A Batman Who Laughs is a Batman who always wins
Last year, Dark Nights: Metal introduced us to one of the most vile, evil, disgusting creatures in the DC Universe: The Batman Who Laughs. At the conclusion of that story, we see Batman and the Joker team up to take on this monstrous amalgamation of the two foes, but we never saw how the fight ended once Batman left to save the Monitor. Now, we get the showdown we’ve been waiting for. Or at least, we get the stage being set for this impeding clash.
But before we get into the story, here’s a little refresh for those that don’t remember or don’t know who the Batman Who Laughs is. This creature started out as your typical Batman from an alternate universe. Unfortunately, this universe was contained within the Dark Multiverse, a nightmare dimension filled with the worst fears of our heroes. In a final confrontation with Batman, Joker kills Commissioner Gordon and poisons a large group of children with his toxin before having their parents killed in front of them. As he states, this would make the children into the perfect combination of Batman and Joker. This was finally enough to push Batman over the edge. He grabbed Joker and snapped his neck, killing him instantly. However, this released a neurotoxin inside Joker’s body that contaminated Batman. After a few days, the toxin started to eat away at Batman, driving him insane. At first, the signs were small, but before anyone could make a move, this new Batman struck. He called all the members of the Bat family together, with the exception of Damian, and slaughtered all of them. He then poisoned Damian, turning him into a twisted version of himself loyal only to his father. The next thing we see is truly unsettling: the Justice League dead. But not just dead. They were massacred. The exclamation came when the Batman Who Laughs infected Superman and Superboy with a strain of black Kryptonite, which made them go insane and literally rip Lois Lane in half. After destroying his own world, the Batman Who Laughs went from universe to universe killing everyone he encountered. No one stood a chance, until he got to the main continuity Batman. Ever since his initial defeat, the Batman Who Laughs has been lurking in the background of several titles, including Justice League and The Immortal Men. All these appearances have led to this.
The entire vibe of this issue was unsettling, and that is exactly how it should be. The writing was on point for the entire issue and was able to convey the uncomfortable feeling that something bad was going to happen, and there is no wasted time in getting into the darkness of this story.
Right at the beginning, Batman (the actual one), is in the middle of an investigation in which smugglers are transporting dead bodies outside of Gotham. Batman stops the smugglers, but to his horror discovers that one of the bodies being smuggled is that of Bruce Wayne. Upon examination, he and Alfred discover that this is no mere trick, but a Bruce Wayne from another universe (strap in, this happens at least one more time). After further examination, they determine that this Bruce retired from being Batman after Bane broke his back, got married and had a daughter before being killed. The scene shifts to Arkham Asylum in a rather gruesome fashion.
Batman appears at Arkham and is greeted by two security officers. He responds by brutally killing both of them before taking on more Arkham guards with enough guns to make the Punisher blush. This clearly establishes a third Batman on the loose. He brutalizes the guards and one of the more well-known Arkham inmates, leaving us to wonder if that person is still alive. This “Grim Knight”, as he is later referred to as, is then joined by his partner: The Batman Who Laughs. The two of them set out on their mission which I will absolutely not spoil, because it was one of the most shocking things in the book.
Batman is then informed by Jim Gordon of what happened at the asylum before returning to the Batcave to formulate a plan. He is then joined by someone who Batman believes can help even the odds against these two rogue Dark Knights, but again, that is something I just can’t spoil. However, I will tell you this, the ending of this issue and the final panel made my eyes pop out of my head and my jaw drop.
The storytelling is this issue is exactly the caliber you would expect from Scott Snyder. After his amazing work on Batman during the New 52, Dark Nights: Metal, and now the Batman Who Laughs, I have no doubt that Snyder will be regarded as one of the elite Batman writers of this era. In fact, the creative team for this book is the same that worked on The Black Mirror, one of the best stories to come from Dick Grayson’s time as Batman. While the artwork may turn some off to the book, the story more than makes up for any issues with the art (aside from one particular panel at the beginning that looks like Batman’s eye is literally falling off). And on a personal note, while Alfred and Bruce discuss the property damage being done on mission, Batman hits him with the line, “For what it’s worth, Batman insurance policies are called Dark Knight Returns.” A nice little nod to perhaps the most iconic Batman story ever that is one of my favorite moments of the issue. If you’re a Batman fan, do yourself a favor and buy this book.