Crystal Starr Light's Reviews > Batman: Fear Itself

Batman by Michael Reaves
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's review
Jul 11, 2010

it was ok
bookshelves: read-at-your-own-risk, superhero, so-bad-it-s-horrible
Read in March, 2008

I will not claim to be a Batman expert. I have only seen the old Batman movie (what spectacular goofiness), the Tim Burton Batman movie, and the Christopher Nolan Batman remakes. Since I'm no Batman fan, what drew me to this book, you may ask. Well, that would be because it was written by Michael Reaves, whose Star Wars books I have read and enjoyed. (Imagine my surprise when I saw there is actually a co-author, hidden in the title page inside the book.)

NOTE: Throughout the book, I will compare to the Christopher Nolan Batman, as this is the most recent one I have seen. So sue me if it isn't the comic, I've not read any Batman comics and therefore can't tell if he measures up on that front.

A runaway train causes Batman to race to the scene to stop an impending crisis. Thinking he would find terrorists at the wheel or a dead driver at the least, Batman is surprised when the woman is actually alive but cowering in tremendous fear. So the Dark Knight (along with Maggie Tollyer, a well-known journalist) begins the search to find out why the driver suddenly developed a phobia and who is behind all the attacks.

Batman/Bruce Wayne and his "gentleman's gentleman", Alfred Pennyworth, are very much like their movie counterparts. Several times, I could see Michael Caine's reaction to Bruce's discoveries as penned in the book, or imagine Christian Bale performing the moves in a fight scene, or hear Gary Oldman speak as the police chief, Gordon. And Jonathan Crane as the Scarecrow was very well done. In these characters, the author(s) did a superb job capturing the qualities seen in the movie versions. Very impressive (and convincing!).

Furthermore, once the story gets going (about page 100 or chapter 7), it is fast paced. There are few dull moments and lots of Batman action - very par for the course for Reaves. Several times, I could almost see the action as if the book were a movie or a TV show.

Let's start with characters: Maggie Tollyer. Here's an independent, sassy, attractive, obstinate, sexy journalist (who was described as "tall" in the first chapter but then as "petite" when parading as Catwoman--which is it, guys?) that just happens onto the scene of the crime. Is this ever explained? No. Then, she steals (yes, steals) a novel from the crime scene and instantly assumes that the book was the cause of it. That was sure fortunate - and convenient! Then, this, to quote a character in the book, "annoying" woman parades through the rest of the book, crashing parties, forcing interviews, investigating the Undertown in sexy black leather, giggling with a pimp (where she could get shot at any moment), and forcing Batman and Grey to rescue her. I have one question: Why? Why must all these stories have some super independent woman that looks great in a Catwoman costume or in sexy black leather clothes (which, may I add, I saw coming a mile away) who falls in love with Batman? Gag me!

Other characterizations (besides Bruce Wayne and Alfred) were not much better. Cutter is one of the most pathetic characters ever with his Sally Sob-Story. I could practically recount his biography just by the physical descriptions the authors gave him. And I couldn't BELIEVE this character got a gun. Cutter has never before held a gun then buys one for the heck of it? He doesn't even know how to shoot! He's more likely to shoot his own foot than kill someone.

Grey Berwald is absolutely all over the board. This guy had the potential to be really interesting, and I tried to like him, but the authors foiled me each time. He never seemed consistent in his character (though a character hints he might be bipolar???). One minute, he's shy and sophisticated; the next, a boisterous Texan. But what really took the cake was the cheesy "let's make friends with Bruce" scene.

As if the characters weren't bad enough, having them interact with each other was completely bonkers. Firstly, "off-screen" (as it is never shown), Grey Berwald asks Maggie on a date. That sudden revelation threw me for a loop. Previously, Maggie had been pressing Grey Berwald for information (namely him saying he likes controlling people's emotions). So why would Grey ask her on a date? And then Grey shows his date his scare room and is surprised when she is freaked out by it (oh, I don't know, maybe because it is the first date after all). And then, Maggie starts grilling Grey again. Huh?

Then, Maggie and officer go trudging through Undertown (in sexy black leather trying to be inconspicuous *eyes roll*) and run into a pimp. As he is trying to sell his wares, the police officer and Maggie are just a hair's breadth away from bursting into giggles. I am sorry, but if Undertown is as dangerous as the authors have let on, I for one would not be holding back giggles; I would be keeping all senses alert for a possible ambush.

Second, 86 pages into the book I realized I knew about the same amount as I did 20 pages into the book. The driver got so paranoid that she couldn't do her job. Check. Chemicals weren't in the atmosphere or in her blood. Gotcha. She did read a horror novel before setting out. Uh huh. So, why does it take 80 pages to tell this over and over? And, I continued along, it really doesn't change as you proceed through the book. Not much is actually learned. It gets to the point when you wonder if the authors weren't sure how to proceed so threw a bunch of stuff in your face, hoping you will be distracted long enough until they figured out what to do next. And the bad guy at the end? Well, let's just say you know who it is from pretty much page 1 and just spend the rest of the book figuring out how he did it.

Other quibbles:

1. The conclusion is much too perky given what happens in the end.

2. The "scare" rooms in Grey's basement are mind-boggling and following the action in them is nearly impossible.

3. Every time you turn around, words like "benison" (said to be "archaic" in the dictionary), "frisson", and "inveterate" crop up. And then words like "forfend" (is if "offend" or "forbid"?) appear.

Dialogue/Sexual Situations/Violence:

Expect da**, he** and the like in the dialogue arena (with mentions of characters shouting unwritten obscenities).

Bruce Wayne pretends to be a playboy. Maggie and an officer go to Undertown and run into a pimp who tries to sell his wares.

Batman intervenes in a gang war. The exploits of the likes of the Joker and other criminals are alluded to. Gang members draw knives and shoot guns. A gang member dies.


So what do I think of this novel of the infamous Dark Knight? Well, this Batman felt very similar to the movie one, if that is any indication of the "real" comic Batman.

On the other hand, the story was flaky, the original characters lame, and the writing clunky. I will not read it again (though it did have a Star Wars reference), nor will I pursue any other novels of this kind. I suppose if you are fond of Batman then you may like this more, but I've heard there are amazing Batman comics out there, and I'd be more inclined to check those out before another Batman novel.
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