With “Joker War” over, I’ve been intrigued to see where Batman would be taken. In the event, we saw how Batman’s plans have failed Gotham. The city isn’t better off and in many ways, it’s as broken as when he started his battle. Bruce and Batman have also pushed away his allies and relied a bit too much on his toys in his war on crime. Batman #102 takes the first real steps as to Batman putting things back together.
Writer James Tynion IV delivers a reflection in Batman’s current state with Ghost-Maker, a character from Bruce’s past. Like the Joker, Ghost-Maker feels Batman has failed in his role of protecting the city. But, his take is a more brutal justice. Criminals should be executed, not taken to jail, and Ghost-Maker’s first real target is Clownhunter, the new hero of the Narrows.
The issue is an interesting one with a clear focus on reminding us of Batman’s new status-quo. Barbara is back as Oracle and without his unlimited funds, he needs to handle issues differently. We’ll clearly see a Batman whose battle is hindered by failing gimmicks. That’s been foreshadowed a lot. We’re also going to get a new Bat-team for Batman to rely on if this issue’s hints are a bit more than just that. This is the arc to get us… somewhere.
And that’s the good and bad of the issue. Like much of Tynion’s run so far, the issue feels like it has a specific job of take us to some other point in the story arc. That the point of the issue isn’t Ghost-Maker, it’s to set up what happens next in the following arc. This is much like the previous arcs of Batman that had Tynion leading to Joker War. His Batman feels more like a three-act play that a self-contained story or arc. That each issue and story is built to drive you towards something down the road, not so much focused on the here and now. In that way it feels a little forgettable. While there’s some solid action and interesting concepts, the issue itself feels a little thin.]
The art by Carlo Pagulayan and Carlos D’Anda is solid. Along with ink by Danny Miki and lettering by Clayton Cowles Batman #102 is crisp in style and really gives a visual sense of where things are. That “status quo check” is not just for Batman but also Gotham as a whole. We can see it’s a city still under construction attempting to rebuild itself from its ashes. With Batman, there’s a low-fi feel about him. Gone are the cool vehicles and tools, instead things feel a bit back to basics visually. But, it’s Ghost-Maker that really stands out. Compared to Batman and Gotham, the character feels like the future. It’s a sleek design that looks modern and advanced compared to the more rusty/under construction Gotham and lacking toys Batman.
Batman #102 feels a bit like a reminder of much of what the previous issue laid out. The difference is, this issue has Batman in the field. There’s a bit too much set-up and foreshadowing making the issue feel not so much as something that stands on its own but a bit focused on what comes down the road. Unlike Batman, who’s attempting to focus on the now, the issue is focused on its endpoint down the road.
Batman #102 is a rather thin issue that gets to the conflict between Ghost-Maker and Batman too quickly and doesn’t build enough tension. In other words, it’s just another person for Batman to fight not some difficult obstacle for him to overcome. Batman #102 rushes to its end fight without giving us much of a reason to care or much of a reason to think that this will be a tough battle. It needed to focus on setting up the issue itself not issues down the road.
Story: James Tynion IV Art: Carlo Pagulayan, Carlos D’Anda
Ink: Danny Miki Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Story: 7.5 Art: 7.8 Overall: 7.6 Recommendation: Read
DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review