The Batman Family has started a brand new era as they all deal with the aftermath of the events that took place in “Joker War.” Batman has specifically been left on his own without his normal resources at his disposal. That’s pushed Batman against a corner as he tries to figure out how he can help Gotham City recover from “Joker War” and come out being better. Batman’s work has been made tougher as both Ghost-Maker and Clownhunter have shown up to do their own things in Gotham City. How will Batman deal with these two? Let’s find out with Batman #103.
Writer: James Tynion
Artist: Carlo Pagulaya, Danny Miki, and Guillem March
Colorist: David Baron
Story Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: Years Ago, somewhere in the Gobi Desert, Bruce Wayne is challenged to another fight by Ghost-Maker. Bruce is not interested in another fight. Ghost-Maker knows that Bruce is using training methods from the Desert Kings.
After a silent moment Ghost-Maker calls Bruce weak for caring so much. Bruce says caring is not a weakness and gets ready to have another fight with Ghost-Maker.
In the present while Batman and Ghost-Maker are fighting Oracle is unable to see who Batman is fighting. Batman reveals that Ghost-Maker’s Ghost-Net is going to make it impossible for Oracle. Batman then mentions to Oracle that a reason Ghost-Maker is upset with him is that he made fun of him when he was fifteen years old and beat him every time they have fought since they were twenty.
Ghost-Maker recovers and reveals that since arriving in Gotham City he has leaked criminal activity of fourteen different district judges, solved a major homicide case, and sent information to the FBI about an illegal shipment from Santa Prisca. Ghost-Maker calls Batman out for doing nothing in that time except protecting Clownhunter from him. Batman tells Clownhunter to run as he holds Ghost-Maker back from killing him.
After Clownhunter runs off Ghost-Maker once again calls Bruce for failing at the mission he set out for himself as Batman. Ghost-Maker says because of that he will make sure to kill Clownhunter in front of Batman.
Over at her apartment Harley Quinn talks to her plant as she reflects on her relationship with Poison Ivy and the recent events with Batman and Joker.
Clownhunter suddenly bust into Harley Quinn’s apartment and attacks her. Harley Quinn easily dodges all of Clownhunter’s attacks. Harley Quinn figures out Clownhunter is a teenager and makes fun of him for it. This pisses Clownhunter off more and he swings his baseball bat around wildly. Eventually Harley Quinn nails Clownhunter with a low blow and pins him to the ground.
Batman is suddenly through Harley’s apartment window. Batman is surprised Clownhunter is there. Harley Quinn mentions how she fought Clownhunter and notices Batman has two swords in his back.
Ghost-Maker then shows up. After announcing who he is he knocks Harley Quinn out.
Struggling to get up, Batman reveals that he was already working on the homicide case Ghost-Maker solved. Batman says the reason he had Orphan (Cassandra Cain, who is now wearing her Batgirl costume) tailing the serial killer so they can find the bodies needed to put the guy away forever but since Ghost-Maker jumped the gun he made it so there can’t be clear evidence to stick as proof of the serial killers actions. He also says that since Ghost-Maker also turned in the criminal activity of the district judges that they can’t connect Tiger Shark, who was manipulating the judges, to that activity.
Ghost-Maker does not believe Batman and stabs him with another sword. Batman then says he already replaced the weapons from Santa Prisca with faulty shells so he can find who the buyers in Gotham City were. Batman then goes on to say that while he isn’t perfect he knows he can always do better for Gotham City.
Ghost-Maker then points out how Batman is protecting Clownhunter. Batman says that the police will not provide Clownhunter with the help he needs as they will just throw him in prison without care.
Done with all this Ghost-Maker knocks Batman out. Ghost-Maker then says he will show Batman what Gotham City looks like with a real crime fighter in charge.
The Good: We don’t move that far from where we were in the first part of this storyline with Batman #103. This issue was much more about establishing the differences between Batman and Ghost-Maker. From that perspective, Batman #103 works very well. Its some of the details around how we get to the ending that don’t fully work as intended.
When it comes to Batman something we don’t see explored or mentioned very much is Bruce Wayne’s time before picking up the cape and cowl. That’s especially been the case over the last decade as the only time period that is still referenced is the Year One time period. James Tynion recognizing this and actually going back to explore some of the training Bruce did to become Batman is what is making this storyline refreshing.
Going back to that time period has allowed Tynion to insert a new character like Ghost-Maker into Batman’s mythology that just fits. Because it makes sense that there would be at least a few people who Bruce trained alongside while having various mentors across the world. Ghost-Maker being motivated by just wanting to beat Bruce because of how Bruce always one upped him when they were going through their respective training makes it easier to connect with the villain’s motivation. There is no hiding what Ghost-Maker wans and that allows how he represents something different in comparison to Batman’s other villains so interesting.
Adding in how Ghost-Maker already tried to show he is better than Batman by trying to show he can solve all these case in Gotham City was a good way to build the character. As we see with the flashback, Ghost-Maker has such immense pride at being the best that he does not know how that is his biggest weakness. Batman proving that by revealing that the reason he didn’t turn over the cases to the police and government earlier was because he wanted to make sure they had all the evidence to ensure those crimes couldn’t happen again was a great way dunk on Ghost-Maker. Ghost-Maker being angered by this revelation showed how his arrogance makes him someone who can’t get over his own weaknesses to be on Batman’s level as a detective and long-term thinker.
At the same time, Tynion does a great job in having this entire ordeal with Ghost-Maker something that is helping Batman face his own weaknesses. As “City of Bane” and “Joker War” proved, Batman has been incredibly sloppy in his work to protect Gotham City. If he is going to rectify that and be the protector Gotham City needs Batman has to be self-reflective of how he can be better. Batman admitting that out loud during the fight with Ghost-Maker is one step to him becoming better.
Another thing that will help Batman is how he is actually accepting help from others. Which we see with how Tynion continues to establish Barbara Gordon as Oracle once again. Rather than pushing her away while he fought Ghost-Maker, we see that Batman actually tries to catch Oracle up on who his opponent is and why she can’t get a read on him. Its little things like this that help build a strong working relationship as Barbara looks to be built as a key character in the Batman Family as both Batgirl and Oracle.
It was also interesting to see that we get another example of Batman working closely with the rest of the Batman Family with the cameo appearance of Cassandra Cain. What made Cassandra’s appearance stand out was the fact that she is now back to wearing her iconic Batgirl costume. While it is not stated if she is now Batgirl or still Orphan, little touches like this show that Batman understands he cannot keep pushing those around him away. If Bruce is to become better as Batman he needs to work alongside allies like Barbara and Cassandra. Trusting Cassandra to work on long-term cases like the one with the serial killer goes a long way in forging a stronger bond with the Batman Family.
Carlo Pagulaya, Danny Miki, and Guillem March did a much better job this time around in splitting art duties without their respective art styles clashing. The art all had a consistent look to it with Pagulaya doing a great job getting us into what it would look like if Batman had to fight in the daylight. That isn’t a setting we normally see Batman in and helped add to how this entire Ghost-Maker storyline is something different.
The Bad: The one part of Batman #103 that did not work as intended was the ongoing sub-plot with Clownhunter. The character is just not clicking in the way that Tynion is intending right now. More than anything Clownhunter is just coming across as annoying way for their to be a sub-plot within this Ghost-Maker storyline. He isn’t adding anything to the story, especially as Tynion was able to make the point of how Batman and Ghost-Maker were different with the criminal cases that were brought up.
As Clownhunter is clearly going to be a big part of this series moving forward there can be more time given to showing the character in a light that isn’t just an annoyance. Treating the kid more like a real person will go a long way in his character development.
Overall: Batman #103 moved the goal post forward as James Tynion builds a strong narrative around the rivalry between Batman and Ghost-Maker. Using the time period before Bruce Wayne became Batman has helped make this storyline feel different from what has come before. With how things ended in Batman #103 the mystery of how this arc will impact the series direction added interest in what Ghost-Maker will do next.
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