Credit: DC Entertainment
Since the end of Dark Nights: Metal, the Batman Who Laughs has been lurking at the edges of the DC universe waiting for his chance to strike. He first resurfaced in Scott Snyder’s Justice League comic, locked up by Lex Luthor in the basement of the Legion of Doom headquarters. He is now starring in a mini-series also written by Snyder with art by Jock. The last time these two teamed up was to tell the excellent Detective Comics story Black Mirror prior to the New 52 relaunch. Having read the first half of the six issue series, a question has come to my mind. Should the Batman Who Laughs replace the Joker as the arch nemesis of the Batman? If these first three issues are any indication, I would say definitely yes.
Let me start out by making one thing perfectly clear, I love the Joker. This is not an indictment of the laughing maniac. He is and has been a perfect foil to the Batman for nearly 80 years. The Batman Who Laughs represents what is arguably the darkest version of the character that we as fans have ever seen. He is a version of Batman who, when pushed to the absolute extreme, murdered the Joker. In this moment a toxin was released that slowly started turning Batman into the Joker. What we are left with is a man who has the drive and fighting ability of Bruce with the moral compass and psychosis of the Joker. Snyder inadvertently created a perfect replacement for the creepy clown, a creepier clown. A version of Batman that absolutely embodies his deepest fears. How do you take down a hero whose power is using fear and terror as weapons against his foes? You take that power away.
Batman’s greatest weapon is fear. “Criminals are a cowardly and superstitious lot, so my disguise must be able to strike terror into their hearts. I must be a creature of the night, dark and terrible. Yes Father, I shall become a bat.” With these words an icon was born. The first half of the Batman Who Laughs mini-series shows us our hero as we’ve never seen him before, desperate and afraid. This evolution has led to some amazing new avenues for Batman storytelling. For the last 40 years or so the relationship between the Bat and his greatest villain has remained relatively unchanged. The introduction of this new dynamic has forever changed how we will look at a character like the Joker. In a way, the publisher has made the character less threatening, even going so far as to have the Bat team up with the Clown to defeat the Batman Who Laughs at the end of Dark Nights Metal. This new villain embodies more than ever the statement that has been etched into the minds of readers of these comics for years, “The Batman always wins.” We will see if the response to the character is enough to convince DC Comics to keep him around. The Batman Who Laughs 1-3 are now available from DC Comics, as well as a one shot about his sidekick, the Grim Knight.