Ghost-Maker has shaken things up at a time Batman and Gotham City were already on shaky grounds. The fact that this new character is part of Bruce Wayne’s life before he became Batman has given Ghost-Maker a background that is unique within Batman’s myhos. While that has been a cool part of this ‘Ghost Stories’ arc not everything has worked as intended. There have been a lot elements of this storyline that have come across as rushed. With Batman #105 being the final issue of this series of the year and before it takes a break for Future State ow will ‘Ghost Stories’ end? Let’s find out with Batman #105.
Writer: James Tynion IV
Artist: Carlo Pagulayan, Danny Miki, Alvaro Martinez, and Christian Duce
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 at an airport in Argentina, Ghost-Maker tries to convince Bruce Wayne to not go back to Gotham City because all he is doing is trying to fulfill a promise of an eight year old boy even though he is not ready. Bruce is done listening to Ghost-Maker and starts walking to his plane. Ghost-Maker pushes the idea of them working together to create tech to solve everything but Bruce turns him down.
Ghost-Maker then punches Bruce so they can fight but Bruce doesn’t fight back. Ghost-Make and Bruce then come to agreement never to see each other again with Ghost-Maker never coming to Gotham City.
In the present, inside Arkham Asylum, Clownhunter is about to chop Harley Quinn’s head off. Batman tries to reason with Clownhuner but the kid doesn’t want to hear it. Just as Clownhunter is about to behead Harley Quinn Batman powers out of his restraints and disarms Clownhunter with a batarang.
After using the batarang to cut her restraints off Harley Quinn admits that she does not remember the night Clownhunter’s parents died at Joker’s hands. Harley Quinn apologizes for her role in everything. She goes on to say that she understands that Clownhunter is just trying to make sense of why it happened but he has a whole life ahead of him he should not ruin.
When Clownhunter does not back down from trying to kill her Harley Quinn breaks down and admits how messed up she was for a long time and how that lead to her time with Joker. She goes on to admit that Joker manipulated her feelings of wanting to be the one with all the power to cause more chaos. Harley Quinn then says she knows she has to deal with the consequences for the rest of her life but that it won’t stop her from saving people and being a better person moving forward.
As Clownhunter points a knife at her neck Harley Quinn tells him to kill her because she knows she deserves it. Batman tries to stop this but Harley Quinn says the kid needs to make his own choice. Clownhunter ends up leading the knife on the table and walking out of Arkham Asylum
Batman thanks Harley Quinn for what she did and promises to help Clownhunter out in the future. He then asks Harley Quinn to leave as well as he has to “talk” with an old friend.
Once alone Ghost-Maker enters the room to confront Batman. As they begin a sword fight Ghost-Maker says that he can still catch the boy as Batman did not prove anything. Batman explains how he has had many opportunities in the past to kill Harley Quinn, Joker, and those associated to them over the years but he didn’t because that would mean nobody can learn or change for the better.
Ghost-Maker says fires back by saying that not everyone can be saved. Batman then says people cannot be judged by their worst days as it has been shown to him many times with the young people he has help find better paths.
Batman goes on to say this path has not killed him yet and throws down his sword because he is done fighting Ghost-Maker. Rather then dropping Batman with a killing strike Ghost-Maker puts his sword away. Ghost-Maker then says their old arrangement is back on.
Before leaving Ghost-Maker admits he thought Batman would attack him with the Batmobile. Batman says he is building a new one with speed and maneuvering around the city in mind.
Batman then tells Ghost-Maker he does not need to which makes Ghost-Maker confused. Batman offers to partner with Ghost-Maker so they can make Gotham City better together. Ghost-Maker says if he does this he won’t stop calling Batman out when he does things the wrong way. Batman says he needs that with Alfred gone. Batman then gets Ghost-Maker to agree to follow his rule of not killing.
As they get ready to leave Ghost-Maker admits he was letting Nightwing, Orphan, and Spoiler watch all this go down in hopes they would learn something if Batman lost their fight. Batman invites Ghost-Maker to meet the Family. They then race off to see who can get to them first. End of issue.
The Good: As ‘Ghost Stories’ came to an end with Batman #105 I’m reminded of how James Tynion first arc on this series, ‘Their Dark Designs,’ turned out to be a prelude to ‘Joker War.’ This entire story around Ghost-Maker was not necessarily done to give us a fun Batman story. This was about setting the stage for the future after ‘Joker War’ as more puzzle pieces are placed in how Batman will be operating moving forward.
The flashback scene that opened Batman #105 was by far the most fascinating aspect of this final chapter of ‘Ghost Stories.’ The way that the young Ghost-Maker spoke to Bruce Wayne reminded me a lot of how Bruce’s interactions with Ra’s Al Ghul went in Batman Begins. While Ghost-Maker doesn’t try to burn Gotham City down like Ra’s did in Batman Begins, the principles are similar in how he wanted to force Bruce to abandon his crusade. Specifically highlighting how childish the promise Bruce was trying to keep was further cemented the fundamental differences between the two.
Which made the final sword fight that Batman and Ghost-Maker get into work out much better than the previous fights they had in ‘Ghost Stories.’ The entire fight felt like an extension of the arguments that they have had their entire lives with each other about the best approach to combat crime. Both fully believe what they are saying, making this more a power of wills than just a sword fight.
Batman proving that while his way may not be perfect it is something worth trying was well handled. Bringing up the Batman Family to strengthen his argument that everyone is worth saving made good use of the current post-Joker War direction for the franchise. Batman has had his eyes opened through this latest clash with Joker that he needs his family to help him out. Him offering Ghost-Maker a place in the Batman Family throws an interesting wild card in this direction. Even though the partnership is established as a reader we will be keeping an eye on what Ghost-Maker does because we know based on their history that he can turn on Batman if he decides this isn’t how things should be done.
Batman #105 is also the best showing of the sub-plot around Ghosthunter and Harley Quinn in this story arc. Clownhunter in particular came across more as a person in Batman #105. Previously Clownhunter was just here to be a plot device for Ghost-Maker’s plot. This time around the pain and conflict that is driving Bao as Clownhunter felt genuine. Him allowing Harley Quinn to speak rather than just acting out his aggression spoke to how Tynion does intend to give Clownhunter proper character development in the future.
Through this confrontation with Clownhunter, Harley Quinn was the standout of Batman #105. Everything that she said felt like a full circle of how her character has been developed since she stopped being Joker’s partner, particularly after being elevated when the New 52 began. Being faced by someone like Clownhunter whose life she severely impacted in a negative way was a moment of clarity of Harley Quinn.
Tynion does a great job explaining how Harley Quinn full understands that she cannot erase what she did during her time as Joker’s sidekick. Being well aware of why she went through such a dark period in her life added further depth to what she said about this time in her life. But while she cannot take any of it back Harley Quinn will not be stopped in trying to do better now and in the future. All of this shows true character growth for Harley Quinn’s character and speaks to her own background as a psychiatrist. This more than any story I’ve read with the character has made me interested in reading what is next for Harley Quinn’s character.
The artwork in Batman #105 was massively improved over the previous issue that had a similar art-by-committee. There was a clear balance of who handled what scenes. This made the transition between each artist much smoother. It helps that Carlo Pagulayan, Danny Miki, Alvaro Martinez, and Christian Duce were all able to make adjustments so that there art styles all had more of a similar look. This gave a better flow to this issue that was much more character focused than wall-to-wall action.
The Bad: While ‘Ghost Stories’ ended strong this arc ran into the same major problem that ‘Joker War’ had before it. That is with how much ‘Ghost Stories’ relies a lot on telling us how much Ghost-Maker has done to make himself such a threat rather than showing us that. This may work if Ghost-Maker was a previously established character. But since this was his introduction to the DC Universe there needed to be more shown of how badass of a fighter he was.
As it stands Ghost-Maker is nothing more than being below Batman in terms of skills because we were given enough hints that Batman held back in their fights. That is shown with how Batman constantly talks every time he would block one of Ghost-Maker attacked. This is not at all how Batman at his best fights. Which all just further hurts how we actually see Ghost-Maker as a formidable foe. With Ghost-Maker sticking around hopefully Tynion starts to back-up all the talk with action that is shown on-screen in the future.
Overall: Batman #105 ended James Tynion’s first year on the series on a strong note. There is a lot of groundwork laid out that has potential to turn into several intriguing storylines in the future. Harley Quinn’s was a particular standout with her speech being something fans will most remember from this story arc.
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