Batman #104

Batman #104 Review

Batman #104

Things haven’t been going well for in the post-City of Bane status quo that has existed in Gotham City. That was only made worse by how “Joker War” just about burnt the entire city to the ground. Now the Batman Family has their work cut out for them in trying to restore some sense of normalcy. But even that has not been easy as Ghostmaker has appeared to reveal a part of Bruce Wayne’s past that came even before he became Batman. With Ghostmaker already proving he can match Batman’s skills what will happen next? Let’s find out with Batman #104

Writer: James Tynion IV

Artist: Ryan Benjamin, Dany Miki, Bengal, and Guillem March

Colorist: David Baron

Story Rating: 4 Night Girls out of 10

Art Rating: 5 Night Girls out of 10

Overall Rating: 4.5 Night Girls out of 10

Synopsis: Batman wakes up to find himself being patched up by Ghost-Maker. Ghost-Maker continues to talk about how he is going to show him a better way as Batman realizes they are in Arkham Asylum. Ghost-Maker says that Arkham Asylum is where Batman really belongs.

Over in Bludhaven Nightwing stops a bank robbery. As he does that Oracle calls Nightwing to tell him about Batman.

After stopping the bank robbery Nightwing asks for what’s been happening. Oracle says that Batman has been gone for six hours. She goes on to say that during that time leaders of fourteen different gangs have turned themselves into the GCPD after being beaten harshly, Professor Pyg has been placed in his old Arkham Asylum cell, the Yakuza, Triads, and Whisper Gang have all left the city, and Penguin has gone underground after six people were found in the Iceberg Casino with sword wounds.

Nightwing surprises Oracle by knowing immediately that it was Ghost-Maker who was responsible for all this. As he is still an hour away Oracle asks Nightwing to tell her all he knows about Ghost-Maker.

Nightwing reveals he only ever saw Ghost-Maker once several years ago when he was Robin and chasing leads on Penny Plunderer’s whereabouts with Batman. During that time Robin saw Batman meet with Ghost-Maker from inside the Batplane. Robin was surprised that Batman got back into the Batplane and took off. Batman told Robin that they would leave the Penny Plunderer case to Ghost-Maker.

Robin notices that Batman is pissed off and asks who Ghost-Maker is. Batman reveals that Ghost-Maker was a former friend from his time when he was training with various masters all over the world to become the Dark Knight. Batman goes on to say that when he told Ghost-Maker his mission he was called weak because he wasn’t training for the art of it but for vengeance. They ended up battling to see who the better student and crime fighter was over would be the next several years. Eventually at the end of Bruce’s training they agreed that Bruce wasn’t welcome anywhere where Ghost-Maker set up shop and Ghost-Maker wasn’t welcome in Gotham City.

Batman #104
Batman tells Robin (Dick Grayson) his history with Ghost-Maker dating back to his training days in Batman #104. Click for full page view.

Robin asks if Batman misses his friend. Batman just says “Yes.”

Back in the present, Oracle is stunned by all the information. Nightwing mentions that when Bruce started up Batman Incorporated he tried to recruit Ghost-Maker but was turned down.

Nightwing then says that he has been keeping tabs on all the stories that have been rumored about Ghost-Maker. Oracle questions why Nightwing knows so much. Nightwing reveals that after learning about Brue’s real first partner he wanted to prove that he was better than Ghost-Maker.

Spoiler calls Oracle (who Spoiler calls Batgirl Prime) to let her know that Harley Quinn’s place is empty though there are vines that spell out Arkham on the wall.

Over in Arkham Asylum, Clownhunter wakes up to hear Harley Quinn, who is strapped down to a medical bed, talking to him. Batman tells Clownhunter and Harley Quinn that Ghost-Maker is going to try to turn provoke them.

Clownhunter mentions how he is not strapped down like the other two. Batman tries to reason with Clownhunter by calling him Bao. Bao says that his name is Clownhunter.

Harley Quinn asks what Clownhunter’s problem is. Batman reveals that Joker killed Clownhunter’s parents and when Harley Quinn was still working with Joker.

Clownhunter notices a couple swords on a table. Batman tells Clownhunter to not do what he is thinking of doing. Clownhunter grabs one of the swords and says this is the chance he has been waiting for. Clownhunter then gets ready to chop Harley Quinn’s head off. End of issue.

The Good: If there wasn’t enough information about Batman and Ghost-Maker’s past established already James Tynion goes even more into their history with Batman #104. While there is some new information that is introduced a lot of what we get feels like a retread of what already learned in the first two issue of this story arc.

That said the one interesting aspect of this info dump of Bruce Wayne and Ghost-Maker’s history is that we get it from Dick Grayson’s perspective. Tynion did a good job in explaining why Nightwing would know so much information about Ghost-Maker not because Batman told him rather it is due to how he learned Ghost-Maker was Batman’s first partner. Tynion played into how this hurt Dick’s ego a bit and added fuel to his desire to show he is the best over the years. This fact builds interest in seeing Nightwing throw down with Ghost-Maker as the former is now making his way to Gotham City.

Tynion also does a nice job in further building out how the Batman Family are working more as a united unit by introducing the Batgirls concept in Batman #104. While Barbara Gordon waves off Stephanie Brown’s attempt to have the Batgirls be a thing I do like the idea of them. Having Barbara act as a mentor for Stephanie and Cassandra Cain would be a cool thing to see happen. Tynion already showed that they have good chemistry as they work quickly together to figure out what happened to Batman.

The Bad: As mentioned earlier Batman #104 was mostly an information dump on the backstory for Bruce Wayne and Ghost-Maker’s rivalry. The problem with this is that the previous two parts of the story already showed us these same scenes. The only difference was that we got it from Dick Grayson’s perspective. And even then the information we do get does not come across as new. It all felt like one big filler issue.

Batman #104
Batman tries to stop Clownhunter from killing Harley Quinn in Batman #104. Click for full page view.

What would’ve been better is if we actually saw Ghost-Maker actually going around Gotham City doing what Oracle said he did during the six hours he had Batman knocked out. Right now we have only been told how Ghost-Maker has been this badass on Batman’s level. But so far all we’ve seen is how Batman has actually shown superior skill as a fighter and detective. At this point Ghost-Maker is not this ultimate badass the story wants us to believe. He has just been lucky that Batman’s held back during their encounters.

Because of that it lessens the impact of learning everything that Ghost-Maker has done in six hours to bring down crime. It just doesn’t come across as impressive as it should since we know he is likely doing it in a way that there won’t be a long-term change, as Batman proved in Batman #103. All this would’ve been solved if we had a page or two of Ghost-Maker owning all these criminals, including Penguin, to get across how he is going about things differently from Batman.

Having so much recapping involved in Batman #103 hurt the bigger story that Tynion is trying to tell with Clownhunter. Everything about Clownhunter just comes across as a kid with rage issues like when Jason Todd was Robin. The character just falls flat as he doesn’t go beyond being one-dimensional in the way he acts or talks.

Not helping any was the artwork by committee. Ryan Benjamin, Dany Miki, Bengal, and Guillem March are all talented artists but they did not mesh well together. Having so many clashing art styles just further emphasized how forgettable this issue was. There was just no cohesion to what we saw on each page, which ended up disrupting the pacing of Batman #104 as we went from one art style to another within a few pages.

Overall: Batman #104 is by far the worst issue of James Tynion’s run. Given how great Tynion’s run on Batman has been thus far it is disappointing that we get an issue that is essentially a recap of the previous two issues. There are some interesting plot developments with Nightwing and the Batgirls but they aren’t enough to mask all the problems with how this story around Ghost-Maker has progressed thus far. Hopefully the next issue is able to recover and push this story forward in a way that it regains the momentum it started with.

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