The battle for the right to mete out justice in Gotham comes to an uneasy resolution in Batman #105, as words prove mightier than the sword, and the post-'Joker War' landscape of Gotham City becomes just that little bit clearer. James Tynion IV and his rotating band of quality artists stick the landing of the 'Ghost Stories' arc thanks to its small scale and well-realized character work.
Written by James Tynion IV
Art by Carlo Pagulayan, Danny Miki, Alvaro Martinez, Christian Duce, and David Baron
Lettering by John Napolitano
Published by DC
'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10
'Ghost Stories' has been one long rumination on that classic 'to kill or not to kill?' ethical quandary that has woven itself throughout superhero history. Tynion IV approaches revenge with a rational and responsible mind, his characters grudgingly choosing to drop their disputes as their world views are challenged through fresh experience. Ultimately, this means that grudges are settled through debate rather than action, although Alvaro Martinez and Carlo Pagulayan solidly choreograph what little action there is. Martinez takes point on Ghost-Maker's smooth and precise swordsmanship, whilst Pagulayan captures the wild and untrained swings of Clownhunter.
Extremism has been another clear interest of Tynion IV's Batman run so far – it lies at the heart of the characters of Punchline, Clownhunter, and Ghost-Maker. Harley Quinn acts as the rare voice of reason here, attempting to defuse the hate-filled Clownhunter. While the current threat has been quelled, the anger remains. There's an undercurrent of frustration to the entire issue, as problems aren't resolved but merely quelled. Luckily, his new characters are rigorously built and their personalities ever-shifting. You can't help but wonder where Clownhunter's head is at after this issue, and it's that kind of hook that Tynion IV uses, again and again, to absorb you in his Gotham City.
With Ghost-Maker, there's a sense of friendly camaraderie that is often missing from supporting characters' dynamics with Batman. Ghost-Maker is Bruce's equal, re-entering his life at a time when Batman is at his weakest both socially and financially. Tynion IV wraps things up with a shonen manga-esque team-up befitting of two old friends. Despite the amicable resolution, the underlying tension of their disagreement remains. It's just a matter of time…
The twice-monthly schedule has been hell on the main Batman title's artistic consistency, and this issue is no different. There are two art teams here, both with a distinct style. Alvaro Martinez takes the lead for the second half of this issue, his brooding artwork with tightly hatched lines fitting perfectly to the tone of Batman's climactic sword fight with Ghost-Maker. Carlo Pagulayan renders an appropriately unhinged Clownhunter, although his Harley Quinn struggles to communicate the wide range of emotions demanded by Tynion IV's script. The whole package is colored by David Baron, who unifies both teams with a consistent approach to coloring. Muted greens and light blues are the order of the day here, accented by the bright pink in Harley and Clown Hunter's hair. Letterer Clayton Cowles illustrates Clownhunter's alienation with an inspired font choice. Double-spaced and lacking capitalization, Clownhunter's dialogue has a hint of the terminally online about it.
Batman #105 is not a brutal triple threat between the Bat and his two newest enemies, but instead a clash of ideas between three uncomfortable allies. This low-key conclusion makes for an appealing palette cleanser after the epic start of Tynion IV's run, delivering solid character development for the key players yet still maintaining tension. Post-Future State, it remains to be seen just how well this new and very reluctant member of the Bat-Family will fit in…
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