If you haven’t noticed by now, James Tynion IV has been introducing many new characters into Batman, not only injecting new life into the series, creating several memorable characters as fans have loved Punchline, Clownhunter, and Underbroker. Enter Ghost-Maker, a new character who gets a shot of major backstory development this week in Batman #102. How does this character know Batman, and does Bruce have any chance at proving he’s better than this new vigilante hero?
The latest issue of Batman offers a ton of content, something that’s become the norm from Tynion-written Batman books as he’s quite good at weaving in subplots while keeping the story moving forward. This week, Batman opens with Ghost-Maker working their handiwork to enact a bit of justice in Gotham while ruminating on Gotham being a lost cause. This is juxtaposed well with the very next scene of Batman reflecting on a Joker gang hideout he allows to stick around so as to gauge when an attack might drop. That’s an oversimplification — Tynion creates a believable scenario for a special kind of Joker gang — but the main point is clear: We are dealing with different kinds of vigilantes.
The meat of the book lies in a flashback involving Bruce and a mysterious foe in competition with him. It’s interesting to get a new perspective on Bruce’s life as he tours the world to gain new skills. It’s also helpful to see Bruce Wayne as a younger person complete with a short temper. He was an imperfect human at one point and that’s refreshing to see. Since “Joker War”, Tynion has been undressing Batman so to speak and showing he can make mistakes.
There are nice character touches outside these scenes, too. Harley Quinn gets a fun moment and it’s nice to see her doing normal things with a Harley twist. Oracle is also given a nice scene that helps convey her frustration with the role she’s currently in.
Art by Carlo Pagulayan is great at playing with shadows and drawing the eye to absent places. The opening scene with Ghost-Maker is devoid of characters at first, focusing on the empty spaces of scaffolding and buildings being erected. There’s a good exploration of these empty spaces and the shadows that fill them, suiting the nature of Gotham thanks in part to the inking by Danny Miki. The flashback scene is drawn by Carlos D’Anda who gets to shock us with an opening shot of shattered glass. These scenes show off the speed and fight moves of the characters and they’re pulled off well.
Something awkward that throws off the read is Ghost-Maker’s helmet in some shots, which can look flat. I’m not sure if it’s the artist’s fault so much as the design of the helmet and the possibly the angle chosen. The design can look bulky and awkward, perhaps to make it less believable he could take on the sleeker-designed Batman costume.
Batman #102 is the first part of the “Ghost Stories” story arc and it captures the ideology of Ghost-Maker well while establishing the methodical nature of Batman. It also juggles other plot elements well. This is a Batman series that’s generous with story and action.
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