BATMAN ON FILM, 'The Dark Knight Fansite!' Est. 1998.

BOOK REVIEW

BATMAN: THE MAN WHO LAUGHS (Graphic Novel)


Author: Bill Ramey
Sunday, February 10, 2008

FROM DC COMICS: "Witness Batman's first encounter with The Joker in this hardcover volume collecting the graphic novel BATMAN: THE MAN WHO LAUGHS, by Ed Brubaker and Doug Mahnke! This collection also includes DETECTIVE COMICS #784-786, a murder-mystery tale guest-starring Green Lantern Alan Scott!"

I absolutely adore Batman stories that are set in the early years of The Dark Knight’s career. YEAR ONE, THE LONG HALLOWEEN, BATMAN AND THE MONSTER MEN, BATMAN AND THE MAD MONK, etc. -- I love ‘em all.

But it’s not simply the fact that these tales feature a young Batman that makes me like them, they’re all very well written too.

So if you are like me and dig tales of young Caped Crusader, then you’re going to enjoy the hell out of the recently re-issued BATMAN: THE MAN WHO LAUGHS.

I know I sure did.

THE MAN WHO LAUGHS is the story of the very first meeting between Batman and his arch-nemesis, The Joker. It seems to be set time and continuity-wise right after the events of YEAR ONE. Remember at the end of YEAR ONE when Gordon says that someone has threatened to poison Gotham’s water supply? Well, that’s one of the major plot points of TMWL.

In addition, TMWL also ties into Matt Wagner’s DARK MOOM RISING early Batman stories -- or perhaps it’s the other way around. At any rate, remember at the end of BATMAN AND THE MONSTER MEN where Gordon has told Batman about a warehouse full of smiling corpses? Well, that’s where TMWL begins.

Like Matt Wagner did with the two DARK MOON RISING stories, writer Ed Brubaker goes back to an early Batman comic book as inspiration for TMWL; namely, the very first appearance of The Joker in BATMAN #1. In that comic book, The Joker announces his intention to kill various well-to-do Gothamites on the radio before he actually pulls off the murder. Same thing happens here (even the same people), except for the fact that The Joker now uses the TV to make his announcements rather than the radio.

Hey it’s the 2000s, not 1940. I wonder if The Joker will text his murderous intentions next time this story is updated? Anyway…

Brubaker has concocted a good ‘ol fashioned detective story that focuses on The Batman and Gordon’s attempt to take down this new Joker character. While the classic “Red Hood” story is referenced, Brubaker leaves it ambiguous enough so that The Joker’s origin is left up to the interpretation of the reader.

I absolutely loved reading this book and I put it right up there with the aforementioned “Early Batman” Batman stories. Why in the hell DC wanted to re-do the first meeting between Batman and The Joker with that terrible “Lovers and Madmen” story than recently ran in BATMAN CONFIDENTIAL is beyond me. If DC is now considering that story cannon, they’re idiots.

Trust me, TMWL is heads and shoulders better than that drivel and I consider it “in continuity” regardless of what DC says or does.

THE MAN WHO LAUGHS gets a “Run down to your comic book store NOW and buy it!” recommendation from yours truly. It belongs on your bookshelf and will be one of those Bat-books that you will pick up and read over and over again year after year.

"Jett" is the founder and editor-in-chief of BATMAN ON FILM.

© 1998-present BATMAN ON FILM. All rights reserved. Material from BOF may not be reprinted without permission.