DC’s latest event, Dark Nights: Metal, involves warped versions of Batman coming to the main DC reality to take over. There’s been a series of one-shots that have focused on the origin of each evil Caped Crusader, and with The Batman Who Laughs #1, we’re given a glimpse of the worst of them. Written by James Tynion IV, the comic is one of the most gruesome Batman stories of all time and not every reader may be able to handle the subject matter.
In an alternate reality, The Joker has destroyed Gotham City and forced Batman to watch as he recreates the death of his mother and father. Pushed to the brink, Batman breaks free and kills Joker. As he’s dying, Joker releases a final toxin that poisons his enemy. Batman is left racing against the clock to cure himself.
The Dark Knight descends into madness and the chaos and death escalates around him. Bruce Wayne ceases to exist as he slaughters his family and allies. Tynion explores the relationship between Batman and Joker in a new way, demonstrating their symbiotic dependency on one another. Just when you think the story can’t get darker, he cranks it up to the next level with a Batman who can’t stop laughing at the pain he causes.
“When I was Bruce Wayne, I thought with enough preparation I would always win. But I was wrong. I was trapped in an unwinnable war, refusing to see the obvious answers right in front of me. The answers that were so clear to me now with victory right around the corner. To win you need to adapt, and to adapt, you need to be able to laugh away all the restraints. Everything holding you back. You see…A Batman who laughs is a Batman who always wins.”
Bruce’s transformation is captured through his speech and it’s a clever device on Tynion and artist Riley Rossmo. The letters in the speech bubbles become more twisted and change from black to red. Rossmo’s art has a trippy, acidic vibe, which matches the tone of the comic. The Batman Who Laughs is grotesque, from his sick grin, to the cannibalistic Robins he has tied to leashes.
The Batman Who Laughs #1 is a tragic tale of how Batman became everything he fought against. It’s a must-read for any fan.