie. I don’t want to get my hopes up too high after all. Instead here is some amazing Joker dub-step that my sister found earlier today. The voice overs are great, and this should be epic driving music for the week!

As far as writing goes, I’m plugging along with some fun action scenes, but getting back into them can be tough. Think I’ll stop here and pick up the scene tomorrow over lunch. I tend to be able to concentrate better that way. Earlier today I was totally in the mode and looked up to see my lunch hour had ended. Then tonight I just can’t get into the groove again. It should come back to me tomorrow though, at least it better!

Word metrics, or see how close I am to completing Camp NaNo!? Less thank 7k! I’ve knocked out over 50k in the past four weeks, so I surely can eek out a few more thousand words, right?

Project: Secrets of Leekston

Summary: Leekston is an unassumingly quiet southern town, but it hides many secrets. An unusual government entity studies the supernatural activity in the area, but for what purpose? A crazy scientist runs a research lab of particular patients, and his daughter may pay the price for the people he’s maimed. Six years after the incident at the Kayak Hills subdivision, sixteen year-old Suzie Daper once again must protect her family, this time from a bloodthirsty werewolf pack bent on destroying anyone standing in the way of their vengeance.

Current total words: 92,591
New words written: 1,558

Total Words for 2012: 105,592

This is not the writing you’re looking for

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.

Sigh.

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

Snippet:

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.

Several Updates All Rolled Into One

So I have a few updates that I’ve been meaning to share. Most are in the fanfiction area, but there’s a writing update as well. Today wasn’t the worst Monday in the world, but it was certainly a runner-up, and surprisingly work wasn’t really that much a part of it. On the drive up, it was rainy and foggy, but although the traffic was slow, there wasn’t much else to complain about. It was the drive home later this afternoon that left me exhausted by the time I got home.

I had a semi suddenly switch lanes without brakes, and nearly ran me into a line of cars that had been completely stopped in front of him. Apparenly he was too busy rubber-necking the accident that was off of the road to notice the people who were stopped in front of him. On top of that, after leaving the grocery store, a woman on the phone turns right at the light and onto the road I’m on. She pulls into my lane for a few minutes as I slam on the brakes, and just barely gets over to her lane in time to not hit me.

*Sigh*

It’s times like this when my hour-long commute wears down on me. I guess I’m lucky enough to be able to telecommute on Fridays though, so that’s something at least!

If you’ve been following my Fanfiction.net site, you’ll notice that I’ve been posting up several stories there starting yesterday. One is my Lucius Big Bang piece, “As the Seventh Month Dies”. The other is my Zombie Bang piece, “My Life as a Dead Man, Regulus Black: Post-Mortem”. Finally, the only Batman piece that’s new to the list is a short Crane-centered piece that was part of a holiday fanfic exchange my sister and I did. Nothing major, just a short piece we gifted to each other. If you decide to drop by, please leave a comment to tell me what you think so far.

Speaking of fanfiction, I signed up for the next installment of Werewolf Big Bang. Although I’m mostly in the planning and brainstorming stage at the moment, I do think I’ll be doing a sequel-ish piece to Dr. Crane and werewolf piece that I did before, The Daemon Within. I think it’ll be like a second episode in a series, where you don’t necessarily need to read the first part to understand what’s going on, but it does indeed help. I need to make some time to get this planned a bit better. Looks like I’ll be choosing a day in the near future to catch up on a few of these writing projects in the works!

Oh, and yesterday I got some writing in on my Werewolf novel. Terry watches as the pack decides on what to do with their three captives, and he gets some insight on some of the other motivations going on within the group. I was putting off writing this piece because it’s always difficult to balance so many characters at once, though I think I did a fairly good job (for a rough draft). Next up, Katie will be coming around, and it’s sure to be a gruesome sight when she sees what Brakkis has with him.

Summary: Leekston is an unassumingly quiet southern town, but it hides many secrets. An unusual government entity that studies the strange supernatural activity in the area is only one of many. Six years after the incident at the Kayak Hills subdivision, Suzie once again must protect her family from the creatures of the night and help to prevent a bloodthirsty werewolf pack from tearing her friends and family apart.

Project: The Secrets of Leekston (Working)
Deadline: April 2012 (Updated Deadline)
New words written: 2,365
Present total word count: 58,335

Total Word Count for 2012: 6,105

Batman: Year One: Gritty Noir with an Amateur Vigilante

yearOneI had been looking for a copy of this since it came out in November, but I wouldn’t just deal with whatever version happened to be at the local Wal-Mart. I was rather peeved when they carried two versions of the DVD copy, but no Blu-ray. One version had the Catwoman short and the other one didn’t – and the only difference in price was $2-$3, a marketing decision I just don’t understand. I get having a Blu-ray and a DVD version, just not having two separate DVD versions.  I guess a couple of dollars makes a big difference in this tough economy though.

yearOne_comicLet me just start by saying that I’ve loved Batman: Year One for quite some time. I think I first read it back in the mid-nineties when I was in junior high and was eating up the Batman universe. Sure, I had been loving this universe for quite some time, but that was my peak-fandom era I would say. We would go through every summer and catalog our comics, making sure each had the proper type of bag and backer board if we could. Let me add though that reading this epic graphic novel is not a prerequisite to enjoy this film. They worked extra hard to get the look and feel just right, and the gritty glamour of Gotham City is on stage throughout the film.

This graphic novel was one of Batman’s best forays into film noir, in my opinion. As one of the commentators in the extra features explained, this story isn’t just about the beginning of Batman, but about Commissioner Gordon’s first steps in Gotham. It’s as much his origin story as the Caped Crusaders, and he feels like the underdog in his dogged fight against corruption within the very police force he’s been transferred into. The voiceovers are dark and succinct, perfect for a film noir piece. Frank Miller’s caustic ambivalence and hopelessness carries over quite well from comic to screen.

The camera shots and angles felt like they were pane-by-pane along with the comic – and they follow the action beautifully. There is no shaky-cam like what is seen on many modern films, or delayed shots that don’t quite keep up with the action. The audience can follow every step of the way as an amateur Batman struggles to survive in a city that’s been given orders to kill.

I’ve got to take a moment though to compliment this film on including one of my favorite scenes though. In the comics, there’s a shot with Jim Gordon and Detective Essen sitting in a diner late at night, which shares a striking resemblance to Hopper’s “Nighthawks”. They didn’t have to keep this shot in the film, but I absolutely love it that they did. It’s a testament to how much this film embodies the graphic novel. Here are a few shots from the comic followed by Hopper’s original “Nighthawks”, just to show the resemblance. Don’t you love how it’s even labeled Hopper?

batmanhopper01batmanhopper02hopper_nighthawks

The reason I love this so much is because Hopper’s paintings, and especially his “Nighthawks” piece, are known for their melancholic appeal. They’re known for solitary figures in areas that are usually busy and bustling, typically in city environments. Hopper’s paintings always epitomized to me the soul of Gotham, the loneliness, the desperate hope for a connection (as is the case with Gordon and Essen above), and in a way is the essential film noir accompaniment.*

Batman: Year One in short got all the parts right that I was hoping for, and then some. If you’ve never read the comic but love film noir, or just love a raw and vicious version of Batman, then I think you’ll love the film. This was the inspiration for the look and feel of both Batman Begins and The Dark Knight after all, so that ought to be reason enough to go pick up a copy. Without this piece, Batman would never have been made so realistic and down-to-earth as he is in these films. Oh and did I mention it’s also on Netflix?

joker_killingJokeNow if only the DCAU creators would consider doing “The Long Halloween”, “Dark Victory”, or maybe some villain origin stories like “Scarecrow: Year One” – it would certainly make me a very happy Bat-fan. Come to think of it, seeing “Arkham Asylum” put to film would just be divine, if not downright creepy!


So what would you like to see the DCAU creators put to film next? Mark Hamill has said several times that he would come out of retirement to do “The Killing Joke”. I for one would add that to my movie shelf without hesitation!

* There’s some interesting critique for Hopper’s work that I referenced a while back. If you want to read a bit more about his style of work, I recommend checking it out.