I may not have been deeply invested into the DARK NIGHTS: METAL story, but one thing stuck out to me that was hard to ignore. The love for the nightmare of the Dark Multiverse, the Batman Who Laughs. Who doesn’t love a villain who is all the best parts of Batman AND The Joker? This is one of those times where I couldn’t help but look forward to a book centered around someone evil. The Batman Who Laughs may not be one to root for, but you sure as hell want to see what plans he has for the multiverse unchecked.
With the start of any story like this, there was the opening that quickly grabs your attention. When it comes to the Batman Who Laughs it isn’t a matter of getting to know him or getting a reintroduction. It was making sure everyone was on the same page about when this story takes place. Sometimes with these stories you are left wondering for a second just where we are on the timeline. Didn’t take very long to see that this story takes place a little later after the events of this recent issue of Justice League.
Bruce Wayne finding out that the Batman Who Laughs was still alive brought out a side to the Dark Knight that I personally wasn’t used to seeing. Being left rattled by the events of DNM felt like an understatement compared to what we were actually seeing ourselves. One thing you have to give credit to BWL is the way that he brings out the worst reactions from those who fear him most. Bruce is put on edge about the idea of having to deal with that monster again, and the Joker is no different as someone who sees that he is not the ultimate apex predator anymore. Throughout this first issue, the tone for Bruce was a bit more grim than usual. It makes a big difference when you see him this caught off guard about an enemy that he should know fairly intimately. It makes him angry and in turn throws him out of character. Not the big guy who has the answers to everything. Who he ended up turning to for help by the end of this first issue was quite the shocker for the statement it made concerning his desperation to stop the BWL.
Being able to see the Batman Who Laugh’s plans set into motion was worth the build-up to this point. What we have been teased with is the idea that the BWL on the loose meant some pretty dark things were about to unfolding in this universe. The only question is what form that would take. I’m not so sure that I was able to find anything familiar with this sinister plan so far, but it was chilling to set the mood for this story. I felt satisfied with the steps that he took in this issue to get things started. As the top of the food chain, every one of his actions lined up with someone who needed to move and remove certain pieces from his board to make progress. Everything about his tactics were methodical, and they were unique to the combination that he is.
The art team of Jock and David Baron was fitting for a book like this. I have not read many books with Jock as the penciler, but from what I had seen, he matched the kind of style that brings out the grit of a Batman story. The way he drew this Batman who is unhinged said just as much as words could. It wasn’t enough to say that he was rattled by the thought of the Batman Who Laughs, you had to see that yourself. In the way he spoke to those around him, the way he reacted to events unfolding around him, to the surprise gift that was left to him after his latest heroic act. It even helped having that extra bit of shadows that covered his face to conceal any expressions that might have contradicted that. David Baron on colors was hard to argue with when he has done great work with dark stories such as this one. Many of his color choices maintained the atmosphere of fear for what came next. This needed the dark colors for the tone, the faded overlay for a sense of mystery, and everything else that added flair to the action.
Was the Batman Who Laughs #1 worth the wait? Without a doubt. I don’t normally recommend books centered around villains, but this one is definitely one of the exceptions for the way it embraces the brand of madness this monster has brought with him from the Dark Multiverse.