On another Earth, the Joker finally pushed Batman too far. With Gotham burning and hundreds dead, the Joker pulls off one more antic. It is one last gag to put in front of the Caped Crusader. Before long, the Batman had enough and stopped Joker forever.
But this was not without still one final gift from the Clown Prince of Crime. He had one more thing to give the Batman. The Man Who Laughs shared his joy with the Dark Knight. The two became one.
With the final Nightmare Batman, we receive arguably the darkest glimpse of the Dark Multiverse and how and how bad things could really get for Batman, his family, and the Justice League. This is a pitch-black comic, and the irony of it being about a man having a smile put on his face is not lost on me or the creators.
It starts from a simple question: how far does the Joker have to go before he forces Batman to kill him? What does he have to do? Killing Jason, crippling Barbara, a sea of murder, mayhem, and maiming — none of this pushed Batman over the edge.
That answer is appropriate and fairly creative. It's not one that people often guess, and I'm withholding the specifics here for your benefit.
This macabre dive is thoroughly enjoyable in its deliciously devious way. We are presented with true Hell on Earth thanks to this iteration of Bruce Wayne. We also get to see who his vicious Robin reflections are, and they're not who you think they are.
The progression is unnerving, especially when it comes to his means of handling his own extended family. The Batman Who Laughs is so thoroughly sadistic that he even makes the Joker seem a bit more tame.
It does the one thing that hurt The Drowned but actually works here. This Batman does end the world, and without any extraordinary powers. However, it's implied that he can only do this because of the Joker toxin he absorbed upon the Joker's death. Batman couldn't even think in the manner to do it without the liberation of the Joker's persona. It's an unholy unity of Bat and Clown that breaks creation. For me, that helps remedy what would otherwise feel like more Batman deification, which is my main issue with many representations of Batman.
Riley Rossmo's artwork adds a semi-comical yet still dark tone to the narrative. It draws on a bit of Bruce Timm's styling, but adds some details that resemble the dotting of old comics. It does have its drawbacks; Batgirl and Red Robin look a bit odd when they show up. However, it looks great for the most part and is effective in giving life to this horror show.
Ivan Plascencia's color work seals the deal with wildly contrasting colors that give the world a feeling of malfunction and wrongness.
The Batman Who Laughs lives up to the excitement which has been surrounding it. It's a disturbed look into a wrong Batman, a warped Batman — a Batman who laughs. This one is highly recommended. James Tynion IV does some of his best work here, and with him, that's saying a lot.