The Batman Who Laughs #1
The Batman Who Laughs #1
- The horrifying answer to a terrifying "what if" question
- The intriguing mystery of who is in the wheelchair
- Grim art and a horrifying story combine to create the most disturbing comic of the year
- A Joker with Batman's analytical mind scares me to no end
- We don't get to find out who was in the wheelchair
- Where is Alfred?
The Batman Who Laughs #1
Since it starts with the character flipping cards much the same way as the Joker wa’t. It is actually WAYs playing cards at the beginning of The Killing Joke and, in the prelude for Batman R.I.P., it should come as no surprise that this book might be as disturbing as those two stories. But, it isn’t. It is actually WAY MORE DISTURBING than BOTH of those stories. But, I’m getting ahead of myself.
The Batman Who Laughs is the final one-shot introducing the last of the Dark Knights from the Dark Multiverse. This is the ringleader, the one approached by Barbatos to recruit all the others. Since the advance copies went out, the reactions have been positive, and the commentary has been lively. Scott Snyder himself has stated that this is “the darkest Batman story I’ve been a part of.” One early reviewer remarked that “everyone involved in the creation of this character needs to be psych evaluated.” All of this is true. This is not just one of the darkest and most disturbing Batman comics I have ever read. This is one of the most disturbing comics I have ever read. Indeed, this is one of the most disturbing things that I have ever read, PERIOD! So, what makes it so disturbing? Let’s dive in.
So, by now, everyone paying attention knows that the Batman Who Laughs is the leader of the “Dark Knights”, the “Evil” versions of Batman from the Dark Multiverse. You also know that over the last few months a series of one-shot books have introduced us to each of the Dark Knights. This is the final one-shot, and they have truly saved the worst for last. The Batman Who laughs has been the constant narrator of the one-shots and has featured prominently in Metal and the tie-in stories, but his story has yet to be told.
Well, if you were one of the curious ones who wanted to know, here is his story, and it is the ultimate example of “be careful what you wish for.” Get set for one of the most disturbing origins EVER.
Put simply, the Batman Who Laughs is born when the Joker finally pushes Batman over the edge. After killing Commissioner Gordon and laying waste to Gotham City, Joker indiscriminately kills a family in front of Batman, and he snaps. Joker’s neck that is. At the instant his heart stops, a toxin is released infecting only Batman. At first, Batman tries to play it off, meeting with Superman two days later to discuss the aftermath. He tells Superman that he will not slide sown the slippery slope. Superman tells him that the children the Joker infected will be treated at S.T.A.R. Labs in Metropolis. He will be administering the treatment himself, since they need to deal with someone they can’t hurt.
The first sign something is wrong comes when Superman tells Batman that one of the children bit a psychiatrist sent to check on them in the neck. Batman laughs uncontrollably, quickly apologizing afterwards.
Two days later, Nightwing, Batgirl, Red Robin and Red Hood are going through a training program in the Batcave that has been noticeably ramped up. Nightwing finally asks Bruce to tell them what is going on. Batman runs down the situation. Nightwing and the family tell Bruce that they will find a way to help. But Bruce tells them that they don’t understand. The reason he has asked them to come is because they will notice first fi something has changed with them, and he can’t have that. Suddenly, he pulls out a pair of GUNS and WIPES OUT THE ENTIRE BAT-FAMILY!!!!
After that massacre, we see Superman, eyes bleeding, asking Batman why he is doing this? As we pull back, we see that Batman has decimated the ENTIRE Justice League, turning the Watchtower into a house of horrors. He leaves Superman for last, telling him that he wants to use all of the weapons in the Justice League’s Weapons Room. It is revealed that Lois and Jon are also on the Watchtower/ He introduces them to all of his now “Jokerized Zombie” Robins, including Damian, who he reveals he convinced to alter himself. He throws Superman a piece od Black Kryptonite and watches in glee as he proceeds to TEAR LOIS AND JON TO PIECES!
Later, it is revealed that he destroyed his entire world and was unsure of the next step until Barbatos came to him and told him of the Multiverse and Earth-0, where the “real” Batman lived. The Batman Who Laughs joined him and made his way to Earth-0. We find out at the end of the book that he has been telling this story to a figure in a wheelchair, who is wrapped in chains and bandages. He lives us, and him, with the chilling thought that “a Batman who laughs is a Batman who always wins.”
I will not lie to you, I was a little afraid of what kind of dreams I would have after reading this book. It is SUPER disturbing on so many levels. The character is the brainchild of Scott Snyder, who describes it as “Batman’s greatest fear come true.” And, gruesome details aside, it does pose an interesting question: What would happen if Batman became the Joker? The answer is something truly terrifying, as Batman’s analytical mind is paired with Joker’s complete lack of morality, creating a twisted clarity that now defines the every action of this new “Batman.” I also love the twisted “poetic justice” that Batman’s punishment for breaking his vow of killing is to become a homicidal maniac with a plan.
The man responsible for fleshing out this most gruesome of creatures is the co-plotter of Metal, James Tynion IV. The disturbing nature of both his genesis and his actions are made all the more vivid and terrifying by how good a writer Mr. Tynion is. Anyone who has read one of my Detective Comics reviews knows how much I live what he is doing with that title. Unfortunately, the same stellar talents are on display here. I say unfortunately, because the superb writing only heightens the uneasiness and foreboding you get while reading this book. But, I want to make it perfectly clear, this is a SPECTACULAR piece of writing.
Art details on this book are handled by Riley Rossmo, who most recently workes with Scott Snyder on the Batman/The Shadow crossover book. He also worked on the Batman issues from the Night of the Monster Men crossover last year. His art is vibrant and dynamic full of gruesome detail and definition. This is an issue full of scary things, and he makes them look even scarier. Again, he does a beautiful job and it simply adds to the horror.
Color is provided by Ivan Plascencia, and it is simply the cherry on top of this Sunday of terror. The color is vivid and the darkness is pronounced. This is an issue where the lack of color is as important as the splashes of it.
IN THE END: They saved the worst for last, and the character certainly lives up to it’s billing, but the stellar creative team actually makes this, in my opinion, the best of the “Dark Knights” one shots.