December 6, 2022

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Noteworthy Issues: The Batman Who Laughes #1 (December, 2018)

Batman goes to desperate measures to track down the worst of his Dark Multiverse counterparts.

So, I know I had perhaps complained a bit about how much Scott Snyder keeps pulling up the Batman Who Laughs.  I feel like he’s overexposed at this point.  And yet, I did opt to read at least the first issue of his mini-series, again from Snyder.

As I see it, I don’t have to pay extra to read this thing, long after it’s over, so why not?

Issue:  The Batman Who Laughs #1, December 2018

Writer:  Scott Snyder

Artist:  Jock

The Plot:  Batman knows the Batman Who Laughs is somewhere in his Gotham, and he’ll need to take on the last ally he’d ever want to have a hope of defeating the darkest version of himself.

Commentary:  OK, before I go much further, the cover has the Batman Who Laughs asking, “Miss me?”  And, no…because that guy did not go away for even a minute.  First he’s in Dark Nights: Metal, then he’s popping up in Snyder’s Justice League run, and he seems to be a major antagonist in Death Metal  Plus, he seemed to be doing all kinds of things in various DC titles that I saw on the periphery.  I can’t miss someone who won’t go away.

That, in an of itself, is odd because, on paper at least (and yes, I know these are comics that are technically “on paper’ but I know what I mean), the Batman Who Laughs is a good villain.  Take the idea that Batman is the ultimate strategist, and then give him the Joker’s morality.  All the various Dark Multiverse Batmen are supposed to be some aspect of what Batman fears the most.  The squad the Batman Who Laughs led to Earth-Prime in Dark Nights: Metal were essentially a Batman who acquired the powers of one of his Justice League teammates and was corrupted by that power into something evil.  The Batman Who Laughs is what Batman fears the most:  that he might somehow become the Joker as well.  Each of the Dark Nights: Metal Batmen got a nice origin story explaining how he (or “she” in the case of the Aquaman-Batman character) turned out the way they did, and in the case of the Batman Who Laughed, he was finally pushed into murdering the Joker, but something in the Joker was set to make whoever was standing closest to the Clown Prince of Crime into the next Joker.  Joker’s last laugh and all.  So, the Batman of that broken universe became the new Joker, one with Batman’s strategic mind, and his first step was to essentially murder most of the superheroes of his world, sparing only Damien Wayne as one of his many Robins, half-feral children on chains, most corrupted by the Joker before he died.

But, as I have said before about Snyder’s work, he tends to make his villains too powerful.  That, in a nutshell, describes the Batman Who Laughs.  He’s just written as too strong to be anything that can be remotely beatable.

But that’s prologue, so to speak, and much of that is repeated here by Batman to Commissioner Gordon.  The Batman Who Laughs is running loose in Gotham, and he brought a friend, a more Punisher-style Batman who attacked Arkham Asylum looking for the Joker.

The Joker, of course, is the one who may be the key to victory.  In Dark Nights: Metal, Batman realized the only way to defeat his twisted double was to do something unthinkable:  team up with the Joker.  Individually, the Batman Who Laughs could take either Batman or the Joker.  But put them together, and one’s skills combined with the other’s unpredictability was too much for the nastiest Batman in any multiverse.

So, naturally, Batman needs to team up with the Joker.  Too bad the Joker has his own ideas on how to defeat the Batman Who Laughs.

That’s a promising start, and it helps that the Batman Who Laughs is more of an off-panel threat than anything else in this issue.  I do usually like Snyder’s work.  I just wish his foes weren’t so insurmountable.

Grade:  B+

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