Review – The Batman Who Laughs #4: Gotham Unraveling

The Batman who Laughs #4 variant cover, via DC Comics.

The Batman Who Laughs #4 – Scott Snyder, Writer; Jock, Artist; David Baron, Colorist

Ratings:

Ray – 10/10

Corrina: The Fight For Gotham’s Soul

Ray: In a week with three different Batman comics coming out, it’s not a surprise that the cream of the crop comes from the crack creative team of Scott Snyder and Jock. The Batman Who Laughs #4, picking up from last month’s Grim Knight origin, continues to be the scariest Batman comic in years as Gotham comes under assault by a menagerie of alpha predators – and Batman himself may be evolving into one. Already poisoned with the Joker virus, Batman made a fateful decision at the end of the last issue and placed the Batman who Laughs’ visor on his head so he could see the city the way his enemy does. That leads to a terrifying opening segment between Batman and Alfred as Bruce’s father figure desperately tries to keep him from succumbing to the madness. Even creepier is the welcome wagon the grinning mad Bat puts out for Commissioner Gordon, with a twisted good-cop/bad-cop routine between him and the Grim Knight. This issue is very heavy on dialogue, but every line is packed with tension.

As Batman uses the Dark Metal visor to see the city’s darkest corners, it’s surprisingly Jim Jr. who spends a lot of time inside his head, trying to keep his mind clear. Snyder has wisely kept things vague as to whether Jim Jr.’s “miracle cure” is all he says it is, so that doubt is always there for us and for the characters. Of course, we can’t forget about the real Joker, who is lurking in the background and has a key role this issue. Snyder’s always had the best take on Joker and his twisted codependent relationship with Batman, and these few scenes – revealing the role Batman wants Joker to play in this fight – are note-perfect. Things speed up in the final scenes with another alternate Bruce Wayne entering the picture and a shocking twist, but the cliffhanger necessarily deliver more tension than the rest of the issue. That’s not a slam – this issue starts by grabbing you by the throat, and doesn’t let up in a single scene. It’s easily the tensest, most thrilling Batman comic I have read in years.

Batman unraveling. Via DC Comics.

Corrina: Snyder’s Batman stories have always had a metaphysical edge, with the open question being whether Gotham itself twisted people to good and/or evil. That was evident in Jim Jr.’s first appearances, where characters openly asked if the trauma of the city might have contributed to his development into a villain. But, later, Snyder took that further into the metaphysical realm, with the “death” of Batman/Bruce Wayne and the Joker and then the resurrection of both because Gotham fed them both. Similarly, Jim Gordon’s time as Batman was about the “seeds” of Gotham infecting its citizens.

What Snyder’s doing in this limited series is expanding that theme of Gotham to infinite worlds. It’s about how those Gothams have changed/warped/infested their Batmen and Jokers. Which makes it a deep examination of Bruce’s psyche, sometimes triumphant, sometimes defeated. That also makes a reader wonder if a sane Joker from somewhere else will show up to balance an insane Batman. Or if that’s how Jim Jr. sees himself, as a sane version of the Joker’s chaos.

Caught in the middle of all this is Gordon, who seems to have been incorruptible in at least two other realms besides this one. Following this theme, Gordon’s going to be part of the solution here too. (Note: this metaphysical Gotham stuff is not always my thing but there’s no denying Snyder does it well.)

Jock isn’t the best-known artist DC has working on Batman books but maybe he should be. His partnership with Snyder seems to produce the best vision of this (and all) the Gothams. There are some close-ups, particularly of Bruce’s eyes, that are chilling. The way the panels of the fight between Bruce and Alfred are constructed, darkness and shadows, is brilliant.

And the lettering is also of note, as the words in blood red are used to show our Bruce’s disintegrating psyche.

To find reviews of all the DC issues, visit DC This Week.

Disclaimer: GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.

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