|Cover by Doug Mahnke|
Batman: The Man Who Laughs (2005)
Writer: Ed Brubaker
Penciller: Doug Mahnke
Inker: Doug Mahnke
Colorist: David Baron
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Batman: The Man Who Laughs was another comic I had heard a great deal about and was very anxious to read for a while now. Written as a contemporary retelling of Batman #1 (1940), Batman has his first encounter with the clown-faced killer dubbed by the police as the Joker.
As I’ve said before, Joker origin stories are usually hit or miss (more often miss) with me but since this is a retelling of the very first time comic book readers ever met the Joker, I suppose this one holds a bit more stock than other ones. It also contained many time-honored elements of origin stories, such as Red Hood, Joker toxin, smoke bombs, and poison in the
Gotham water supply. Batman villains seem very keen on poisoning the water supply for some reason, and it never works.
While it contained all of these things, or maybe because it did, this comic didn’t feel like anything new. I was never really excited or intrigued by what was going to happen next because, quite frankly, I knew what was going to happen. Joker was going to threaten to kill some millionaires, he manages to kill a couple, Bruce Wayne survives, Batman and the Joker have a final confrontation, and Batman refuses to kill the Joker. The end.
Everything about the comic felt sort of retro, even the art itself by Mahnke. His renditions of the characters especially looked old-school to me, like a strange mix between the art of the Golden Age and the Bronze Age. I suppose this was keeping in theme of being a retelling of an old story, but it sort of pushed me out of the comic. It had modern elements but the art didn’t match at all. It wasn’t poorly-drawn, necessarily, it just felt strange to me.
I did enjoy certain elements of the comic, such as the concept of the Batman still being an urban legend among the citizens of
Gotham and the Joker trying to figure out Batman’s reasoning. Batman’s skills as a detective were also front and center to the plot of this comic, which I always love to read. I will always prefer Batman the detective to Batman the superhero (he’s not, damn it!). It also had a cornily optimistic ending, with the people of Gotham “looking up” at the newly created Bat Signal that Gordon created. I do wish, however, that Batman had given a direct reason for not killing the Joker, which he normally does. Here, he just appeared to give up.
Anyway, this was a pretty enjoyable comic to read, though nothing particularly new or substantial. I think a good portion of my lack of enthusiasm comes from the fact that I am still reeling from Harry Potter at midnight and just as importantly and emotionally gripping, The Dark Knight Rises trailer. It was heavy.