The Batman Who Laughs has been an excellent mini-series so far. Scott Snyder has delivered a well plotted and paced story that balances strong character work with some intense action. We are now past the halfway point of this 6 issue mini-series so the story should pick up even more. I fully expect The Batman Who Laughs #4 to be another quality read. Let’s hit this review.
Words: Scott Snyder
Colors: David Baron
Story Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: We begin in the Batcave with Bruce still struggling against the Joker toxin that is slowly turning him into the Batman Who Laughs. Bruce says that happiness is seeing the world through the eyes of children. Bruce says that he always tried to see the world through the eyes of his children: the various Robins. That of all the Robins, Dick Grayson had the happiest eyes.
We then see that Bruce has crafted his own copy of the Batman Who Laughs’ Dark Metal visor. Alfred is horrified that Bruce has made his own version of the Batman Who Laughs’ Dark Metal visor. Bruce is going to wear it so he can see the world the way that the Batman Who Laughs sees the world. That the visor lets him filer out the dark needy and focus on what the Batman Who Laughs sees. This will help Bruce to stop the Batman Who Laughs.
Alfred grabs the Dark Metal visor and says that this is wrong and that he will not let Bruce compromise who he is just to try and stop the Batman Who Laughs. Alfred says that Bruce has always remained true to himself and that is how he has been able to defeat his foes.
Bruce, due to the Joker toxin, loses control and attacks Alfred. The Joker toxin makes Bruce think that Alfred wants to hurt him when in fact Alfred is saying that he loves Bruce. Bruce gets control over himself. The two stop fighting.
The men then hug. Alfred says that if Bruce really thinks this is the only way he can defeat the Batman Who Laughs then Alfred will support him. Bruce puts the Dark Metal visor on and then hops into the Batmobile. Bruce says that he has to see Gotham the way that the Batman Who Laughs sees it.
We shift to the Batman Who Laughs and the Grim Knight in an undisclosed location beneath Gotham City. They have Jim Gordon captured and tied to a chair. The Batman Who Laughs babbles on about how on his world the Joker killed Jim Gordon. That if it was not for Jim’s death then the Batman Who Laughs would not have killed the Joker and then taken the Joker toxin and become who he is today.
The Batman Who Laughs says that he wants Jim Gordon alive to watch as the Batman Who Laughs poisons Gotham City with the toxin.
We cut to elsewhere in Gotham City with Batman driving through the city. Batman thinks how the Robins preferred to swing high above Gotham while the Batman prefers to be in his Batmobile on the street so he can be more connected to the people of Gotham. Batman mentions that he has cloaked his Batmobile to make it look like a taxi cab.
Batman uses the Dark Metal visor to view the people of Gotham. Instead of seeing them as positive and good people. The visor makes Batman see everyone has angry and violent.
Alfred radios Batman and tells him that the Grim Knight has used Gotham’s electrical grid to direct more energy to certain repositories of Dark Metal in the city. While Batman has stripped most of the Dark Metal out of the city there is still enough in some places to create portals to other dimensions. Alfred says that this is how the Grim Knight and the Batman Who Laughs are choosing which Bruce Wayne to bring through to their world.
Batman then radios James. James says that he has narrowed it down to three waterways that the Batman Who Laughs is planning to use to poison Gotham. James then asks how Batman is doing. James says that his father always admired Batman’s refusal to kill. That to do so would be a slippery slope. James said that before his treatment he used to see all people as bad. Therefore, whatever happened to anyone was justice. It all made sense. It was one flat voice. However, that is not how things work. That bad things happen to good people. That emotion comes in and voices go up and down. James said he was who he was long before he killed anyone. James says that the slope is not the action. It is the belief. It is how you see things. James says that he knows it can be seductive.
Batman cuts James off and says that he has to go and that he knows where the Batman Who Laughs is headed next. James then says that he knows Batman is going to win. But, James asks what happens after Batman wins and he cannot stop the Joker toxin in his body. James asks if Batman has a fail-safe plan. Batman does not answer.
We cut to three hours prior in the Gotham Last Laugh Resource Compound. Batman scans the water and his computer tells him that the water is clean of any contaminants. Joker appears on the scene. Batman punches Joker and slaps him to the ground.
Batman asks why Joker came here. Joker says that he will always be at war with Batman. Joker thinks that one day he believes he will win and will watch Batman die. But, it will only happen once and never again. Joker says that that is not what he wants. Joker says that he does not want either of them to ever win.
Joker says that he is here to wish Batman good luck. Batman then calls Joker his “friend” and his “aide.” Batman says that if he succumbs to the toxin and turns into the monster then he needs Joker to stop him. Joker pulls out a gun and says that he will blow Batman’s head off. Batman asks, “Cross your heart?” Joker replies, “And hope you die.” Batman and Joker then begin laughing like crazy.
We shift to now at Blackgate Prison. Batman has found a portal in part of Blackgate Prison. The commanding officer of the prison guards arrives on the scene and pulls his gun on Batman. The prison guard thinks that Batman is the Batman Who Laughs since Bruce is wearing the Dark Metal visor. Batman then calls the guard by his name: Officer Harper. Batman then lists a bunch of facts about Harper’s family so that Harper knows that Batman is Batman.
Officer Harper lowers his gun. Suddenly, Batman slips through the portal and is the a much larger Blackgate prison from another dimension. A bunch of guards appear on the scene. An old Bruce Wayne is there, too. The old Bruce Wayne is the warden of Blackgate Prison.
We then cut to the Grim Knight cutting Jim Gordon free and telling Jim that he is going to hunt Jim. The Grim Knight says that he brought some hounds with him for the occasion. Jim begins running through the sewers.
We hop back to the Blackgate Prison in the alternate dimension. Suddenly, Batman and the older Bruce Wayne blip back through the portal to our Blackgate prison in our dimension. Batman tells Officer Harper to watch older Bruce Wayne. We see more prison guards arriving on the scene ready to attach Batman.
Suddenly, Officer Harper activates a glass wall to come down in between Batman and Harper. Harper then pulls out a knife and kills the older Bruce Wayne. Officer Harper removes his riot helmet and we see that it is the Batman Who Laughs.
We cut to Jim Gordon being chased and attacked by three evil Joker-styled Robins. The Batman Who Laughs narrates that he knows Batman is trying to see the world through the eyes of his Robins. The eyes of his so-called children. But, that the Robins knew that the hope Batman sees in people was a lie. That is why all the Robins stayed high above rather than on the streets of Gotham.
We cut to James finding a canister at one of the waterways. The Batman Who Laughs says that the truth is Batman is finally seeing things clearly. That Batman is finally seeing Gotham through the eyes of his real child: The Batman Who Laughs.
We cut to the prison guards surrounding Batman. The Batman Who Laughs puts his digital mask back on and orders the prison guards to take down the Batman Who Laughs now.
Batman thinks how he always tells himself to see the good and the best but right now all he sees is red. We see Batman wearing the Dark Metal visor and the five prison guards standing in front of him and all firing than guns. End of issue.
The Good: The Batman Who Laughs #4 is another beautifully written issue. Scott Snyder is flexing his literary muscles with this story. The Batman Who Laughs #4 reads more like prose than a typical comic book. Snyder delights the reader with his skills as a word smith. This is a rich story with so much quality detail and texture layers into each page. It is obvious the incredible amount of effort and passion that Snyder poured into this issue.
The Batman Who Laughs #4 delivers an artful story. Snyder’s use of language and the imagery that he employs is fantastic. Snyder crafts several literary themes that serve as the muscles and tendons to bind together the skeleton of this issue’s story. These themes play out in an organic fashion and the result is that the ending has much more impact with the reader as they see how everything slides into place.
Snyder’s main theme in The Batman Who Laughs #4 are eyes. The theme of eyes are then extrapolated to the eyes of children, the eyes of Batman’s Robins, Batman’s eyes, and the eyes of psychotic villains like James and the Batman Who Laughs. This theme then continues to blossom into the overall debate of the nature of people and how right and wrong is viewed.
I love Snyder’s concept of eyes to tell the story of this issue. Looking at the world through the eyes of a child is an old saying. It is a saying that reminds adults how to stop and appreciate the wonder and beauty in ordinary things. It reminds adults how to see the good in the world before they grew up and became jaded.
Batman is certainly a character that is prone to being jaded. I like that Snyder has Batman try and keep a more positive outlook on the world by looking at things through the eyes of his children: The Robins. Snyder’s choice of Dick Grayson as the Robin with the happiest eyes was perfect. This absolutely is the right choice. Snyder has a great understanding of each Robin and the role they have played in the Batman mythos.
Jason Todd will forever be the broken Robin. He is the one who was angriest even before his death. Now, after coming back to life, Jason is even more damaged than he ever was when he was Robin.
Tim Drake is the most similar to Dick, but even Tim carried a darker side with him than Dick Grayson. I always placed Tim somewhere in between Dick and Jason on the scale of positivity.
Then you have Damien Wayne. Damien is not as damaged or as unhinged as Jason Todd. But, Damien is certainly as angry and is definitely more like Batman in his untrusting and jaded view of the world. I would place Damien in between Tim and Jason on the positivity scale.
Dick Grayson is the obvious choice for the most positive of all the Robins. This has been Dick Grayson’s nature during his entire time as Robin, Nightwing, and even when he temporarily carried the Batman mantle. Plus, I have always viewed Bruce’s relationship with Dick as being the most special out of Batman’s relationships with the various Robins. It just feels right on a spiritual level for Bruce to try and look at the world through Dick’s eyes. It reinforces the special relation that Bruce and Dick have and it emphasizes the unique impact Dick has had on Bruce’s life even though there have been several Robins since Dick Grayson serves as Bruce’s sidekick.
Snyder then contrasts Batman trying to look at the world through Dick’s eyes in order to see the positive with what Batman sees when he wears the Dark Metal visor. The visor only shows Bruce the evil in people all around him. Snyder shows the conflict within Bruce as he struggles to maintain his own view of the world while trying to see the world through the Batman Who Laugh’s eyes.
Snyder brilliantly weaves in James’ eyes before he received treatment for his mental illness. Snyder having James say that viewing the world as all bad is easy and intoxicating. But, that is not the case. That there are good people and bad people. And it is people’s beliefs that make them got or bad and not their actions.
I love that Snyder has James warn Batman how seductive it can be to view the world in this manner. This plays nicely into Batman’s struggle to maintain his sanity and not succumb to the Joker toxin and become the Batman Who Laughs. This also reinforces Alfred’s plea to Batman to continue to stay true to himself and his view of the world rather than trying to tap into the Batman Who Laughs’ view of the world.
Snyder weaving together common themes between the scene between Batman and Alfred with the scene between Batman and James makes for some powerful reading. I also like how Snyder connects James directly with the Batman Who Laughs. The fact that James had the same world view as the Batman Who Laughs is an excellent plot device to make this story even more interesting. I thought that the inclusion of James in this story was an odd choice. However, Snyder does nothing without a good reason. James’ inclusion in this story is making more and more sense. James is playing a vital role that no other Batman ally could play.
Another theme that Snyder plays with are the Robins. I love how Snyder contrasts Batman’s Robins with Batman himself and then later in the story with the Grim Knight’s Robins. Batman preferring to stay on the streets in his Batmobile while camouflaged as a taxi cab perfectly fits Bruce’s characters. Batman is Gotham. Batman needs to remain rooted to the city and the people. By staying on the street level and in disguise, Batman is able to properly remain connected to what goes on in the streets of Gotham and in the alleys and corners. The Robins have never been as bonded with Gotham in the way that Batman is bonded with Gotham. The Robins preferring to swing high above Gotham reflects their more adventurous nature.
Of course, Snyder does an excellent job contrasting the positive nature of Batman’s Robins with the hideous nature of the Grim Knight’s goulash Robins. This helps to reinforce the philosophical differences between our Batman and the Grim Knight and the Batman Who Laughs.
Snyder delivers plenty of strong character work in The Batman Who Laughs #4. Snyder has such an impressive command over the characters of Batman, Alfred, and the Joker. The interactions between Batman and Alfred and between Batman and the Joker is phenomenal. The characters are so well developed and unique which makes the chemistry between these characters so fantastic.
The scene between Alfred and Bruce is such a powerful moment. Snyder just nails it with this scene. The emotion is raw and palpable. The love that Alfred has for Bruce as if he was his own son was touching. This scene pulls the reader so deep into the story. Alfred and Bruce Wayne’s relationship has always been one of my favorite relationships in the Batman mythos. Snyder continues to do this relationship justice.
The scene with Batman and Joker was equally compelling. Snyder delivers a perfect explanation for Batman and Joker’s relationship that has always been a Möbius strip. There is no beginning or end to this relationship. They seem forever locked in the same story ever repeating. Joker commits crime. Batman goes to stop Joker. The two battle. Batman wins. Joker is locked away. Joker escapes. The story repeats. What made this scene so perfect is that Joker wants this never ending loop to continue for infinity. This makes perfect sense given Joker’s character. However, what Snyder does is also make the reader wonder if deep down inside Batman feels the same way.
Of course, I love that Snyder has Batman choose Joker to be his fail-safe. Not Alfred. Not one of the Robins. The Joker. After all, out of all of the characters, only the Joker will go through with killing Batman in order to prevent the birth of a second Batman Who Laughs. This was a neat scene that showed an interesting connection between these two long-time foes.
Snyder also delivers a strong scene between Batman and James. This scene plays brilliantly into the scene between the Joker and the Batman and then later into the scene with The Batman Who Laughs and the Batman. Before the scene with James, the reader already has the feeling that Batman is becoming addicted to the Batman Who Laughs view of the world. James reinforces this with his warning of the seduction of viewing the world through the eyes of the Batman Who Laughs. The simplicity of it all is understandably attractive.
James serves the useful plot device as a warning that sets up feelings of doom inside of the reader. The reader becomes more concerned for Batman’s ability to retain his sanity and his own world view. This was an important scene that helped to drive forward Snyder’s main themes for this story.
Snyder dishes our plenty of his usual well crafted dialogue. All of the characters have pleasantly well defined unique external voices. The dialogue has a natural feel to it.
The Batman Who Laughs #4 is also well plotted. Snyder continues to progress the story forward with a clear target in mind. Each scene builds logically off of the preceding scene. Snyder gradually ratchets up the tension as he builds to a quality hook ending. Snyder has delivered some excellent hook endings on this title and this issue is no different. Snyder places Batman in a seemingly impossible situation. The reader is left wondering how in the world Batman can possible escape. This makes the reader eager for the next issue.
In the end, what is most enjoyable about The Batman Who Laughs #4 is how Snyder is able to create such an immersive story. The themes, the imagery, the detailed plot lines, and the wonderful character work all combine to create a story that is incredibly immersive. The reader becomes engrossed in Batman’s rapidly unravelling grasp on his own identity and sanity. The reader finds it so easy to get lost in Snyder’s story.
Jock does a solid job with the artwork. I am just not a huge fan of his style of art. But, the fact remains that Jock’s style does match with the mood of Snyder’s story.
The Bad: The Batman Who Laughs #4 is not for everyone, though. I did enjoy this issue, but the fact remains that the pacing is quite slow. It does feel like Snyder is treading water a bit with this issue. There is not much real plot progression. There is also very little action in this issue. Now, readers who love character driven stories will not mind the slow pacing and lack of plot progression and little action. But, other readers may find it irritating.
Overall: The Batman Who Laughs #4 is another wonderfully written issue. However, it must be kept in mind that this is a $5.00 issue. That is a high price of admission for a single regular length floppy comic. There is no doubt as to the quality of writing that Snyder brings to this issue. However, many readers may expect a bit more action and plot progression for the $5.00 price tag.
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