Published in 2004, in the pages of Batman Adventures issue #17, Fear Itself is a standalone tale about Batman’s encounter with Joe Chill – the man responsible for killing Bruce Wayne’s parents. Written by Ty Templeton and pencilled by Rick Burchett, Fear Itself marked the final issue in Batman Adventures – a comic book spin-off of DC Animated Universe shows Batman: The Animated Series and Justice League.
What happens in Batman: Fear Itself?
A figure steps out of the shadows. Two shots are fired. Thomas and Martha Wayne lie dead on the floor, while Bruce Wayne watches on. This is a familiar scene, replayed time-and-time again – but this time there is a difference. The scene is not told from Bruce Wayne’s perspective – it plays out in the mind of Joe Chill.
Chill is haunted by the night he killed the Waynes. But it isn’t just his dreams; wherever Chill goes he sees the face of Bruce Wayne and now he has a new concern – a detective is keen to solve the Wayne murders and he might be able to link the crime to Chill.
Taking the offensive, Chill buys a gun and sets out to kill the detective. But Batman blocks Chill’s attempts, saving the detective in the process.
Batman and Chill get into a fight, causing the Caped Crusader’s cowl to be torn, revealing his identity. Spooked by seeing the face of Bruce Wayne, Chill believes he is being haunted once again. In shock he trips and falls from a balcony and plummets to his death.
Two days later, Commissioner Gordon informs Batman of Chill’s identity. But the Caped Crusader admits he’s doesn’t know who Chill is – and heads back to work.
Is Batman: Fear Itself worth reading?
Joe Chill is a character many Bat-fans will be familiar with, but fans of the DC Animated Universe? Perhaps less so.
Chill was never featured in shows such as Batman: The Animated Series and Justice League and even the comic book spin-offs ignored him. Why? Because the DCAU version of Batman was never concerned with who killed the Waynes, so Chill was never important.
So by bringing Joe Chill into the Batman Adventures (in what was the book’s final issue) it was actually quite a surprise. Here was this iconic character from the Batman mythology, who had been absent from the DCAU for years, and now, finally, his story was set to play out.
And what a story.
The crux of this tale is that Chill has lived his life haunted by the fact he killed the Waynes and left a witness alive. He has spent his life looking over his shoulder, waiting for Bruce Wayne to recognise him.
But the twist in the tale is that while Chill obsesses over Wayne, Bruce has no idea who Chill is. The reader knows of Chill’s connection to Batman, but the Caped Crusader is oblivious throughout the entire tale.
This might seem cruel, that Batman never gets to learn who Chill really is, but it actually works in the context of the DCAU. Batman’s mission in the DCAU is never about finding one killer, it is about stopping all of the bad guys – that is his goal.
By demonstrating that Chill is effectively another hood to Batman, the Caped Crusader is able to continue his role as protector. Yet at the same time, we the reader know that Chill did ultimately pay for his crime, which means the murder of the Waynes did get some closure.
Should you read Fear Itself? If you are a fan of Batman: The Animated Series, then yes; yes you should. Fear Itself is a fantastic Batman comic and one which is very important to understanding Batman’s place within the DC Animated Universe.
The comic is well written, perfectly paced, and beautifully illustrated. It is an all-ages read, from a writer who understands Batman better than most.
Has Batman: Fear Itself been adapted for film?
Fear Itself has never been adapted for film and I don’t expect it ever will. This story works perfectly as a comic book tale, that fans of the DCAU can dive into if they adore Batman: The Animated Series.
I hope this information on Batman: Fear Itself has proved useful. Should you want to read more posts about Batman, please take a look through I’ll Get Drive-Thru, or alternatively check out one of the recommended reads below.