The Batman Who Laughs #7
Written by Scott Snyder
Art by Jock and David Baron
Lettering by Sal Cipriano
Published by DC
‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10
The finale of The Batman Who Laughs arrives, and Scott Snyder’s treatise on who and what Batman is continues. Snyder has been circling and underlining his thesis about the Dark Knight for years at this point, and the Batman Who Laughs is a character who forces to Bruce Wayne to confront his methods in ways that his rogues gallery hasn’t really been able to. And I think Snyder is reaching some final and definitive statement as his overall run with Batman comes closer and closer to an end. There’s a bit of bittersweet resignation in where he lands though: this Bruce Wayne is the best Batman because he’s technically the worst Batman when compared to relative effectiveness of so many other Batmen across the Multiverse. That sounds like a bit of shaky place to land, but coupled with Jock’s off-kilter artwork, this issue stands as an ending to a chapter but also the beginning of a new era of discussion about Batman.
There’s a parallel structure that runs through the book as Bruce and Alfred team up against the Batman Who Laughs while Gordon and James Jr. take on the Grim Knight. Both villains tempt Batman and James Jr., hoping to turn them away from the light. Meanwhile, their father figures are there to ground and inspire both characters. It’s a clever set-up by Snyder here, and one that I think allows Snyder to make a bigger statement about Bruce Wayne than any of the long conversation between Bruce and Alfred that runs through the end of the issue.
In the aftermath of their battle, James Jr. tells Gordon that he hasn’t been doing as well as he let on, and he specifically says that his seemingly established sanity was just “a mask,” drawing an instant parallel to superheroes. But moreso, given James Jr.’s background and criticisms of Batman essentially boiling the Caped Crusader down to a man so traumatized that he treats his own mental health issues by putting on a mask, Snyder is saying “maybe these two characters have far more in common than is initially evident.” Viewed through this lens, Bruce’s admission to Alfred that he is the “worst Batman” takes on a different tone. How self-aware is Bruce about his own issues? Does he see his crusade as an almost Sisyphean task that won’t ever bring him relief? Is he trying to open up to Alfred in the same way that James Jr. bluntly tells Gordon that he’s not doing as well as he let on? Alfred is dismissive of Bruce’s words - the stalwart butler says that Bruce triumphed because Batman remained Batman through it all. It’s meant to be encouraging, but what if that’s the trap that Batman just can’t escape? Snyder wants us to consider this not just in this book but throughout his time with Batman. It’s a really deft bit of writing that recontextualizes his work without undermining it.
Jock had a rough start to this series, but as the finale of this book dives headfirst into the unhinged horror elements of the plot, the artist shines. Jock leans in on skewed angles throughout the climax of the Batman Who Laughs’ monologue explaining his plan, and until Bruce makes his masterplan to beat the villain known, it really does feel hopeless. Plus Jock isn’t afraid to allow the unreality of the situation to take over. The Batman Who Laughs almost never looks the same in any two panels, sometimes appearing more monstrous than we’ve seen him ever before. David Baron utilizes a simple color palettes than highlights reds, yellows, oranges and blues - complementing the scenes that feature the Gordons as well. I could really do without the awful red on black lettering for the Batman Who Laughs' word balloons but letterer Sal Cipriano does his best to make it as readable as possible.
The Batman Who Laughs is another interesting entry in Snyder’s legacy with Batman. It takes ideas that he’s been toying with for a decade and turns them over and inside out to provide new insight into an old character. But it also works in the larger meta narrative of the DCU. This book pushes forward to the next big story element - Snyder isn’t one to leave his fellow DC writers completely hanging just because he wants to do a character study, and we’ll see what’s next in Josh Williamson’s Batman/Superman. Overall, this is a must-read for fans looking for more Snyder Batman and fallout from Metal.