Story Arc: The Man Who Laughs.
Writer(s): Ed Brubaker.
Artist(s): Doug Manhke, Sean Phillips, Patch Zircher, Aaron Sowd & Steve Bird.
Colourist(s): David Baron, Dave Stewart & Jason Wright.
Letterer(s): Rob Leigh, Bill Oakley & Todd Klein.
Publisher: DC Comics.
Format: Hardcover – Deluxe Edition.
Release Date: September 29th, 2020.
Genre(s): Comics, Science-Fiction.
My Overall Rating:
Evil can pervade the purest of hearts, but nothing could ever explain the mind of the Joker. Many have tried to understand his reasoning, his raison d’être, or even his existence. In fact, it might be the absence of these very ideas that makes his character an emblematic personification of evil. For Batman, he turned out to become his ultimate life partner as they developed an immortal bond representing the quintessential necessity of good and evil. How did Bruce Wayne even attempt to solve the mystery behind this madman’s mind though? This latest deluxe edition of the classic graphic novel includes the landmark story of Batman: The Man Who Laughs, the never-before-reprinted Elseworlds tale Batman: Gotham Noir, the mystery “Made of Wood” from the issues #784-786 of the Detective Comics comic book series, as well as a special collection of preliminary art by artist Doug Mahnke.
What is Batman: The Man Who Laughs about? Taking place between Batman: Year One and Batman: The Killing Joke, the story introduces the world to the Joker for the very first time. While Bruce Wayne might have only just started to wage his war on crime while wearing his cape in Gotham City’s dark nights, he was never prepared to meet this chalk-faced laughing maniac who juggled his way to the front of Gotham’s scene, terrorizing the world as he accumulates an insane body count. With the help of James Gordon, with whom he has only just begun an eternal friendship, this first encounter for the Dark Knight will be a poisonous trial that will mark the beginning of an unparalleled bond that illustrates the pure staggering contrasts of life, like light and darkness, day and night, good and evil.
Gotham Noir is an Elseworlds story notable for being the very first collaboration between the legendary creative team of Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips, the very creators behind the tour de force comic book series of Criminal, Incognito, Fatale, The Fade Out, and Kill or Be Killed. This story introduces us to a much more cynical James Gordon, no longer a cop, living in a world where Batman is but a folks tale shared by deranged criminals, who now finds himself entangled in a devastating murder where he remains the prime suspect. To prove his innocence, he tackles this case headfirst and unveils a plot bigger than he would’ve ever imagined.
The “Made of Wood” story-arc, written by Ed Brubaker and penciled by Patch Zircher, explores a murder-mystery where Batman teams up with the Green Lantern (Alan Scott) to take down a serial killer that has been active for over half a century.
“Really? And how the hell do you think you’re going to stop me?”
— Ed Brubaker
It’s unsurprising that the legendary writer Ed Brubaker is behind one of the most paramount stories in Batman’s lore, the very mystery that introduces Batman to the Clown Prince of Crime. With his perfect grasp over noir fiction, this origin story impeccably captures the detective mystery that encapsulates the Joker’s sudden introduction to Gotham City. Throughout this adventure, with both Bruce Wayne and James Gordon’s first-person narration to immerse readers into their respective minds, you embark on a journey to try and elucidate the Joker’s modus operandi. Despite the hints he leaves around the city, his terrifying public performances through media outlets, his comical, goofy, yet deadly persona, he somehow still remains a giant question mark in the face of the Dark Knight as he tries to desperately connect the dots. Is he the Red Hood? Is he a deranged psychopath escaped from a psych ward? Is he out there on a mission or cluelessly prancing around in the anarchy he creates? Rest assured, writer Ed Brubaker perfectly delivers this story with deadly charm and charisma.
This wouldn’t have worked so flawlessly if it weren’t for artist Doug Mahnke’s artwork. Without ever purposefully depicting a grim, dark, and sinister Gotham City, he captures the city’s fear and panic strictly through his character designs. Without a doubt, his iteration of the Joker strikes all the perfect chords, depicting him in his purple suit, with his fedora hat on top of his green hair, with his white and wrinkly skin, with his ghastly grin, and his skinny yet combat-savvy figure. The visual style is also reminiscent of an era of comic books bathing in mystery and suspense, scoring points in terms of appeal and direction. There simply couldn’t have been a better origin story for the one villain that will forever torture the Caped Crusader throughout his war on crime.
On top of The Man Who Laughs graphic novel, this volume also includes a never-before-reprinted Elseworlds tale called Batman: Gotham Noir. Alongside his own partner-in-crime artist Sean Phillips, this collaboration beautiful captures their style of narrative and visual storytelling, giving us a stellar noir mystery centered around James Gordon as he weaves his way in and out of complicated situations to ultimately unveil his own internal and personal struggle to overcome his haunting past. This is an excellent addition to this deluxe edition as previous volumes never included this story before.
The “Made of Wood” story-arc was also a riveting and intriguing mystery included in this graphic novel that further explores the Dark Knight’s detective skills alongside his friend James Gordon, while also infusing a tangent narrative with the Green Lantern (Alan Scott), who was once the hero of Gotham City before Batman showed up. It’s nothing too complex or even mind-blowing but made for an excellent tale to be presented alongside the previous two, further showcasing the gruesome mystery-oriented stories that often comes with the Dark Knight.
Batman: The Man Who Laughs is a quintessential story exploring the Joker’s first appearance within Gotham City.