“What The Hell Is Happening To My City?”
Batman: The Man Who Laughs is often heralded as one of the greatest Batman books ever written. It introduces The Joker, no laughing matter (the puns have started), and attempts to set the tone that Batman and Joker’s relationship will follow down the road. However, this is one of the shortest graphic novels out there, does it’s length impact the book? Is it just more of the same? Do we need to see the first time they met?
Find out in my review of Batman: The Man Who Laughs.
First Appearance: The Joker and The Bat Signal
That Red Hood Character A Couple Of Months Ago Was The First Sign”
Let’s start off with the books length, weighing in at just over 70 pages, the story is extremely short (even shorter than issue 1 of DC Rebirth) and has a lot of ground to cover. It picks up with Jim Gordon discovering a warehouse full of mutilated bodies and it isn’t too long before The Joker is appearing in all his narcissistic glory. He starts shooting reporters, poisoning people and terrorising high ranking officials.
That Joker, whats ‘e like eh?
Joker On A Rampage
After announcing he’s going to go full Rampage 2 (if you’ve played the game you’ll know) on the city we see all of the ingenious ways that Joker can murder people. This sets up strongly that he doesn’t have an MO, all he wants to do is strike terror and smile a long the way. We don’t get his sense of humour, but he’s not like Jasper Carrot, we aren’t meant to. We are meant to be seeing a depraved individual and not understand why he does it.
His first plan is to murder someone, straight and to the point. The future victim is put on 24 hour surveillance and whilst this is viewed as the be all and end all for the Police, The Joker merely uses this as a distraction to unleash some insane inmates, packed with guns, on the city.
This kind of mayhem really speaks on how far The Joker is truly willing to go to cause chaos.
The First Date
This book, like The Mad Monk is a retelling of an early Batman story and due to that it has to follow some of the original’s story telling nuances. That’s not to say it’s bad, it just doesn’t have those huge moments that we normally get from a modern day story. The Joker’s entrance is a bit understated for who he is and if you go in expecting something like his introduction from Arkham Origins, then you may be disappointed.
“What Kind Of Mind Would Create Such Horror?”
The story really heats up when Bruce Wayne becomes a target and the drama is at fever pitch by the end. Batman has to become almost mad himself to stop The Joker and it’s a nice little twist on the crime fighter’s cerebrum.
I think the story flows really naturally, it doesn’t feel over stuffed and it gives enough insight to Joker without giving away too much. Though it pretty much spells it out for you that Joker and the Final Red Hood are one in the same it doesn’t give away Mr. J’s identity too much to really spoil the mystery that has surrounded the character for so long. This is a nice little tie into the origin laid out in The Killing Joke but there is also enough ambiguity that it doesn’t tie it down.
What I love about this story is the subtle way that Batman refers to ‘Bruce’ in the third person. This really cements that Batman is the true face and Bruce is the mask, he doesn’t even seem to care what happens to Bruce, he mocks him and watches him almost like a fly on the wall, commenting on his persona amongst the police and rich & famous. Batman’s detachment is seen even more when he injects himself with Joker poison in order to escape the room full of police so that he can go and be Batman. These little hints speak volumes that the Batman persona has truly swallowed up Bruce and he may be the insane person deep down that so many theorize he is.
“Sounds Like We’ve Got Another Situation”
Whilst Ed Brubaker’s storyline is very quick and to the point, the art by Doug Mahnke (had to spellcheck that) is phenomenal and the best so far in the canonical read through. Everything has a real grime and grit to it. Each character seems worn and beat and you truly get the sense that the city is a cesspool. Doug knocks it out the park and it’s a shame he isn’t involved in as many stories down the line.
I love the way that the pages flip between Batman and Gordon’s perspective, this is very reminiscent of Year One and this could even be seen as a direct follow up to that if you want to skip Shaman and Dark Moon Rising. There are little subtle things in there that really bring the character to life let you feel like Gotham is a living, breathing world. Though some of the book recaps Killing Joke, it doesn’t feel like a retread, more, something that adds depth to that stellar chapter in Batman’s life.
Man Who Laughs is short and sweet. It still provides the little subtle monologues that I have come to love in this run whilst giving each character enough time to shine. The book is brilliantly paced with great art and though it doesn’t delve completely into Batman’s psyche it still gives us little hints.
This book is a must read, The Joker is undoubtedly Batman’s best villain and tales like this are the reason why. Death Of The Family takes huge inspiration from this book and it’s easy to see why. It’s a must read for any fan.
Leave a comment whether you agree with my ranking or not.