Just as Gotham City was about to move forward with a new, bright future Joker threw a huge wrench into all those plans as he burnt the city during “Joker War.” Now Gotham City future is one with many unknowns as everyone tries to pick up the pieces after all the damage Joker caused. Batman hit especially hard as he is coming out of “Joker War” without his company and resources available to him. In addition, Bruce Wayne now has a bigger target on his back as both Wayne Enterprise’s board of directors and the US government are keeping tabs of all his spending. All this means that Bruce will have to be much more creative with how he uses his limited resources if he plans to continue his adventures as Batman. Will he be successful? Let’s find out with Batman #102.
Writer: James Tynion IV
Artists: Carlo Pagulayan and Carlos D’Anda
Inker: Danny Miki
Colorist: David Baron
Story Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 5 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: At a construction site in Gotham City’s Old Town area Ghost-Maker has tied up a GCPD police officer. Ghost-Maker makes his displeasure over how bad Gotham City and reveals he has already mapped out the entire city through his Ghostnet tech. He then demands the police officer to tell him everything about Clownhunter. When the police officer says he knows nothing Ghost-Maker makes it clear he is not the Bat and is there to prove he is better than Batman.
Elsewhere, at a shipping yard, Batman fights several members of the Grinners, who are Joker’s followers that have had their faces partially paralyzed through exposure of Joker’s toxin. As he makes his way to the Smile Bar, the place the Grinners hangout, he talks with Oracle (Barbara Gordon) about everything he knows about the place. Oracle detects twelve people inside the bar and forwards over the info to Batman’s cowl.
Before Batman goes inside Barbara reflects on how recent events have made her wonder if she would get more done as Batgirl and Oracle, especially after seeing Stephanie Brown and Cassandra Cain wearing the Bat-Symbol.
Batman goes inside and finds everyone in the Smile Bar dead, including the bartender. Oracle wonders if this is a trap set up by Clownhunter. Batman says this is a message from someone who is not Clownhunter, as he stands in front of a distinct symbol spray painted on the wall. Oracle asks who that person is. Batman says he will explain later because things just got personal.
Flashing back to many years ago at Druid’s Tavern in Dublin, Ireland, a young Bruce Wayne throws a guy named Tommy Tivane out of the tavern. Bruce demands Tommy, who is known as the world’s best knife wielder, take him on as a pupil.
As Bruce and Tommy get ready to throw down someone else shows up and calls Bruce out for continuing to act like a rich American. A guy in a half mask says Tommy will be his master not Bruce’s.
Bruce recognizes the voice as the guy who he was learning alongside of under their master in Morocco, before the guy killed him. Bruce and the mysterious guy start fighting with neither being able to get the advantage, as Tommy watches nearby.
Back in the present, in the Little Santa Prisca area of Gotham City, Harley Quinn talks her way into getting an apartment in a rundown building. The landlord warns Harley Quinn that he doesn’t want any explosions or anything hurting the other residents in the building.
At a rooftop across the street Clownhunter is monitoring Harley Quinn and gets all his equipment for a rocket launcher ready. Before he can put it together Clownhunter is confronted by Ghost-Maker. Ghost-Maker makes it clear he knows everything about Clownhunter and that he is not going to survive their confrontation.
Batman suddenly shows up and immediately punches Ghost-Maker. Ghost-Maker is quick to call Batman out for letting Gotham City rot and how he has allowed someone like Clownhunter run around free of consequences. Batman says he will not let Ghost-Maker kill Clownhunter.
Ghost-Maker takes this as indication that Batman wants to settle things like they did in the old days. As they clash Ghost-Maker tells Batman that the winner of their fight takes Gotham City. End of issue.
The Good: After Batman #101 took the time to set-up what the state of Gotham City was James Tynion now goes all in on how Batman will be operating moving forward. The focus on just the superhero part of the character in Batman #102 makes a definitive statement of where Bruce Wayne is placing his focus in the immediate future. Which makes the fact that this new storyline with the new villain, Ghost-Maker, involves Bruce Wayne’s past during the time he was training to become Batman even more intriguing.
What really stood out from Batman #102 was how James Tynion was able to keep all the present day stuff in costume while still making this feel like a Bruce Wayne story. Tynion timed the flashback sequence in at the right time get over how this confrontation with Ghost-Maker is about Bruce Wayne. While we will have Batman and Ghost-Maker clashing in the present this rivalry is about the people in the costumes. This immediately gives this latest arc a completely different tone from all the other recent Batman stories.
Diving into Bruce’s past has been one of the things that has made Tynion’s run stand out. With how many Batman stories we have gotten it has been quite some time since we got to see that in between period of when Bruce left Gotham City and then returned as Batman. Telling stories in that time period is being timed right as Tynion gets across how he is not only modernizing this part of Batman’s history but also adding depth to this particular time period.
Having Ghost-Maker be someone that went through the same exact training that Bruce went through with the same mentors was a great way to establish their history. Tynion made all the dialogue between these two in their past confrontation in Dublin come across as natural. You get a good sense of how they’ve spent quite a bit of time together before things turned south when Ghost-Maker turned on their mentor in Morocco. Showing that they are equally matched in this past confrontation was a good teaser for what to expect in fights they will now get into in the present.
Attaching both Clownhunter and Joker’s gang, the Grinners, to the story between Batman and Ghost-Maker was a good way to integrate the change going on in Gotham City. There is a sense that Gotham City is currently in state where none of the cops or government officials have control of what is going on. How this ends up expanding on where Clownhunter fits into the future of Gotham City will be interesting to see.
It was also great to see Tynion bring Barbara Gordon in to begin to play a pivotal role in not only this series but the rest of the Batman franchise. Especially with Barbara mentioning how seeing Stephanie Brown and Cassandra Cain officially adopting the Bat-Symbol into their costumes we, just like her, are left wondering what is the best next step she can take. Because as we see with how she helped out Batman, Barbara can do a lot of good going back to being Oracle. At the same time, Barbara has established herself as a strong presence in Gotham City as Batgirl in the last decade. How Barbara balances out her Batgirl and Oracle personas provide plenty of potential for what role she will take on in the future.
Tynion also did a good job in establishing how Batman needs Barbara to be their for him as Oracle. With his fortune, previous equipment, and status as owner of Wayne Enterprise taken from him Bruce doesn’t have the same level of resources as before. Adding in how Alfred is dead and Lucius Fox is even more busy trying to salvage what is left of Wayne Enterprise, Bruce has never been more alone on his mission. Factoring all that in, Tynion is able to put over the idea how Bruce is hoping that Barbara does return to being Oracle. He will need all the allies he can get at the moment. If he can ever admit that to Barbara, Dick Grayson, or any of his other former proteges will be interesting to see.
Carlo Pagulayan and Carlos D’Anda artwork was solid for what they each needed to do. Pagulayan, handling most of this issue’s art duties, did a good job in over how Gotham City is in a place of recovery. The whole vibe of the city that Batman is operating in now feels different. We get that with how Batman fight with the Grinners goes down. Pagulayan and D’Anda also made good use of the different setting that a daytime fight between Batman and Ghost-Maker has.
The Bad: While it was good to see that Tynion did not forget how important Harley Quinn became during “Joker War” her appearance in Batman #102 felt forced. Even though she was targeted by Clownhunter her appearance just came across as unnecessary. Especially with how Tynion is beginning to establish the Grinners as a offshoot gang of Joker it would’ve been better for this story if Clownhunter went after them.
Another thing that hurt Batman #102 was the artwork. Pagulayan and D’Anda’s respective artwork was solid but when you have them working together the differences between both of them stands out even more. Their styles clash hard as Pagulayan’s artwork was more traditional Batman while D’Anda had more of a cartoon look to it. That difference stood out even more when Pagulayan drew the final few pages and he tried to adapt his style to D’Anda. Those transitions between art styles hurt the pacing of this issue.
Overall: Batman #102 was a good start to the first story arc in the post-Joker War Gotham City. James Tynion is able to show that Batman has a lot of work to do in order to be able to help Gotham City recover from what just took place. At the same time, Tynion is able to expand on Bruce Wayne’s training with the addition of the new Ghost-Maker villain. How all this will play out has a lot of potential to add to what fans know about Batman’s history.
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