Review: 'The Batman Who Laughs' #1 is Smart, Beautiful, and Feels Like It's Just Getting Started

Scott Snyder and Jock reunite today in The Batman Who Laughs #1, a worthy installment in Snyder's storied history with the Dark Knight and one of DC's most exciting new titles since the first wave of Rebirth.

Jock's art in this first issue is surprisingly restrained for him, although still striking, and features some strong layouts that are almost immediately identifiable as his. He also brings a creepy menace to both the title character and to The Joker, who plays a significant role in the tale.

Jock also brings to life another new iteration of Bruce Wayne from the Dark Multiverse -- a Punisher-like version of Batman loaded down with far too many guns and far too few morals. The character is intriguing, although not yet particularly deep... although in the span of a few pages, Snyder does at least as well with exploring the idea of what separates Batman from the likes of Deathstroke as Christopher Priest did throughout the overlong "Batman vs. Deathstroke" crossover a few months back.

David Baron's color palette is key to making the issue feel like a continuous part of the Dark Nights: Metal universe. While Jock's style is obviously quite different from Greg Capullo's, the coloring makes the story feel like it could have been published during the Snyder/Capullo Batman run or as part of Metal and would have fit right in.

batman who laughs cover
(Photo: DC Entertainment)

Letterer Sal Cipriano similarly does some heavy lifting in the issue, with custom (and creative) lettering for several characters. Cipriano does some really exemplary work, particularly with The Joker, helping to sell the same unbalanced take on the character that Jock is bringing to life on the page.

The Batman Who Laughs #1 is thematically of a piece with a lot of what Scott Snyder has been doing with Batman in the last few years. The idea of exploring Batman's inner demons, his darkest corners and worst fears while still not giving up hope or the occasional moment for quiet character introspection or even -- gasp! -- a joke illustrates that Snyder, who seemingly came on board fully formed with "The Black Mirror" all that time ago, is in fact still evolving as a writer of Batman comics.

The character of The Batman Who Laughs is used sparingly in this opening issue, mostly being a force behind the scenes, but when we do see him, it is suitably jarring and terrifying. The character fits in thematically with Snyder's take on the Dark Knight and visually with the beautiful/awful worlds that Jock likes to create.

Snyder gives a fair number of interviews, and has talked at length about this project, what it means to him, and what he plans to do with it. The biggest surprise, then, while reading this issue is that there still were surprises. Artistically, the book is striking, and thematically it's incredibly nuanced and smart, but even in terms of bare-bones plot stuff, there were a few moments that were genuinely shocking even after hearing so much about it in the months since it was announced.

Published by DC Comics

On December 12, 2018

Written by Scott Snyder

Art by Jock

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Colors by David Baron

Letters by Sal Cipriano