For many, Batman is considered the pinnacle of strategic and tactical planning. Considered the second smartest man in the DC Universe (maybe the first, depending on how crazy Luthor is that day), he's almost taken down the whole Justice League by accident twice (Tower of Babel, et cetera) and he's so dangerous, most of the DC Universe has spent years fighting alternate nightmare versions of him from universes that were never meant to be. On paper, Batman is the greatest threat in many, many universes. Right?
Well, according to Batman #102, there's a "fascinating inverted mirror to Batman" who's known the vigilante since his youthful walkabouts, poaching top tier fighting instructors and serving brutal justice at will. At some unknown point, Batman made a deal with this mystery man, called Ghost-Maker, that "This is my city." Ghost-Maker has come to town after the embarrassing pantsing of Bruce Wayne called "Joker War" to show Batman how to do it.
Let's say you're new to Batman, you don't know about Tower of Babel or know about Bruce being a caveman or about him almost beating Darkseid's Omega Beams. Let's say you only know what the world has as his brand: superlative fighter, dark knight detective, smart cookie, has the city under his watch. Sure. Under those scenarios, how could a rival he's known for decades sneak into his town, roll up on a teenaged serial killer Batman allowed to operate and metaphorically talk about Batman's momma? No, literally, in their teens, he literally talked about Batman's momma (and daddy), but that's a whole other thing.
Conversely, let's say you're a longtime fan. You know where the giant penny came from, you know which era you're reading by looking at the Batmobile on panel. Under those criteria, how does a man with a plan for everything not have a plan for the almost inevitable day when his childhood rival comes knocking?
Here's where it gets even kookier: there's already an inverted mirror of Batman.Raptor was presented as a hyper competent criminal idea of an orphan who even had a connection to Batman's now adult ward Nightwing. From a narrative standpoint, this retcon (and it is a retcon, since the idea that someone who gave Batman this much trouble has never been noted by Checkmate or the League or anyone else) implies that either he was hiding from the powers we know (which would make him much more dangerous) and ignoring, oh, every big justice-related event in history, he was failing to take down Luthor or Merlyn or any other major player, or Batman was hiding knowledge of him.
It goes without saying that Ghost-Maker is an empty shirt as far as characterization goes, all sizzle and no steak, all visuals and no detail. Why is he doing this? Who is he? What's his kink for Batman? What does he do when he's not doing this? No idea. Guh.
None of this is the fault of Carlo Pagulayan, Danny Miki, Carlos D'anda, or Clayton Cowles, who all turn in sharp and thrilling visuals. James Tynion the 4th's script is, in its way, serviceable, an excellent application of craft in trying to play this straight. In conception, however, this should have been stopped by editorial as it doesn't pass the fridge logic test, leaving questions that don't hold water under scrutiny. Either Batman is not as good as his brand has worked so hard to convince us (a problem), he's been hiding this embarrassment (a bigger problem) or this guy is both better than Batman and uninterested in the literally scores of evil alt universe Batmen wandering around killing people and making even more trouble than his alleged childhood rival.
It doesn't make sense. At least Oracle is back on the line. RATING: NO. JUST … NO.
By James Tynion the 4th, Carlo Pagulayan, Danny Miki, Jorge Jimenez
Bruce Wayne and the city he loves have changed dramatically following the events of "The Joker War," but Batman and his mission are eternal. But not everyone thinks that should be the case … The mysterious vigilante known as Ghost-Maker has known Bruce since they were teenagers, and he's made his decision. It's time Gotham City had a new hero.
Hannibal Tabu is a writer, journalist, DJ, poet and designer living in south Los Angeles with his wife and children. He's a winner of the 2012 Top Cow Talent Hunt, winner of the 2018-2019 Cultural Trailblazer award from the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs, his weekly comic book review column THE BUY PILE can be found on iHeartRadio's Nerd-O-Rama podcast, his reviews can be found on BleedingCool.com, and more information can be found at his website, www.hannibaltabu.com.
Plus, get free weekly web comics on the Operative Network at http://bit.ly/combatshaman.