Ghost-Maker tries to prove he’s better than Batman. Who’s he kidding though? No one’s better than Batman.
The Ghost-Maker has come to Gotham. Last issue, it made for a strong story. Does it continue that upward trajectory in Batman #103?
Antagonists with retconned-in histories are hard to pull off right, and Batman probably has more than any other character in comics. The trick is to make them feel important without raising the question of why this is the first we’re hearing of them. It was a strong start with Ghost-Maker last issue, and it’s continued in this one by James Tynion IV, Carlos Pagulayan, Danny Miki, Guillem March, David Baron, and Clayton Cowles.
The Batman has failed and the Ghost-Maker is there to prove it. He’s already made steps to tear apart Gotham’s underworld, and he has plans to make it even better. However, has the assassin underestimated Bruce Wayne?
This story has two sides. On the first, it’s a strong action brawler across Gotham’s rooftops. Tynion, Pagulayan and Miki create an engaging battle between Bruce and his old frenemy. It’s a fun action-filled read, with layouts and fight choreography that drive it forward and dialogue that punctuate the action rather than just embellishing it.
But then the story dips hard into cliche. After the Ghost-Maker lays out how he’s better than Batman, Bruce shows him he’s wrong. It’s meant to be a shocker, and a “hell yeah.” However, it ends up as a moment reveling in Batman’s superpower of “enough prep time” and doesn’t quite land. It’s illustrated really well by March, especially as Batman gains the upper hand intellectually as he loses physically, but it ends up simply as eye-roll inducing.
Just before that, we get a Harley Quinn scene that almost makes the whole issue worth it. Tynion had adopted Harley while she’s between volumes of her series, and he’s really made her shine as a co-star of the book. The conversation Harley has with an absent Poison Ivy is some of the strongest character work she’s gotten in years, and I hope we get more of it before Harley shuffles back out of the series’ cast.
In the end though, the good outweighs the bad for me. It’s a fun issue that has some deep flaws. Are they story-breaking? Not quite yet. It’s still early in the arc, and we could see it shift in a positive direction before the storyline ends at the end of the year.
Regardless, it does have work to do to be considered a win, even if it was a lot of fun.
Batman #103 is available now from DC Comics.