"Dark Nights: The Batman Who Laughs #1" Comic Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by DC Comics
Written by James Tynion IV
Illustrated by Riley Rossmo
Colored by Ivan Plascencia
2017, 32 Pages, $3.99
Comic released on November 15th, 2017
Dark Nights: Metal is the latest event to shake up the DC Universe. The Dark Multiverse has invaded, led by twisted versions of the Justice League made up entirely of Batman. We've already seen The Red Death, The Murder Machine, and The Devastator. Now, the spotlight turns to the one who's been pulling all the strings and getting this group together: The Batman Who Laughs. What could have happened to turn Bruce Wayne into a Joker hybrid? This one-shot delves into the background and it's pretty crazy.
The issue picks up on Earth-22 as The Joker has Batman captured. The Dark Knight is completely incapacitated, unable to prevent his nemesis from carrying out his deranged plans of murder and mayhem. We see evidence that the Clown Price of Crime has pushed past his previous limits, leaving a trail of bodies in his wake consisting of other members of the rogues gallery. This would have been scary enough, but then we see what his scheme really entails, as well as the scope of it. If you ever had any doubts that the Joker is one of the greatest villains in comics history, just read the first few pages of this book. Damn.
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Artist Riley Rossmo amplifies the insanity of the Joker's plan a hundred fold with some impressive and erratic page layouts. There are main images taking up the bulk of the page with several smaller panels spread out focusing on specific details such as fallen bullet casings or a shattered police badge. The panels are askew, forcing you to turn your head slightly to see them properly. This lines up perfectly with the altered way the Joker sees the world.
This pattern only gets more fragmented as the sequence continues, especially with a double-page spread with a broken bat symbol at its center. A deranged smile adorns the center with scenes of ultraviolence and abject terror spreading out around it. Colorist Ivan Plascencia gives these pages a hazy look to them, as if they're a bad memory we're trying to push away. This is the case for everything except the blood which splatters like violent crimson.
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It's been said that all that separates Batman from becoming the Joker is one bad day. The Batman Who Laughs goes through one absolutely horrible day that breaks him, turning him into a monster. Imagine the World's Greatest Detective with all of his smarts and abilities at his disposal with the moral compass of the Joker. That is a terrifying and deadly combination. We've seen in previous stories how Batman is prepared for anything, including Superman and the Justice League. This one-shot shows how far he could go if pushed over the edge and the results are frightening to say the least.
There's a part of every comic fan that thinks it would be cool to see Batman take out everyone in the DC Universe, proving he's the ultimate badass. His fight against Superman in The Dark Knight Returns is an absolute classic. The Batman Who Laughs is a horrifying take on that idea. It pushes the Caped Crusader past all limits and into true super villain territory. After seeing a comic like this, the DC Universe must hope and pray that Batman never goes through such a life-shattering experience. Someone should be assigned to hug him at least once a day.