The Batman Who Laughs #7 – Scott Snyder, Writer; Jock, Artist; David Baron, Colorist
Ray – 9.5/10
Corrina: Who Belongs To Gotham?
Ray: This series – one of DC’s biggest hits in a long time – has juggled a lot of roles over its run. It’s a sequel to Dark Nights: Metal, it’s a capper to Scott Snyder’s lengthy Batman run, and it’s a prequel to what comes next following events in his Justice League run. But more than anything, it’s a brutal and tense examination of what makes a Batman and how close any Batman is to snapping. In that sense, it actually feels like a role-reversed take on The Killing Joke, only without the creepiest elements. Every twisted alternate Batman we’ve seen is one who takes one bad turn down the road and turns into something unrecognizable. But the titular Batman who Laughs is a monstrosity, one who took that wrong path and embraced the horror lurking under the surface. That’s what’s made him one of the most effective recent villains in DC history.
The Batman Who Laughs follows two main storylines. First is our world’s Batman vs. the Batman who Laughs in a final showdown for the fate of a young Bruce Wayne – the only one who wasn’t touched by tragedy in the multiverse – as our Bruce’s last shreds of sanity slip away from him. This is one of the most intense battles Snyder has ever written, with brilliant and terrifying battles cast in red and Bruce’s narration putting us inside his mind as he slips further away. Alfred also gets some of the issue’s best scenes, as he serves as Bruce’s conscience but also enters the fray for a stunning standoff against the villain. I highly approve of all the recent “Alfred kicking some butt” scenes lately. Equally strong is Jim Gordon and his wayward son facing off against the Grim Knight, as James Jr. has to make a final choice about what side he’s on and the Commissioner gets to be Batman one last time.
Batman Who Laughs #7 is a comic that should work nearly as well as it does. It tries to combine big event-level storytelling with subtle character-driven writing. It’s as explosive as the “Court of Owls” and as haunting as Snyder’s Severed. The final scenes, focusing on Bruce and Alfred as Bruce slowly detoxifies from the Joker infection, have some of the best dialogue Snyder has ever written. I just wish this book didn’t have to juggle so many balls – its last-page cliffhanger reveals a massive and dark turn for a beloved character that will be followed up on in Joshua Williamson’s Batman/Superman rather than in a Snyder title. It’s a compelling cliffhanger, but it also hijacks the last minute of the series – and the last act of this character under Snyder’s pen – for someone else’s story. Perils of a shared universe, but it doesn’t make this series any less brilliant.
Corrina: First, a technical issue, before I follow-up on Ray’s review: the red ink of the lettering may work well on the printed page but it was nigh-incomprehensible in my Batman-Who-Laughs #7 review PDF that I read on a MacBook Air. I mention this in case readers buy it on Comixology because their digital version may have the same problem. And if you’re missing that red-inked narrative boxes, you’re missing a great deal. The lettering itself is a great spooky touch so I’m frustrated it didn’t work for me.
And now to the story and the art. We haven’t talked enough about the art in this series, about how Jock handles our Batman’s slow disintegration as he begins to succumb to the Joker serum, about how he manages to provide facial expression into that ridiculous spiked eye-collar. (I do not find Batman-Who-Laughs chilling in the least, by the way, simply over-the-top grimdark that makes me laugh at its silliness.)
But there’s also the visual similarity/difference between Gordons/father and son, and how it’s still easy to tell the characters apart, even with their resemblance. Plus, the dripping atmosphere of the tunnels, Alfred’s stoicism, and the overall noir look of this series–Jock and David Baron are at the top of their game.
As to the story, I wanted to be moved by the ending of Bruce conquering his demons, with Alfred’s help, and the Gordons’ embrace but nothing is really solved for the Gordons, is it? They’re at the same place they always were. Such is the serial nature of comics but it’s distinctly unsatisfying at the end of a series.
While Ray won’t give away the ending, I will: It seems Commissioner Jim Gordon has been infected by the Joker toxin. Could DC kill him off if he becomes a villain? Well, given what happened with Wally West, no one’s safe, of course, though only Uncle Ben stays dead these days in superhero comics.
But I’m disappointed for another reason. More than anything, superhero comics are about hope. This series offered a morality play in two parts–Batman/Batman-Who-Laughs and Gordon/Gordon Jr.–and while there’s hope in one, it seems the other lost it. The very presence of all the Dark Metal evilness in the DC Universe and everything going to hell means there’s never a win for Batman. That’s true at the end of this series as well.
It is so much to ask for the superheroes have a win or gain hope once in a while? Apparently so.
And while Year of the Villain is an event and supposedly over in a year, these kinds of losses and failures will likely continue to outnumber the wins in DC comics. Hell, Bendis kicked off a run on Superman with genocide.
So Batman-Who-Laughs will be back again, to create more darkness and more evil. :sigh:
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Disclaimer: GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.