Review: BATMAN 2021 ANNUAL #1
[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Writer: James Tynion IV
Artist: Ricardo Lopez Ortiz
Colours: Romulo Fajardo Jr.
Letters: Clayton Cowles
Reviewed By: Derek McNeil
Batman 2021 Annual #1: Batman #107-111 have featured an epic, brutal tale of Batman’s frenemy Ghost-Maker in the backup stories…and the senses-shattering conclusion to the saga is here! Ghost-Maker has fought his way across Devil Skull Island, and he’s about to face every single villain from his rogues’ gallery… at once? Can even this legendary warrior survive the onslaught?
Even though Batman is the titular hero, the Batman 2021 Annual #1 focuses on his ally Ghost-Maker. This annual concludes the Ghost-Maker story that ran as a backup in Batman #107-111. This story featured Ghost-Maker storming the island headquarters of Madame Midas. Along the way, he faced a succession of her minions, and we learned a bit more about the crime fighter with each battle.
Now in the Batman 2021 Annual, Ghost-Maker we learn even more about Minhkhoa Khan. The issue begins with a flashback that finally reveals his origin story. His mother complains to his parent that the young boy is smart, but he doesn’t care about other people. When an armed criminal threatens him he doesn’t seem the slightest bit afraid or concerned, and the hood asks if he’s crazy, to which his response is a chilling, “Yes. Yes I am” delivered in deadpan.
The story then shifts to present-day Gotham, where Ghost-Maker asks Bruce what feat he’s proudest of. Bruce’s answer reveals a lot about Bruce’s motivations for his crimefighting career:
It’s not my feats that stay with me, it’s the cases that linger in my heart. When the lives of people I cared about were on the line. When it was personal.
Ghost-Maker finds this a boring answer and gives his contrasting motive:
I do it for the sheer artistry, Batman. For the feats in and of themselves.
Thus he launches into the tale of his greatest triumph, the conclusion of his assault on Madame Midas and her minions. However, Batman senses that Ghost-Maker is leaving something out of his tale. Batman tells him, “There’s a reason this victory matters to you. A reason why you care”. Batman’s perceptiveness is on display here, and he shows that he knows Ghost-Maker better than he appears to know himself.
And then Tynion reveals to us the part of the story Ghost-Maker didn’t tell Batman. We learn that Madame Midas had been among the criminals to threaten his parents. We witness what it was that made his victory over her personal. It’s not the death of his parents, as she leaves them alive. But it’s what she tells the young boy: “You and your family are insignificant. You will never change the world”. Interestingly, it’s not caring for his parents that angers him, as actually doesn’t, it’s Midas’ claim that he doesn’t matter. Ghost-Maker’s ultimate motive is to prove his own significance.
His ultimate revenge on Madame Midas is to dismantle her criminal empire, then repeat her own words back to her:
You are small and insignificant, and I can assure you, Madame Midas, you will never change the world.
In this victory, he makes a positive change in the world while getting his revenge on Midas for her earlier slight. But of course, he doesn’t tell Batman any of this, deflecting Batman’s attempt to probe further.
I especially like the not the story ends on. With their current case wrapped up, and storytime over, Ghost-Maker challenges Batman to a race between their respective vehicles. For once, Batman drops his serious demeanor and replies, “You’re on”. This simple exchange shows that Batman feels some friendship towards Ghost-Maker.
Tynion introduced a number of new characters during his tenure on Batman. Even though Punchline gets the most attention, I don’t find her that interesting. Miracle Molly and Clownhunter have some potential, but it seems mostly untapped so far. But Ghost-Maker is by far the most interesting of Tynion’s new creations. He’s the only one I would like to continue to appear after Tynion departs the title.
The art of Ricardo Lopez Ortiz for the Batman 2021 Annual was quite well done. I quite enjoyed his work on the backup stories and I was glad to see him return for the concluding chapter. While I still think the parachute pants on Ghost-Maker’s costume look ridiculous, Ortiz’s depiction of the character is otherwise fantastic.
I have no complaints about the story itself, but I do worry that this might be the last we see of Ghost-Maker for a while. With Tynion leaving Batman, the incoming team might not keep the character around. Perhaps DC should consider featuring him in a miniseries or one-shot in the near future.
Batman 2021 Annual #1 serves as a solid conclusion to the Ghost-Maker backup story that’s been running in the regular series. Hey DC, forget about Punchline. Ghost-Maker is the breakout character you should be focusing your attention on.