Every once in a while you lay your hands on a comic, and soon you are engrossed in it and at the same time regret picking it up because it scares you too. Batman Who Laughs #1 is the perfect candidate for such a comic.
Although it’s just a mini-series, the titular character has all the making so of being the scariest/creepiest creatures in the DC universe. Imagine, a being who is the perfect amalgamation of Bruce Wayne and Joker. The will, strength, skills of Batman and a touch of maniac madness of Joker; how do you fight someone like that?
BATMAN WHO LAUGHS #1 – THE CREATORS
Snyder and Jock are masters of creating terrifying monsters. They spooked the comic world with their excellent creator-owned series Wytches. If you haven’t had a chance, go to the closest comic book store and but it.
But here they seem to have created something which gives a new definition to a mad-genius. Someone who has a follow-up contingency plan to his contingency plan. Someone who has all the knowledge, skills, powers and stealth of Batman. And also has the no holds barred unpredictability of Joker.
Batman who Laughs could be one of the best works in DC after a long time. Let’s dive deeper and see how it unfolds.
From the first line of the Batman who Laughs says “What is your happiest memory?” As a reader, you are forced to think about the happiest moment of your life. It is a flashback of Bruce’s youth and probably his happiest moment. A rare moment in the comic where you feel joyous and free as Bruce plays with his parents and Alfred. This opening is heartwarming but also sad and heartbreaking because we know what followed these happy moments.
And this joy soon changes to a high-speed chase, which turns very dark and sinister when Bruce finds out the identity of the body smuggled by the grave-robbers. Both Alfred and Batman are shocked to find that the body in the truck belongs to Bruce. Later we find out that this dead Bruce seems to have made different choices at some point in his life.
Batman soon realizes that details of the body are designed to hurt him psychologically. It also adds a foreboding sense of dread because even before the Batman Who Laughs enters the pages of the comic book, we have already established how twisted he is.
THE BATMAN ACTION BEGINS
The real act of this issue begins in the second half when a previously unknown and unseen evil Batman called the Grim Knight unleashes an attack on Arkham Asylum. Once he starts gunning down Arkham’s staff, we realize that this is a vicious character with some very horrible intentions. Heavily armored, he breaks into the Asylum and soon torches Mister Freeze and seemingly kills Joker. That joker though is a decoy. The real one apparently aware of the imminent disaster escaped a long time ago. We also get to read why Batman refuses to kill the Joker.
A few frames later the Joker returns and pulls off another trick to bring a twisted prophecy into reality. The beauty of this particular comic is that even without fully introducing the villain, Snyder has put into motion a series of event which could have disastrous consequences. Step by step this comic explores Batman’s inner demons and fears while still including a quiet moment of introspection.
A VISUAL TREAT
Even though the Batman Who Laughs primarily works behind the scenes, when he does show up, he looks menacing and terrifying. Adding to the jarring feeling of reading this comic is the visual created by Jock. As the action moves along in this comic, the drawing makes it genuinely unnerving, especially when you pause to think about the psychological aspect of it.
Back to Snyder’s writing, often it feels like one is reading poetry. The smart and detective Batman is also a positive change, where he uses a disguise while he investigates the body. The banter between Alfred and Bruce is so refreshing since the rest of the comic is dark and moody. Going forward my only hope is that the creative team behind Batman Who Laughs keeps the eerie tone going instead of significant action. This is the kind of stuff which makes you wait for the next edition and is gripping and intense.
In the end, I think this story has a big heart, lots of action, its psychological horror with a few drops of physical violence. It introduces a relatively less explored side of Batman. This is recommended for anyone who likes both mental and physical horror, for anyone who loves to navigate the dark alleys of the human mind. Especially if you wish to get into someone else’s shoes and want to experience what they are feeling, then get BATMAN WHO LAUGHS #1.