This is an offbeat issue, as writer Scott Snyder properly introduces Harper Row, who appeared briefly in #1, and helped restart Batman's heart a few issues later - electrical engineering is cool, kids! Clever-clever name apart, she's an endearing sort: cute, smart, plucky - perfect fodder next time Batman has a fortnight's opening for a female Robin. It's a shame Cullen isn't equally admirable - he's stereotypically queeny in his desire to make his sister look nice, and caves before bullies. Sure, he's younger than Harper, and a gang of bullies isn't the easiest thing to stand up to, but Harper does. It's as if Cullen exists just to make Sis look good.
To be fair, though, Cullen has made precisely one appearance. Maybe he'll grow, and grow on me. Meanwhile, we have one attractive new supporting cast member with skills that can help Batman. She's the human face of the Narrows district Bruce Wayne aims to regenerate, a useful support for that ongoing subplot.
While not earth-shattering, Ghost in the Machine is a decent story, a good way to fill in the background of Night of the Owls events that went unexplained at the time. Batman barely appears, but he makes a big impression in just a few pages.
There's a metaphor here that's a bit strained, but it's OK - at least Snyder is trying. The only seriously daft moment comes when Harper finds one of the super-secret 'ghost grid' boxes that Batman uses to both borrow from, and boost, Gotham's electrical system - it has a massive great bat symbol on it. Genius.
The art is a treat. Becky Cloonan - with some inking help from Sandu Florea - draws most of the book, giving the story an airy, indie feel, while Andy Clarke comes on for the final few pages (which are co-written by James Tynion IV). FCO Plascencia's sharp colour palette helps knits the different styles together.
While the limited appearance by Batman works for the script - this is Harper's tale - from a visual point of view, I'm disappointed Cloonan wasn't required to draw more of him. Because her Batman recalls early Bob Kane, or Walt Simonson - a weird figure of the night - and is cracking.
Capullo's art and design skills are present on the cover, which is striking.
So thanks to all concerned for a decent done-in-one - I'm always interested to see spotlights on those who live in the shadow of the Bat.