"I Should Laugh...But I'd Cry..."
With Batman’s Last Laugh containment protocol destroyed by the Batman Who Laughs, the Dark Knight is inching closer and closer than ever before to defeat. At every turn, his evil doppelganger has systematically beaten Batman with each encounter. In an act of complete desperation, Batman has kept the Joker in the Batcave in the hope that his twisted mind can provide some insight into the plan of the Batman Who Laughs. Jim Gordon, on the other hand, has another idea. Jim tracked down the one person he knows has the psychotic mind to rival the evil Batman: his son, James Jr.
As Commissioner Gordon asks his son for help, James Jr. tells him that if he stops his job in a supermarket, the security in place will neutralize him (James Jr. is trying to reform from his life as a serial killer). Jim tells his son that he doesn’t need to worry about that, because he talked to the program supervisors and got him time off the grid. James Jr. acknowledges that things are different now, and that he has begun to feel the emotions that used to be missing, such as guilt and remorse. James assumes that Jim is there to shut his entire program down, but before the Commissioner can explain why he’s really there, Batman interrupts. “It’s about plans…Plans to kill this city a hundred different ways.” As Batman speaks to James Jr., it becomes obvious that he’s getting closer and closer to a full transformation into another Batman Who Laughs. While Batman can be a cold individual, he’s a different level while talking to James Jr. He mentions that James is on a new drug developed by Wayne Enterprises called Diaxamyne. This drug can reconnect the ventromedial prefrontal cortex to the amygdala to essentially cure psychopathy. However, Batman states that James only agreed to be part of the program in an attempt to escape and kill more people. Right in front of his father, Batman berates James about him not wanting the drug to work, and that he wants James to unleash the monster inside of him. Batman then reveals that the Batman Who Laughs may have destroyed the main system for the Last Laugh protocol, but the Dark Knight had one final mechanism in place to activate it. However, Batman is sure that the Batman Who Laughs is already coming up with a plan to eliminate the failsafe. He says that by age thirteen, James had already become a legend at theorizing ways to cause mass panic and chaos. James was so good, in fact, that even Joker cited him as the best. Jim then steps in to defend his son, stating that James has changed, but Batman quickly shuts him down. “Saying he’s what? Cured?...Because if you believed that you wouldn’t be here.” As James asks his father if that is the truth, they see a red dot on one of the boxes in the store, and the whole room is quickly riddled with bullets.
The Grim Knight enters and demands to take Gordon. The two Batmen brawl out to the street. The two separate and draw their guns, albeit one is a grapple gun, at each other. The Grim Knight comments, “Look at you! Careful you don’t shoot your eye out.” Batman replies, “Just because I don’t use guns doesn’t mean I don’t know how. I’m one of the top ten shots alive.” The Grim Knight retorts, “Wow. Top ten. Everyone’s a winner on this world.” Batman fires his grapple gun at a passing train, and as the Grim Knight comments on the shot, his leg is tangled in the rope, pulling him away. As Batman attempts to get the Gordons away, they are surrounded by four trucks. The Grim Knight stand on top of one of them and tells Batman that if he doesn’t hand over Gordon, he will blow an airplane out of the sky, killing seventy-two passengers. When Jim refuses to give up his son, Batman tells him that James isn’t the Gordon he wants. As the Grim Knight takes the Commissioner, Batman reveals that for the Last Laugh protocol to be triggered, the system needs authorization from both Batman and Jim. “We just lost again.”
At the Penguin’s Iceberg Lounge, one of Cobblepot’s security men tells him that a man calling himself Batman is outside of the club, and all the men they sent to remove him are gone, and the alley is filled with blood. As Penguin takes two security guards with him, the Batman Who Laughs enters the club and begins killing the guards inside by lighting them on fire. He then busts open one of Penguin’s water tanks and electrifies the water to incapacitate Cobblepot. He tells him that on most worlds, Penguin ends up being the final Batman villain active, but Batman always finds a way to win. This includes one world where Batman teamed up with Bruce Wayne to take Penguin’s place at the top of the criminal food chain. At that moment, another alternate Bruce Wayne is pulled into the Iceberg Lounge, where the Batman Who Laughs quickly kills him.
Elsewhere, underneath Gotham, Batman and James move through the pipe system of the city. James states that from where they are, there are at least nine and at most eighteen way to infect the city. When James struggles to give Batman an answer on which one will be used, Batman snaps again and threatens James. Batman collects himself and apologizes, but James realizes what is going on. “He got you, didn’t he?...He infected you with whatever is in him.” James tells Batman that he recognizes the flatness in his voice, the lack of emotion. As the two of them speak, Alfred calls Batman in a panic. He tells Batman that despite all of the drugs in his system to keep him sedated, Joker woke up and escaped after wrecking the cave. When James asks Batman what happened, the Dark Knight replies, “…I see it now. You’re right…He’s right. You’re all right, everyone…except me.” Back at Wayne Manor, Alfred attempts to enter the Batcave but is denied access. He leaves the house and goes to the original hole in the ground that first led Bruce to the cave. He enters through that point and finds a shattered syringe on the ground. He also hears a metal clang at a workbench. He sees Bruce standing there with a hammer in his hand pounding on something. Bruce tells Alfred that he’s been wrong this entire time, and that Batman can’t save the city. Alfred pleads with him, “Don’t do this, Bruce…Batman will work!...He is the plan! Now and forever! HE IS THE PLAN!” Bruce, now with pale white skin, says, “I’m sorry, old friend…But plans change.” Bruce steps into the light and reveals himself, smiling and wearing an exact replica of the Batman Who Laugh’s headpiece.
What can defeat the Batman Who Laughs? Another Batman Who Laughs. Joker said this from the very beginning, and it seems that he might be right. The darkest day in Gotham’s history may be here. With Batman giving in to the madness within, Gotham may end up burning either way. And with the Joker now on the loose, this may quickly turn into a three-way battle for Gotham with the Batman Who Laughs and the Grim Knight battling both Batman and Joker. My question is, where is James Jr.? Did Batman leave him in the pump access? Could he be the key to saving Gotham now that Batman has given in to the toxin flowing through his veins? And perhaps, the Batman Who Laughs inadvertently give Batman the cure to his affliction. Maybe reverse engineering the serum the Batman Who Laughs has been making can cure the Jokerized transformation. We’re halfway through now, and much like when the Batman Who Laughs debuted with his knights in Metal, there doesn’t seem to be any hope for victory at this point. Maybe this is the one fight that Batman can’t win.