It’s the first week of a new month, so we all know what that means… A new issue of Batman. I wonder if this one will start like that last few? One page of Bruce Wayne/ Batman being tormented and tortured by Scarecrow, with Bruce saying the same heavy-handed nonsense month in and month out?
About a week ago, I joined Wes on Thinking Critical to discuss the current state of Batman in comics. Naturally, the first thing we touched on was Batman. And, after discussing how this is a good time to be a Batman fan because of the amount of content coming out for the character, I then had to shift gears and say that I didn’t like this book. And here I am now, one more issue in, and I feel like my distaste is only growing.
First and foremost – and I’ve said this before – Batman does not feel like a Batman book. It feels like some cheap, gimmicky, knock-off version of Batman Beyond, but in the present day and with Bruce Wayne as Batman. What’s worse, is that Batman doesn’t even feel like it’s in the same universe as the other Bat titles… And it’s the book that’s determining the direction of the other books! Yeah, there are plot threads that are connecting the books, but the tone and vibe of Batman are completely different from everything else going on. So, it’s really weird when there’s synergy everywhere else, but not here.
James Tynion has fallen into a bad habit of following the same formula to open each issue. We get a glimpse of the present day as Scarecrow tortures Bruce Wayne, then go back in time a little to receive a huge exposition dump from Oracle since we never actually watch any of these plot details unfold naturally. This is something I’ve complained about time and time again. Tynion doesn’t show his plot, he just feeds it to you in two to three pages, then carries on with nonsense. And to make matters worse, most of what Oracle relays is such a blatant take on our reality and outcomes from Covid-19 that it’s nauseating. And that’s a shame because I actually like the idea of Scarecrow creating a state of fear without using his toxin.
Most of this issue isn’t devoted to Batman or the core plot though. Instead, 9 pages are used to catch up with Ghost-Maker and Harley Quinn. Aside from a few moments here and there, I hate both of these characters under Tynion’s pen. Ghost-Maker is insufferable due to Tynion’s heavy-hand. From calling his base of operations “The Haunt” (You know, because he’s a ghost. Eye roll.), to having a bigger dinosaur than Bruce (AKA: my dick is bigger than yours. Eye roll.), to lines like, “There are fewer than five people who have seen my face. Only three who know my birth name” (So, four then? Four people have seen your face? Eye roll.) or “ Sleep with every man and woman I wanted to seduce. All the mundane glories of the ethically unbound.” (Eye roll.) Tynion is just trying way too hard to make Ghost-Maker cool, and it isn’t working. And I still can’t help but feel that Ghost-Maker is Tynion’s totem for what or who he’d want to be if he can be anyone… Maybe someone should tell him that Ghost-Maker is terrible.
Also, I got really irritated when Ghost-Maker says he’s trying to “Fix this world.” The fact that they try to define him as a hero is barf-worthy. The guy is an assassin. He only recently started helping Batman, and even in that, he sucks because he refuses to take Oracle’s calls. The character is a douche. I also find it questionable that they confirm Ghost-Maker was clinically diagnosed as a psychopath at eight years old (eye roll), and only gets worse when Tynion then goes on to imply that psychopaths are often powerful people (C.E.O.s, politicians, etc). I… hate this character, and I hate Tynion on this book.
There’s an underlying flirtation/ attempt to create some chemistry between Ghost-Maker and Harley in this issue as well. I’m not here for that. I don’t think they’ll end up being a couple, but I do have a feeling Tynion is trying to push for another threesome for Ghost-Maker with Harley and Ivy. I’m not here for that either. At all. I will give him credit for blatantly calling Harley out for being “a trained therapist and falling for the most dangerous man on the planet.” I mean, touche… But he did just identify Joker as the most dangerous man on the planet, and we know it’s not because Joker is a skilled fighter. So… Does that insult really hold any water?
The Gardner then joins the conversation. As it turns out, this isn’t just a black Poison Ivy. No, this is a black Poison Ivy that was Pam’s girlfriend in college… I… I can’t. Tynion’s capacity to create characters is non-existent. He just makes new versions of already-existing characters with a minor tweak, then packages it as something new. Literally, the only thing that separates Poison Ivy and the Gardner, is that the Gardner is black. I mean, let’s be honest. They’re both eco-terrorists. They both have an affinity for and control plants. And they’re both bisexual and/or lesbians. Creating a connection between the two by claiming they were college girlfriends also feels lazy.
Anyway, The Gardner is here because Poison Ivy needs Harley, and that she’ll take Harley to Ivy whenever Harley is ready. No “Bats or Ghosts” though. And then Harley is just like, “Ok,” but doesn’t go with her… This makes no sense to me. It’s already been established that Harley has been looking for Ivy since the introduction of Ghost-Maker, but now she’s like, “Sure. Yeah. I’ll come see her at some point.” It’s stupid.
There’s also a major contradiction and continuity error here as well. If you’ve been reading Catwoman, then you know that Poison Ivy has been held hostage by an associate of Saint’s, and she was being used to create the drugs that have been making people violent and crazy (which we’ve seen in Detective Comics, Catwoman, and Urban Legends – specifically the Red Hood story). In Catwoman, she was just rescued and is now being cared for by Selina and the strays. But here, she’s apparently been under Gotham and tapping into all of the plant-life here so she can collapse the entirety of Gotham… Ok… If you say so. I prefer what the other books are doing, honestly.
Oracle finally gets through to Ghost-Maker, and this ends the conversation with The Gardner. The story then jumps to Batman confronting Saint about working with Scarecrow, only for Batman to come face-to-face with Peace-Keeper 01. I feel like this is supposed to be an exciting encounter, but I feel like this is essentially what Future State was, so… I’m not excited. I’m not a fan of the Magistrate, and the one, major plot point that I don’t care for, but it’s clear that’s exactly where we’re headed… Next month we’re probably going to see Batman getting his butt kicked, and then Ghost-Maker is going to save the day. That, or Ghost-Maker will show his true colors and go bad. Either way, I’m not looking forward to it.
As always, Jorge Jimenez delivers some quality art. I don’t think he had anything overly interesting to draw in this issue, but I enjoyed what he did deliver. I’m still of the mindset that I think he would work better on a book with characters that feature more heart and empathy – because he captures that incredibly well – but for now we’ll just continue with him here, I guess. Hopefully, the scripts will improve to give him something to really sink his teeth into, but I’m not holding my breath.
Oh, yeah. There’s still a backup featuring Ghost-Maker. You know all of the comments I made above pertaining to what makes Ghost-Maker unbearable? Yeah, multiple that times ten here. Factor in a plot and characters that are so bottom-of-the-barrel quality that it’s trash juice, and you’ve got this backup story. And this is now the third time that we’ve gotten what is essentially the same story. Ghost-Maker fighting crazy, giant creatures, and a villain sharing their encounter with him. None of it is interesting. None of it feels inspired. And the art is mediocre at best. I’m sorry for anyone paying extra to have this steaming pile of poop tacked on to the back of their Batman book. (I’m also sorry that you’re paying this much for “Batman” if we’re being honest.)
- You want to play matchmaker with Ghost-Maker and Harley Quinn
- You’re a fan of the Magistrate
- You think Tynion’s Batman is the bee’s knees
Tynion is incapable of creating an original idea, and we continue to embark down a path of regurgitated characters and plots. The execution is far from great, plot progression is limited to two to three-page exposition dumps, and we have a 9-page run of Ghost-Maker and Harley shenanigans – which may or may not include flirting. Here’s some advice, just stick to the other Bat-books.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.