Murder Machine, Drowned, Merciless, Devastator these were some of the best stories told outta the one shots. Well fleshed out, well planned, and well executed. Beginning to end. The Devastator had it's issues by creating such a believable Bruce that his acceptance of Barbatos felt unbelievable. Suffice it to say that it was still a fantabulous story. Fast forward to now, and we've got The Batman Who Laughs hot off the press. And well...I'm on the fence about it. We have writer James Tynion IV who has done some pretty amazing work. And on pencils we have Riley Rossmo. However, does this book have that strong end to what has been overall, a great string of one shots? Well lets travel down the darkest path in the series and see what it's worth.
As aways lets start with what is great about this whole thing. And it’s another one of those situations where I had to look twice at the art. The art at first read, when you’re mainly paying attention to the literature looks lazy. However, when you go back through and just look at the art it’s magnificent. It truly captures the tone of the comic. Batman gone, not just mad, but Joker mad. It’s truly a sight to behold. The imagery in this is “graphic” to say the least. Like there is a panel where you can see the Justice League beaten and dismembered all throughout the Tower. It’s unsettling, yet the exact kind of thing you can come to expect from Plascencia, because the colors in this pop like you wouldn’t expect.
There is a splash page where the panels appear to be shattering with a yellow backdrop and the batman symbol in the center. . .point is words can do it justice it’s just the kind of thing you have to see. Now as far as a Batman twisted story goes. This gets that point across very well. The B-Man gets infected. He loses it just enough to not have morals, but not nearly enough to lose his calculating cunning. It’s perfect. I also have to give this team much credit for using the animated series’ Joker. Every scene I read with him I heard Mark Hammil’s portrayal. So Kudos on the nostalgia.
WHY!? Now this is probably gonna get pretty spoiler heavy, however, there are more than a few things that just don’t make any sense. And I know this is supposed to be a parallel world. I know these characters are fictional. And I know it’s just a story, however, in the continuity of it all and the fact that so many of these Dark NIghts one offs made so much sense...this one just fell so short of what I hoped that it actually doesn’t surprise me. First of all what is happening in that scene where Joker is just walking families down that ally shooting parents in the head turning kids into little Jokers? Has Batman stared his decent into Jokerdom or what? Becasue it just doesnt make visual sense. Also, same page, how is Joker turning kids into crazy? Have they been predisposed to toxins or is it his breath? All I know if that little girl was perfectly normal in panel and a lunatic in the next. Colored face and all. Furthermore, when Batman laughed at the news of that kid bitting the therapist’s throat.
Fucking Superman should have known something was a rye. I mean he’s a boy scout not oblivious. Honestly Tynion has been responsible for so much GREAT writing that this just doesn’t meet the bar. And it’s a bar HE set. I could go on about a great many of other issues, but it’s really just more my disappointment than anything else. However, this is a poorly scripted issue with not enough explanation. I feel that even Batman himself would have quarantined himself the moment HE felt something was wrong with him. That’s how his character has always been written. With that being said, there were certain artistic choices that Rossmo took that had me confused as to how he didn’t notice that gapping anatomically incorrect pose. The last page alone is like “WHAT is his shoulders doing?” Some panels are also a bit hard to decern what’s going on as it jumps from panel to panel. The book would almost be a mess if the story wasn’t so visually nuts.
I mean lets be real. You can’t tell a story that includes a Joker infected Batman and not have it be Bananas. And I don’t want to
take away from what Tynion IV has done here. He’s captured what you expected the Essence of The Batman Who Laughs to be. And though I don’t agree with the road taken, it’s still pretty awesome. Like when Bats not only kills the Bat Family, but does so with guns, its a huge “Holy Shit” moment. This is a man who has gone off the deep end and has gone TOO far...OOOOOR so you thought. Then you see what he does to Clark and his family. It really made me upset and disgusted with Batman while feeling really bad for Clark. This is what Tynion does so well. He pulls on those heart strings that make you feel for these characters and it’s so damn cool. Lastly that splash page with the “army”. Like GTFOH! There is even more Nightmares of other Justice Leaguers?! That’s insane. Also, also...WHO IS IN THE CHAIR!? Do they matter? The Batman Who Laughs sure was talking to him like he does. It was was a pretty suspenseful reveal. I was looking for a name the whole time and it never came. And EVEN if this guy turns out to be NO ONE, that only further solidifies how crazy this Batman is...and it’s pertty damn cool.
All and all I feel like this was a waste of an origin. All of the other Batmen (and woman) stories had a pretty defining moment of change. Even Dawnbreaker (and I hated that story the most). This one, however, not so much. Technically, the only thing that happened here is that this Batman was beaten by the Joker and lost his mind. I mean that's an over simplification but that's how it plays out. Now if Tynion was trying to show Joker’s point of where all just one bad day away from being him. Hats off to the king. However, I don’t think that was the case. I think this is simply just a fear of Batman's and not a retelling of a very different Batman all together. This was simply just a missed opportunity to do something great. With that being said, it’s still an intense read and is visually captivating. Honestly it's worth a read just to see what happens next. Every page of this story is a mind fuck, It’s fun and it accomplishes what it set out to do. Batman gone mad and that alone is worth a pull.