Evil Geek Book Report – Batman: The Man Who Laughs
Good evening Evil Geek Gods and Goddesses! It’s time for a new feature here at the Brotherhood, a little thing I’m calling Evil Geek Book Reports. Since we spend way more time than we’re willing to admit just hanging out around our Evil Lair reading comics, we thought it’d be a great idea to do some reviews of what we’re currently reading. We’ll be mixing things up by reviewing both new and old stuff, hopefully sending you to the back issue bins as well as the new titles rack. This Evil Geek has just finished checking out “Batman: The Man Who Laughs”, written by Ed Brubaker of Captain America fame, featuring art by Doug Mahnke.
As far as my reading habits go, I’ve been on a humongous Batman kick as of late. The ravenous Bat-book hunger was ignited of course by my multiple trips to the cinema this summer to see “The Dark Knight Rises”, so my reviews may be a little Gotham heavy for a while. I’m about to check out “Batman: The Widening Gyre” by Kevin Smith with art from his longtime pal, Walt “TELL ‘EM STEVE DAVE!” Flanagan (review coming soon!). Also on tap from the Wayne library are “A Death in the Family” and because in addition to my Batman kick, I’m also on a Bane kick as well, I’m thinking of picking up “Knightfall” too. Come on, who isn’t on a Bane kick right now? If I publicly admitted how many times a day I say to myself while using that Mr. Burns/Winnie the Pooh voice from the movie “Or perhaps he’s wondering why someone would shoot a man… before throwing him out of a plane?”, I’m sure I’d be legally required to seek psychological assistance.
Back to The Man Who Laughs. The story is a retelling of the first meeting of future arch-nemeses Batman and the Joker. It takes place a few months after Bats gave the Red Hood a free bath in some nasty chemicals, turning him into the homicidal maniac we all know and love. It starts of with then-Captain Jim Gordon investigating a crime scene at which dozens of mutilated rotting corpses are scattered about a warehouse, some of them sporting eerie ear to ear smiles. Batman shows up while Gordon is investigating and is soon on the trail of the killer. This story would make a fantastic introduction to the world of Batman for anyone who’s not too familiar with the lore, but the story is so enjoyable that I think even the most hardcore Bat-Fanboys and girls would love it as well. It’s a greatest hits tape of your classic Batman vs the Joker stories; everything you’d expect to see in a story between the two characters. The Joker kills his victims with laughing gas, leaving them with that trademark death grin. He broadcasts crazy messages on tv, has gangs of insane clowns do his bidding (thankfully its an insane clown gang and not a posse. Never, never a posse), threatens to poison the reservoir, and tosses quips and grenades at the Bat from his escape helicopter. Even though it’s a stereotype of what you’d expect to see in a story with the Joker, it doesn’t feel stale. It’s executed in a way that keeps the story fresh, while still somewhat familiar.
It’s also interesting to see these two iconic characters at a time when they just starting out and are still unknowns to each another. The story takes place early on in Bruce’s career as a cape, so you get to see how some of the familiar aspects and iconography of these characters developed. Bruce drives an early version of the Bat-mobile, that looks like a regular sports car but can transform into what will eventually become the Bat-mobile. Batman also does some investigating into the chemical that spawned the Joker in hopes of finding some clues to his identity, as well as a cure that can be administered to the victims of the Joker’s gas (sorry, he gets extremely gassy when he has Mexican) before they die in maniacal fits of laughter. The investigation of the chemical leads Bruce to experiment with some of the gas on himself, resulting in a horrifically trippy, hallucination sequence, that let’s both Bruce and the reader gain a little perspective on why the Joker has become who he is. Lot’s of back story for both characters to be had in this book, so if you’re interested in learing more about them, then this would be an excellent read.
Without a doubt, this book gets a strong recommendation from me, particularly if you are new to the Bat Family. There you have it Evil Geeks, our first Evil Book Report. I really hope our Evil Teacher puts a scratch and sniff sticker on it after she grades it! Hopefully it won’t smell like Smilex gas.
You ever dance with an Evil Geek in the pale moonlight?