Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: James Tynion IV
Artist(s) : Riley Rossomo, Ivan Plascenia, Tom Napolitano
Release Date: 15th November 2017
Batman and The Joker are two of the most prominent enemies in all of pop culture, as the late Heath Ledger once said (a phrase that is repeated in this very issue,) “you and I are destined to do this forever.” But just what is the draw to these characters? What is it that makes them so perfect together? Just looking at it on face value, a clown and a bat aren’t what you’d call natural rivals. But as Alan Moore began to show and James Tynion IV continues here, the line between Batman and The Joker is a very thin one, and just a slight nudge in one direction could topple the Bat into darkness.
If you’ve been following the current Metal arc as I have, you would have seen the differences between it and many of the almost gimmicky tie-ins that have happened over the years. From Metal #1 we’ve seen the build-up of Snyder’s storylines all slot into place for this one big reveal of the evil god Barbatos and his cast of dark reflected Batmans (Batmen?), and with every subsequent issue we’ve seen heroes constantly fail and slow reveals of each altered version of Batman. These reveals have been what I’ve looked forward to the most, providing stand-alone issues which show just how easily one of the greatest heroes ever known can turn into what he’s fought against. And throughout all these reveals, one constant throughout has taunted us in every issue. The Batman Who Laughs, the mysterious leather-clad eyeless terror with a hoard of feral Robins. We know he was once Bruce, but how could that possibly be?
That’s how this issue starts with the menacing inhuman grin of Riley Rossmo’s Batman Who Laughs, laying the cards on the table as he regales an unknown person with the story of just how he got there in the first place. We discover that it was The Joker who finally pushed Batman too far in a level of destruction almost too far for imagination, and with his final act he left Bruce infected with an unknown toxin that altered his mind, leaving him with the same intellect but replacing his moral code with that of the Joker’s. What follows is a Batman finally let loose from the ties of morality. The issue isn’t even that long but in those few panels Rossmo paints a vivid, unsettling picture of this Joker in Bat clothing, in scenes that I almost couldn’t read.
We saw a similar concept very similar in Mark Millar’s Nemesis, the homicidal genius. But given the fact that it’s Batman for real this time doing what we previously thought to be unimaginable things to the DC Universe, really makes this issue hit home. There’s also an uncomfortable undertone that plays out in Tynion’s writing which walks a thin line between subtlety and obviousness . How much of the Batman Who Laughs is the Joker toxin and how much is Bruce just screaming to get out? Was there a reason he let The Joker continue to kill for years when he could so easily stop him? As we all know, Batman says that line is too easy to cross, but this approach makes the read instantly fascinating and dreadfully uncomfortable for any long-time fans of the Bat.
As with all the Metal issues so far I keep thinking the hole for the heroes isn’t going to get deeper, and then in those last few pages it falls even further to the core of hopelessness they now face. A truly mind-bending insight into this disturbing new character, and definitely worth the wait for the horror show we get to witness here.
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The writer of this piece was: Indiana “Indy” Marlow
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