Review: BATMAN #104
[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Writer: James Tynion IV
Colours: David Baron
Letters: Clayton Cowles
Reviewed By: Derek McNeil
Batman #104: Ghost-Maker is living up to his spectral name as Batman scours Gotham City for any trace of him…but this deadly new vigilante is going to prove a bloody point to the Dark Knight by murdering both Clownhunter and Harley Quinn. That is, unless they kill each other first!
In Batman #104, Ghost-Maker has captured Batman, Harley Quinn, and Clownhunter and taken them to Arkham Asylum. He leaves Batman and Harley tied helpless. Unfortunately, he has also left Clownhunter unfettered and with a sword close at hand.
It is here that we find out that Clownhunter has a very specific grudge against Harley. She tries to talk Clownhunter down, telling him that she’s no longer working with the Joker, but to no avail. Batman explains why, “Harley… you were there the night Joker killed his parents”. To which Harley responds, “Oh. %$#&”.
Not to fault Tynion’s main story, but the high points of Batman #104 are the bits with Batman’s supporting cast. Nightwing tells Oracle of his one encounter with Ghost-Maker. This leads into a flashback to Dick’s days as Robin, the Boy Wonder. I was quite pleased to see Batman in his 70s era Batsuit, with the yellow oval around the Bat-symbol on his chest. But I was even more pleased to see Robin in his classic pre-Flashpoint costume – with green trunks and elf shoes. It’s great to see that this costume has been restored to the DCU continuity.
This flashback reveals a bit more of the history between Batman and Ghost-Maker, as Bruce tells Dick the story of how their rivalry started. Bruce tells Dick of how he found a friend in a fellow student of the various teachers Bruce studied under. But that friendship came to an end Bruce revealed his motivation for becoming a crimefighter. He tells Dick, “He was angry because he thought he found somebody like him, somebody who was doing this for the art of it, not for some childish idea of vengeance”.
I liked seeing that even as a boy, Dick was empathetic enough to see to the core of what was bothering Bruce. Yes, Batman was angry and frustrated over his encounter with Ghost-Maker, but Dick sees through this and states, “But you miss your friend”, which Batman acknowledges with a curt “yes”.
We also see Stephanie Brown and Cassandra Cain investigating Harley’s apartment at the behest of Oracle. Both are wearing the costumes with Bat-symbols they donned during the “Joker War”. And for the first time, we see the name “Batgirls” dropped, when Stephanie communicates with Barbara, “Batgirls calling Batgirl Prime”.
Barbara shoots this down, reaffirming that Stephanie’s codename is “Spoiler”. However, Barbara does admit that she has no objection to the idea of multiple Batgirls, and implies that they will discuss the matter later. I quite like the idea of there being a trio of Batgirls, especially considering that Stephanie and Cassandra both bore the name at different points in the pre-Flashpoint continuity. Perhaps they can also enlist Bette Kane and complete the set of Batgirls.
I’m uncertain as to whether I believe Ghost-Maker’s motivations stem from Ghost-Maker being angry that Bruce wasn’t who he thought he was. Learning this might have soured their friendship, but it seems to me that his response was an extreme overreaction. However, it may be that there’s more to the story that we don’t know yet. If not, this is a somewhat minor quibble, as such overreactions aren’t exactly uncommon in comics.
Batman #104 is another superb issue in a Tynion’s fabulous run. I really love the shape that his redefined Gotham City is taking, and I can’t wait to learn what other changes will be revealed. Between Tynion’s Batman and the other Bat-titles, this is a fantastic time to be a Batman fan.