Spoilers Ahead: DC’s newest Dark Night one shot: The Batman Who Laughs, is a terrifyingly well-crafted look at the character of a Joker-Batman amalgamation. The story takes place in another world in the vast DC multiverse, so basically, anything is possible. The scary thing about this Dark Night though, is how familiar and logical this version of the Dark Knight is.
We’ve seen the relationship between the Joker and Batman evolve and grow over time. Especially in the last few decades, there may be no other pair of characters with a more complex relationship. The Joker and Batman are two sides of the same coin. They are complete opposites, but seemingly don’t exist without the other. In the recent 2017 DC House of Horror Halloween Special, there was even a story where Bruce Wayne is both Batman and Joker. The Batman Who Laughs has no limits because it takes place in another world, yet it really just takes the well-developed relationship we’re familiar with and goes a bit further.
Batman, through a preemptive chemical based trap laid by the Joker, becomes the Joker. Then we get to see the two minds stacked on top of one another and working together in the body of Bruce Wayne. We get to see a Batman with no moral limits, using his genius and planning, to exact Joker’s maniacal deeds.
The story by James Tynion IV is well executed. We get a unique look into the mind of both Batman and the Joker. We get to see what Batman would be like if he was a true villain. The events are slowly unfolded which builds the tension. The scenes slowly grow to a critical mass as we see the greatest hero and mind in possibly all of literature become a plague and threat to all worlds. We quickly understand the gravity of the situation and are left to watch it finish playing out in horror.
The dialogue is unbelievable. We’ve seen Elseworlds tales before and over the past few weeks we’ve watched each of the nightmarish Dark Nights characters come to life. None of these have had near the impact of The Batman Who Laughs. Reading the narration of a genius, turned completely insane, making sense of his horrible acts is what takes this character and issue to a different level. It’s more than just seeing him destroy his world, it’s the calculated and seemingly lucid way he does it. Batman is merely a human with the determination, planning, and genius to stand side by side with the likes of Superman. So, just as each of the other Dark Nights characters are overly powerful, we witness this Joker-Batman use those skills to their greatest and most devious capacity.
The art of Riley Rossmo comes off as exactly what we needed for a nightmare world like this. It’s not too dark because we are watching a comic book world take a darker turn. It has the look of a cartoon in peril. If it had started too dark and gritty from the first panel, we wouldn’t feel the same sense of loss and doom by the end. It’s as if, once the Joker’s bright colored suit is gone, we realize a much worse evil has been born.
By the end of this issue, we are left with the question of: Who has the Joker Batman has been speaking to this whole time? Throughout the book, it felt like he was breaking the fourth wall and speaking to us the reader. It gave the story more gravity and a wider scope. I am interested to see where this character goes. He is clearly dangerous and unpredictable. By the last panel of the comic, I was also left wondering: How is the DC Universe going to survive this? Who’s going to save us from the evilest Batman? We’ll see as the story continues in DC’s Metal #4.