We’ve seen so far in Batman: Kings of Fear that Batman’s psyche is being broken down layer by layer by the Scarecrow. I must admit that this book is much more psychological than I initially expected it to be. So far, Scarecrow has made Batman question what around him is even real, but this issue takes an all too familiar approach to Batman fans. With only one issue left in the mini-series, the entire fifth issue revolves around what Gotham would be like without Batman. However, rather than focusing on Bruce and his supporting cast without the Dark Knight’s presence, the story focuses on his villains. We see several of the most iconic Bat rogues as mostly normal people as a result of Bruce Wayne never putting on the cape and cowl.
When the story starts, we see Batman and Scarecrow standing on a rooftop in what looks like a spotless utopia of a city. That utopia is Gotham City. As Scarecrow puts it, “This is what could have been if you’d devoted your life to her, instead of being the Dark Knight.” The “her” here is obviously Gotham if Bruce Wayne took care of the city, not Batman. Refusing to believe, Batman questions what would happen to this perfect city if he wasn’t around to stop the numerous villains from attacking. The reply leaves Batman stunned: there would be no villains if not for Batman. In addition, he implies that not only did the World’s Greatest Detective create his own worst enemies, he completely undermines one of his closest allies, Jim Gordon, by not allowing the Gotham City Police Department to do their job. Then things get even worse for the hero, as Scarecrow shows him exactly what would have happened to the iconic Gotham villains without Batman’s influence.
To start, Bane would never have come to Gotham in the first place. As Crane states, “If Batman never existed, Bane would have died trying to escape Santa Prisca. He would have been forgotten within days.” As for Mr. Freeze, he threw himself into more work in the cryogenics field. This would eventually lead to Victor working for NASA, finding a way to safely freeze astronauts for long trips into space. Poison Ivy used her knowledge to save and expand rainforests. Also, she contributed to pharmaceutical research that saved lives. The Riddler ended up becoming a video game designer. Two-Face simply never became Two-Face. While he was still attacked by a mob boss during a hearing, Harvey Dent just healed and returned to work. As a result of his actions, Gotham’s organized crime families were virtually wiped out. Catwoman went on to work with abused women and children. She did this to an extent that she became known as the “American Mother Teresa” and won the Nobel Peace Prize. As for Scarecrow himself, he became a pioneer in the treatment of schizophrenia. However, all these revelations could never cut as deep for Batman as the “biggie”, as Scarecrow puts it. The Joker. The most disturbing, twisted and vile villain in Gotham ended up as the greatest profiler in the history of the FBI. Joker was responsible for stopping dozens of killers from taking innocent lives, in one of the most ironic twists I think I’ve seen in a while.
As if that wasn’t enough, Gotham wasn’t just better off from the lack of villains. The education system became one of the best in the world. This resulted in an economic boom that saw jobs expand across the city and made the crime rate plummet. And all of this resulted from Bruce Wayne never becoming Batman. Then the unthinkable happens. Batman says it: “I never should have become the Batman.” As Scarecrow prepares to take advantage of this seemingly broken hero, Batman rises to his feet with what looked to be two vials of the drug that was used on him by Scarecrow. He then plunges them into his legs. Batman grabs Scarecrow and demands to know, “What did you do to me?”
I wasn’t sure how to feel about yet another “World without Batman” story. We’ve seen that repeated so many times over so many platforms that it’s almost cliché. However, taking the approach of what the villains would do without Batman made me enjoy the issue much more. While I have enjoyed the story so far, I hope that when the final issue is released, it does something to drop our jaws and leave an impression on the readers.