The Batman Who Laughs #4
Writing - 6/10
Art - 8.5/10
Overall - 6.8/10
User Review( votes)
Writer: Scott Snyder
Colors: David Baron
Letters: Sal Cipriano
Variant Cover: Jenny Frisson
Editor: Kate Kubert
Asst. Editor: Dave Wielgosz
Group Editor: James S. Rich
Publisher: DC Comics
Maturity Rating: T+
Release Date: April 10. 2019
The worst case scenario has occurred; Batman has succumbed to the Joker toxin. Now only one option remains if he hopes to take down The One Who Laughs: he must become him.
An Anti-Climactic Turn of Events in The Batman Who Laughs #4
When reading The Batman Who Laughs #4, I couldn’t help but recall watching reruns of the old Adam West/Burt Ward Batman television series. Each week as the episode would draw to a close, Batman and Robin always found themselves in a new seemingly-impossible predicament, their impending doom all but guaranteed with no plausible possibility of escape. Oh, how I’d rack my brain attempting to figure out just how the Caped Crusader and Boy Wonder would get out of their most recent debacle intact. But it didn’t take long for seven-year-old me to quickly realize the fatal flaw of the whole “villain-of-the-week” motif: they always escaped. They always got away. Somehow, someway, despite all logic and rationale, they’d managed to slip through the fingers of every rogue in the gallery.
Scott Snyder, it would appear, is falling victim to a similar, albeit reverse trope. In his Gotham City, it’s always five minutes to midnight. “The One Who Laughs” is always one step ahead of the Dark Knight. And after what was a genuinely exciting cliffhanger in issue #3, this month’s most recent chapter has readers asking “is that it?”
For anyone not following along in the series, here it is in a nutshell: Batman has been battling an incurable form of Joker toxin that will inevitably transform and twist his mind to become like that of the Joker. He will still be Batman for all intents and purposes, but with absolutely no moral grounding, empathy, or ethics. He will in effect become “The Batman Who Laughs”. Now for three consecutive issues, we saw Batman do every conceivable thing to keep the toxin at bay until it finally became too much to bear and he reluctantly succumbed to the sickness. Or, so it seemed…
For reasons unbeknownst to readers, Bruce/Batman is still somehow able to “hold off” the toxin. After three full issues of Snyder warning of the ensuing horrors—the sheer chaos and anarchy that would inevitably ensue were this event be allowed to take place—it happened with absolutely zero repercussions. In fact, aside from a brief spat with Alfred and the occasional speech bubble outlined in “red”, you’d never know that Bruce had gone “full-blown” on the Joker toxin.
Pandora can’t go back into her box. There can be only one outcome when dealing with absolutes; deviations just don’t make any kind of sense. What started off as a lightning-paced series that constantly kept readers guessing has begun sputtering and stalling, running in place. The ship needs to right itself; let’s hope that Scott Snyder is up to the task.
I love it when artists pay homage to one another. There’s nothing I enjoy more than a good old-fashioned Easter egg hunt. But when the artist-in-honorarium also happens to be the featured artist of the series, whose stylistic efforts allude not only to his previous work but stand in perfect juxtaposition to a storyline that was drawn almost a decade prior—that’s genius. That’s Jock.
For anyone unfamiliar, I’m referring to Scott Snyder and Jock’s monumental run on Detective Comics entitled “The Black Mirror”. There’s a particular part where Batman (Dick Grayson) leaps from the rooftops in pure borne acrobatic style. It’s done to illustrate both the physical and psychological differences between Dick and Bruce; how they approach being Batman in their own way. One prefers to fly; to see the city as a whole from above. Something beautiful, something worth saving. The other prowls the streets from below, never allowing himself to lose sight of the ugliness and injustices that are all around him.
In The Batman Who Laughs #4, the issue begins in the exact same manner: frame by frame. The only difference is that Dick is portrayed as Robin, not the Dark Knight. This is significant because Dick represents all of what Bruce aspires to be: his goodness, his joy, and morality. It’s a metaphor, the ultimate fall from grace. Bruce can no longer see his city through the eyes of his surrogate son; any “goodness” he possessed is now gone. The beginning and end of the issue stand in stark contrast with one another, showcasing the very best that Batman could ever hope to be against the backdrop of the very worst that he has become.
For my money, there is no more dynamic duo than Scott Snyder and Jock. The pair have cemented themselves into the Mount Rushmore of Batman creators and will, without question, be revered for years to come. But this month, as much as it pains me to say, I’ve come to get my money back. And in keeping with the theme of allusions to past moments of greatness, I want to close with a quote:
Oh, Scott, “your kingdom rots beneath you. It makes me frown, frown, frown! Frown so deep my jaw is breaking. I look at you and I want to knock on your skull and ask ‘who’s in there? Who is this? Where’s my old friend?’ Sigh…But don’t worry! We’re going to correct it all tonight. Because now I’m here! I’ve come back to save you! Save you from the ones you call your allies. Your table. The ones who make you slow. The ones who make you weak.”
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