Let's be honest, despite being a villain that is literally themed around fear, most of the time, the Scarecrow really isn't all that scary. Like most of Gotham's bad guys, Jonathan Crane is incredibly multifaceted, meaning that he can go from being campy and silly to being flat out terrifying at the drop of a hat, depending on the story he's in and the role he's playing in it. And in the criminally underread Batman: The Dark Knight Vol 2: Cycle of Violence, he is definitely in the latter camp. But there's more to this 2012 story than just Scarecrow at his most terrifying—there's also Batman at his best.

The Premise:

Scarecrow has made his presence in Gotham known once again and this time he's got multiple targets in his crosshairs—among them, children and Commissioner Gordon—and to make things even worse, he seems to have upgraded his fear toxin formula to be more deadly and more effective than ever before. It's naturally up to Batman to stop him before it's too late, but doing so might be more complicated than anyone could have hoped for.

Cycle of Violence was released in the early days of the New 52 era and provides a brand new and revamped origin story for Jonathan Crane, one that is equal parts harrowing and tragic, giving him a depth we don't get to see very often. We won't give it away by saying too much here, but this is the story you'll want to read if you like your Batman comics to have a true crime flair mixed in with the cape-and-cowl action.

Let's Talk Talent:

Chances are you're going to recognize writer Gregg Hurwitz's name from thriller novels like his Orphan X series and you can definitely feel the thriller DNA here in Cycle of Violence. Hurwitz's grasp on prose and tension permeates every layer of this story and elevates that gritty, crime saga feel with every beat. Meanwhile, artist David Finch is an absolutely classic cape-and-cowl artist who brings that traditional superhero flair and balances things out. Together, the two of them form a one-two punch of genre breaking chemistry. Come for the hard-boiled narration, stay for the absolutely brutal silent acting of every character caught in Scarecrow's web.

A Few Reasons to Read:

  • Do you want to be actually, genuinely unsettled by Scarecrow? Look no further. This is Jonathan Crane stripped down to the bare bones of what makes him a top tier villain: abject horror.
  • If your favorite types of Batman stories skew more towards the detective stuff rather than the high-flying action, Cycle of Violence is the perfect story for you. This is the Dark Knight, gritty and unrelenting in a mystery that is packed with tension.
  • If you're looking for some underrated and underappreciated Batman epics, Cycle of Violence is a great place to start. Its release came at a tumultuous time full of brand-new series launches and continuity shifts, meaning it really didn't get the love it deserved upon release. Now's your chance to rediscover it—and don't worry, just because it's technically the second volume of the series doesn't mean you'll need to do any reading homework. This one was the first storyline written by Hurwitz and it stands alone!

Why It's Worth Your Time:

There are a lot (and we do mean a lot) of Batman stories out there, of all different shapes, sizes and flavors. When you've been fighting crime as long as Bruce Wayne has, this is obviously understandable, and it's only natural that some of the best ones wind up falling through the cracks when they're released. Cycle of Violence deserves its moment in the sun, not just for the Scarecrow and the true crime fans, but for Batman fans at large who are anxious to see a different side of the Dark Knight’s tool kit when it comes to dealing with his worst and most terrifying foes. This isn't exactly "light" reading—don't get us wrong, the subject matter is heavy and Scarecrow is scary—but it's a perfect quick read if you're looking for something with a bit more bite to keep you interested this weekend as we transition into the Halloween season!

Batman: The Dark Knight Vol. 2: Cycle of Violence by Gregg Hurwitz and David Finch is available in comic shops, bookstores and libraries as a softcover graphic novel and can be read in full on DC UNIVERSE INFINITE.

Mason Downey writes about comics, movies and superhero history for DC.com. Look for more of his work on GameSpot, IGN and Polygon.

NOTE: The views and opinions expressed in this feature are solely those of Mason Downey and do not necessarily reflect those of DC Entertainment or Warner Bros., nor should they be read as confirmation or denial of future DC plans.