Review: Batman #102

"Ghost Stories" - Part One
Writer: James Tynion IV
Artist: Carlo Pagulayan & Carlos D'Anda
Colour Artist: Danny Miki
Letterer: Clayton Cowles

Review by Max Byrne

A new era for Batman sees a new villain, new artist(s) and a new arc that, based on this issue, has much potential. Coming out of the ambitious and wonderfully executed "Joker War", James Tynion IV has established an interesting status quo for the Caped Crusader, stripped of most of the bells ad whistles that have made the character almost infallible.

This new ethos is nicely encapsulated with the full debut of a new adversary, Ghost-Maker. Whilst it's early days for the character, he 's certainly come in hot. Pious, incredibly skilled, and intrinsically linked to Bruce Wayne's past, this is a villain with a lot of mileage in him.

With Batman always positioned as a martial artist almost beyond compare, it's interesting to see a villain put front and centre that can actually stand toe to toe with him, without resorting to some kind of augmentation, or power set. This is a man that's been his adversary for many years, so I look forward to Tynion mining the formative years of the Bat in training for great content over the coming weeks.

Flashbacks to said time period seem to hint at some kind of uneasy truce between the two former rivals, with Bruce left to protect his city unimpeded, but the past always has a way of catching up with you, and the synergy between the two time periods is striking. Two young men clash in the past and two veterans resume their rivalry in the present, proving that time certainly doesn't heal ALL wounds, just some of them.

As already mentioned, this issue sees new artists at the helm in the form of Carlo Pagulayan and Carlos D'Anda. Filling some almighty shoes in the form of artists past, I feel that they more than step up to the plate. Refusing to throw out the proverbial baby with the bathwater, there does appear to be some consistency of tone with the past. Far from imitators, instead they are honouring the title and ensuring that the reader doesn't get alienated by a sharp artistic jolt. I'm firmly onboard with this new axis and thirst for issue #103 ASAP, please!

My new favourite ancillary character gets another decent amount of panel time, as Clownhunter gets to deliver his brand of chaos to Batman's world. The dynamic between the characters is extremely interesting, as one clearly gets the sense that, despite firmly disapproving of his extreme ideology when it comes to crime fighting, Bruce almost can see some of himself in the boy. It seems that the Dark Knight wants to help shape his future and direct his rage into a more focused, legitimate direction. There are shades of Jason Todd in Clownhunter, and I applaud Tynion for creating such an interesting, layered character.

Conclusion

Batman #103 is a highly enjoyable read with plenty for the fans to get their teeth into. Setting up a new villain is never easy, but overall this new antagonist has been brought into the mix very well.

We get a sense that there's a lot more to come and a jump back in time to Batman's training years is always welcome. This issue ticks a lot of this reviewer's boxes, so I cannot wait for the next few issue to take this arc on further, and provide some great Bat-Moments. 


Images Courtesy of DC Entertainment

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