Batman: Fear Itself - Michael Reaves, Steven-Elliot Altman I will not claim to be a Batman expert. I have only seen the old Batman - The Movie movie (absolutely hilarious!), the new Batman Begins, and the 80's version of Batman. The biggest reason I even thought about reading this book was that it was written by Michael Reaves, whose Star Wars books I have read and enjoyed. I was a little shocked to see that it actually had a co-author since the only place you even see his name is inside the book, but I tried not to let that keep me back.
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 from Batman Begins (I have seen this one more recently and frequently so I will compare only to this one). 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. 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, guy(s)?) 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. 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 (what inappropriate timing! She could get shot 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 descriptions the authors (since Michael Reaves shared the pen in this one) gave them. And I was infuriated when the author(s) gave this character 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 for Pete's Sake! He's more likely to shoot his own foot than kill someone.
And then 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 author(s) foiled me each time. The fact is, Grey Berwald is probably bipolar (Bruce Wayne mentions this fact in the book, though flippantly). One minute, he's shy and sophisticated; the next, a boisterous Texan. And his "let's make friends with Bruce" scene really made my eyes roll.
Then, character interactions were 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 for that matter) is just a hair's breadth away from bursting into giggles. I am sorry, but if Undertown is as dangerous as the author(s) 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. A lot of scenes are dedicated to Gag-Me Maggie, brain-dead Cutter, and flip-flop Grey, but not much is accomplished in that time. It gets to the point when you wonder if the author(s) weren't sure how to proceed so threw a bunch of stuff in your face, hoping you will be distracted long enough until he (I mean, 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, if the movies that I mentioned above were any indication of the Dark Knight from the comics, then this Batman stays very true. I can easily see Christian Bale (or Michael Keaton) slipping into the Batman of this story and being very comfortable. On the other hand, the story was a little flaky, the characters other than Batman and Alfred lame, and the writing clunky. I would probably never read it again (though it did have a Star Wars reference) and would only recommend to those who are very fond of Batman and have no trouble ignoring the issues I had with the book.