Ghost-Maker has entered Gotham, and he’s hellbent on proving he’s better than Batman in every way. The last issue ended up with an excellent example of how Batman is always three steps ahead, but that didn’t stop Ghost-Maker from taking the Dark Knight out. In Batman #104, Batman, Clownhunter, and Harley Quinn wake up in a room and their options are limited. Think Saw, but with superheroes!
This is a good issue for casual fans who want to jump in on the Ghost-Maker story. Tynion utilizes Nightwing and Oracle to explain who this strange vigilante is from the perspective of Nightwing when he was the Boy Wonder. This helps solidify the Ghost-Maker character in the Batman mythos while also supplying a new perspective on the strange masked man. While all that is happening, we get to see how ruthless the character is by how he’s trapped Batman, Clownhunter, and Harley Quinn. His intentions are clear and he wants to show Bruce you can’t save everyone, including the boy who kills clowns.
For a story arc that implements a similarly dedicated hero like Ghost-Maker, Tynion makes a strong case for how he’s different. It’s an angle that reflects the somewhat disturbing motivation of Batman–to avenge his parents’ deaths–and supplies a nice callback to the days Bruce Wayne was still perfecting his skills.
The art in this issue is a bit all over the place due to the multiple artists involved. It’s broken up well enough so each artist is drawing a different scene, but it’s still quite jarring. Bengal appears to handle the Nightwing scenes, Guillem March handles a flashback with Robin and Batman, and Ryan Benjamin handles the scenes with a kidnapped Batman, Harley, and Clownhunter. Bengal’s art is good, but much more stylized and simplified, which is jarringly different from March’s hyper-detailed and heavier inked work. Ghost-Maker’s mask continues to not work as the shape and eyes are odd and can look very flat without the right rendering. In fact, we get to see what his mask looked like when Dick was Robin and it actually looks a lot cooler back then.
The cover art by Jorge Jimenez and Tomeu Morey is out of this world good. Not only does it convey the general premise that keeps you on the edge of your seat, but’s a gorgeous and poster-worthy work of art on its own. Jimenez is one of the best in the business right now and it feels like his career has only started.
Art aside, the narrative delays the inevitable which makes the plot feel a bit stunted. We relearn who Ghost-Maker is and get Nightwing’s take while slowing down the current events with Batman, Harley, and Clownhunter tied down. This leads to a cliffhanger you can see coming. Ultimately, this issue reads like it was rushed to meet the bi-weekly release schedule and suffers from artist changes and some conventional plot thickening to maximize a moment rather than barreling ahead.
Batman #104 is a good issue from a backstory perspective, but it will leave you wanting more especially if you’ve been reading the Ghost-Maker story arc. The character’s backstory is fleshed out a bit more here, but it also contains info we already knew or could have inferred. The flashback to Batman and Robin interacting with Ghost-Maker is the best thing about this issue, which is likely going to make this a must-read for most. The art doesn’t quite live up to the work though as it’s spread across three artists who have jarringly different styles.
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