It all ends here. The final contest between the Batman Who Laughs and Batman, a contest in which there could only ever be one winner. As the saying goes, Batman always wins. But which Batman?
Since the first issue of this series, Scott Snyder, Jock, David Baron and Sal Cipriano have delivered a consistent level of excellence that’s nothing short of what comic fans expect from Batman comics and the exceptional individuals from this creative team. Unsurprisingly, their high standard of craftsmanship was maintained until the curtain dropped on the final act. So here we are, at the end of the story that was initially set to be a six issue run, but it turned out that there was too much story to tell. So join me as we stand at the seventh and final issue of The Batman Who Laughs to witness Batman’s final confrontation with the deadliest foe he’s ever faced and Snyder’s goodbye to a character he’s been intimately tied to for the last eight years.
Normally I’d leave my crude mouth out of my review, but with this creative team and book, it feels appropriate. So having said that, let’s get right to it: F*cking Jock, man. Look at that cover! I don’t think he could have possibly delivered a better piece of work for the last issue. I never once made the connection between Batman’s transformation and The Shining’s Jack Torrance, yet its been here all along. I absolutely love it.
And while there’s a number of shocking and fantastic things Jock did in this issue, I’d be remiss if I didn’t take a moment to recognize how incredible his work has been throughout this series. From the first moment we saw the Batman Who Laughs, Jock made readers’ blood run cold and guts clench up, and without a single word, triggered that ancestral instinct within all of us that screams PREDATOR. We watched Batman from the onset of his infection walking around like a pincushion made of anti-Joker serum, to the first moment that he truly started to descend towards the inevitable as he held up the severed head of another world’s Bruce Wayne, and finally his tombstone swinging moment of full surrender to the change.
There are so many powerful, terrifying and epic moments seen throughout this story that are even more exceptional thanks to the contributions of David Baron. If you asked someone to close their eyes and describe an emotion, specifically how it makes them feel inside, you’ll almost always get a color included in their answer. Blue and purple for sadness, red and orange for anger, pink for love, green for life and energy — we tend to associate emotions with colors. Baron’s colors have emotion pouring off the pages in some of the series’ most important scenes and he does a truly wonderful job of complementing Jock’s unique style.
The Batman Who Laughs began with a young Bruce Wayne playing with Alfred and his parents outside Wayne manor as the sun set, and there was laughter. The story ends with a young Bruce Wayne running for his life outside Wayne manor as the sun set, and once again, there is laughter.
The moment that Batman stops fighting and accepts the truth of who he is has arrived, and it’s the moment The Batman Who Laughs has been pushing towards since their struggle began. It appears that the combination of prolonged exposure to the Joker’s toxin, the vicious taunting, murdering and the psychological warfare of reminding Batman over and over again how happy he can be his if he just stops resisting, has finally broken down the Dark Knight’s last line of defense. Or has it? Batman still knows one Bruce Wayne that was and is truly happy and he’s brought that Bruce Wayne, that child from his happiest memory, to stand as the symbol of his denial of what The Batman Who Laughs claims to see. If Batman can protect this Bruce Wayne and the memory of happiness that walks hand-in-hand with this child, can he keep himself walking along the edge of the knife just a little bit longer? Just long enough to win this final battle for the soul of Batman?
Finally, at the end, Batman can see. He can finally see what he’s been resisting for so long, what The Batman Who Laughs wanted him to see, what he never wanted to see about himself. Even though it’s hard and it hurts, he can finally see that out of all the Batmen in existence, he’s the least happy, least effective — the worst Batman. But that’s not the end of Batman — as long as Bruce makes the choice to defy The Batman Who Laughs, to be better that he was the day before and to continue to be Batman, then he hasn’t failed yet.
The choice of seeing what’s truly in front of us vs. the choice of seeing what we want to see through any means we can rationalize as necessary has been an underlying theme of this story since it began. Our perception of our world and of ourselves is what creates our reality, and Snyder has drilled this home in every issue. Gothamites adopted a saying from the the Miagani tribe who lived on the land before Gotham was founded: “Happiness is seeing the world through the eyes of children.” The Gotham subway token is inscribed with a phrase in Latin “Through new eyes.” At one of his most trying moments, when Batman sheds part of himself to adopt the methods of his enemy, he tries to see the world through the eyes of his children, through new eyes, through eyes that can bring him joy and peace. And yet in this moment, he’s choosing to see the world through his enemy’s eyes by using his own version of The Batman Who Laughs’ mask — through new eyes.
James Gordon Jr. is battling his father’s perception of who he is, while at the same time battling his own perception of himself. Is he different? Can he change? Does he have the capacity for good? James decision to don the mask of the Batman Beyond suit reveals the tremendous potential for darkness within him, and later, by removing it he changes his perception of himself, how he sees his father and how he wants his father to see him. Perception is reality.
“Right here still haha.”
There are so many Easter eggs here. So many little things Jock and Snyder did to appreciate. I could write on and on about each page in this story and how excited I am to see where certain elements of this story go now that this story is over. But really, this story is so good that you need to read it for yourself.
The Batman Who Laughs is a kettle on the stove that never stops screaming as it expels horror, violence and suffocating tension against perhaps the greatest adversaries Batman has ever faced. A character whose actions will cause reverberations through the DC Universe for years to come. Alongside Jock, Baron and Cipriano, Snyder has crafted one of the most intense Batman stories ever told. You owe it to yourself as a Batman fan to read it.
Snyder deconstructed a character that he loves and cherishes, broke him, put him through absolute hell, and then put him back together again. The Batman Who Laughs is a twisted, bittersweet goodbye letter to Batman, revisiting some of Snyder’s most iconic moments with the Dark Knight — Black Mirror and Court of Owls — and is a truly a fitting end to Scott Snyder’s time with Batman and Gotham City. I expect The Batman Who Laughs to go down in comics history as one of the best Batman stories ever told.
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