Comic Review: the Batman Who Laughs #1

Of course the best Dark Nights book is the last one.

All of the Metal one-shots featuring the dark Batmen have been great reads, books that really embrace just how broken Bruce Wayne can be when he’s pushed too the end of the road. Yet this book shows how truly depraved he could become, how scary it would be to the rest of the DC universe if something removed his powerful moral compass.

This is a staggering work of genius from artist Riley Rossmo. He’s always had a gift for portraying Batman in comics, every new attempt sharpening his vision to something more poignant. He even showed a gift for drawing a scary Joker, one who seemed like a tense wire cable ready to break and cause chaos. With this book he brings out the worst of the two characters, starting with a heart-wrenching opening scene that shows a Joker far past the point of no return, and a Batman at the end of his rope, his moral fiber frayed and snapping. It…god, it was powerful.

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In the cave, when the Bat-family realizes why they’re being pushed so hard, there’s agony on their faces. He manipulates the raw emotions of Bruce through the cowl, clearly showing that this man is fighting something that is all that he feared, and powerless to stop it.

There also should be praise for his work in character design. Rossmo makes each character feel unique, interpreting their costumes in a fresh way, a different way, similar to how Sean Murphy is killing it in White Knight, or Frank Quitely back in Batman and Robin. The characters have this simplicity in their presentation that is aesthetically pleasing, but Rossmo incorporates this tactile rendering that makes all the clothing believable.

Of course, all of this horror couldn’t be brought to vibrant life without the superhuman efforts of color artist Ivan Plascencia. Plascencia is the glue holding this book together, taking these terrible images and gruesome words and bringing them to fruition in a rainbow of malevolent glee. There’s chaos in his palette.  

Tynion shows off his command of the character, hitting all the right notes in the story; each beat resonates with the reader, the drama heightened beyond belief. Seriously, Tynion establishes tension here that never relents, and it only seems to increase with each panel – even though you damn well know what all these horrible actions will lead to.

And probably the most unheralded of this crew is one of the most deserving: Tom Napolitano does the yeoman's work here with lettering. His stylistic choices give each character a unique voice, switching between fonts and balloons seamlessly. His work chronicling Bruce's transformation into the Batman Who Laughs, having his speech evolve visually, is truly captivating. It's just so damn cool how much thought was put into the lettering, giving this book a rare depth. 

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Also, SHIT MAN! Between his iteration of a Joker that clearly has no more fucks to give, to his Jokerized Batman which is honestly one of the scariest characters I have ever read, I have no idea what is really lurking inside James Tynion’s noggin. Seeing how Batman systematically eliminates his opposition in the most ruthless ways possible is frightening, and one has to wonder what kind of headspace Tynion had to get to in order to scribe this so well…

This is an astonishing book that features one of the most compelling creations of recent memory, a What If that is finally visualized in a haunting fashion. Batman Who Laughs is unsettling in the best way, a collaborative fright that stays with you long after you’ve read it. If you only have to buy one Metal tie-in, for the love of all that's unholy buy this one.

 

10 out of 10 oh god please leave clark alone...