Tuesday, February 04, 2014

"Ghosts" Annuals: Batman Annual #22!

The Wonder Woman and Superman Annuals in the 1998 Ghosts crossover both dealt with deaths from 1988. Today's issue refers to a more recent death, from 1994, but of far less import: Batman Annual #22, "Bough Breaks" Written by Devin Grayson, pencils by Yvel Guichet, inks by Robert Campanella.

When a distraught pregnant woman arrives at the Gotham City police station claiming "Batman is trying to kill my baby!" Commissioner Gordon fields that one himself, noting usually it's only criminals complaining about Batman. She claims he's been trying to get her to miscarry and laughs at her, neither of which sound like Batman. Meanwhile, Batman faces a group of thugs who have some of his equipment, Batarangs and gas bombs! Later, Batman makes a phone call to his former replacement, Azrael, who can account for his whereabouts, hasn't lost any gear, and doesn't have his old armor.

Curious, Batman has Robin run the woman's name, and finds she was a blood relative of the serial killer known as Abattoir. Abattoir "liked to stalk and kill his own blood line," but was left to die by the Azrael-Batman, a situation that led to the death of one of his relatives that he had taken hostage. Batman wasn't there, but still felt guilty over that death, since he felt it showed Azrael had been unfit to replace him. Now, Abattoir has returned as a ghost, haunting the Azrael-Batman armor, and planning on taking his niece's baby's body for his own!

Abattoir lures Batman and Robin back to where he dies, the Nolan Steel Foundry. (Presumably named after Batman artist Graham Nolan!) Alfred and Robin wonder, if Batman can exorcise his guilt, would it do the same to the ghost; while Abattoir doesn't seem to realize he's not facing his killer. As Batman delivers the baby, Robin fights the costume, which he admits he has "an adversarial relationship" with, and forces it into a smelting crucible, destroying it.

Batman then stares down Abattoir, offering himself instead, claiming his soul wasn't with him and he didn't feel any guilt over Abattoir's murder. He also says Abattoir "apparently...didn't talk to anyone in hell either," and that the killer wouldn't have any idea how to get a new body, didn't cross the "River" or try to deal with Charon. Abattoir pipes up that he could so do that, and disappears. Robin asks where Batman sent him, and Batman admits he's not sure. That's kind of the dumbest exorcism I've ever seen...

Batman did buy some time, though, since he thinks Abattoir would be back, but I'm not sure he was. The baby is named Thomas, after Batman's father, while Robin has to ask if Batman's soul is where it belongs or not, but we don't get an answer.

Not my favorite of the Ghosts annuals, but it at least avoided the easy out of visiting Bruce's parents. (Or Dick's...or Tim's...) I suppose it took a little effort to pick a dead Batman villain that would stay dead, though.

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