Batman is facing off against an old rival this week and he goes by Ghost-Maker. The old rival has come to Gotham to show Batman who is better at, well, everything. The two have been sparring since the early days when they were wandering the Earth to be the best. Batman #102 kicked off the Ghost-Maker arc well, but can it sustain the showdown of the century?
As one can see in the Batman #103 preview, the issue opens in a contemplative place as Bruce sits alone in the desert. Soon he’s got Ghost-Maker, now finding his costume, on his tail, but he’s in no mood to fight. This scene does a lot to show these men have a complex relationship and it’s one that’s likely less cutthroat than Ghost-Maker is making it out to be. They are bonded in a way, like two rival brothers. That adds the necessary complexity to the relationship that raises this lengthy fight-comic to something a bit more.
As the story progresses, writer James Tynion IV does well to show how these two are very well matched, but of course, Batman does have his edge. I won’t spoil it, but there’s a satisfying turn late in the issue that reminds us Ghost-Maker may be good, but he’s not the best. Tynion also smartly makes fun of the Ghost-Maker name via supporting characters which, in a way, validates the name.
This issue also dovetails into Harley Quinn’s story and Clownhunter plays a part, too. I keep saying this in reviews and on the AIPT Comics podcast, but Tynion is very good at maximizing his Batman stories with entertaining big-beat moments as well as good check-ins for the subplots. This issue continues that.
Ultimately though, this issue is pretty much just a fight comic with some layered in melodrama between Batman and Ghost-Maker save for the opening flashback in the desert. Given the damage Batman takes, one can surmise Ghost-Maker is actually a better fighter, at least when the plot needs him to be. When told in trade paperback their sparring will fit right in, but as a single issue, it reads like filler and table setting for the big cliffhanger at the end. March certainly shows off some incredible fight moves, but much of the fight follows random blows and dodges that don’t tell the reader much.
Batman #103 is a good fight comic that ever so slightly moves along the Ghost-Maker story arc. You’ll be more invested in Ghost-Maker, and if you’ve ever had a sibling rivalry you’ll relate, but this issue could have used a little something extra to bring it to greatness.
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