Review: Dark Nights – The Batman Who Laughs #1

For many, this will be one of the most anticipated books in the whole Dark Nights event, with the Batman and Joker getting a tad inverted by a toxin leading to a Dark Prince of Crime and eventual gang boss for Barbatos’ twisted Batmen.

On Earth -22, Batman and the Joker had one final fight, during which Batman does the unthinkable and kills his greatest enemy.  With no good deed going unpunished, it seems that the Joker had the last laugh, infecting Batman with a toxin that slowly turns him into the Joker! We get to see who this Bat-Joke-man-er is as he manages to defeat the totality of the bat-family and the Justice League.

The book is written by James Tynion IV who has done a fair few of these one-shots in this event, which may be an excuse for having a pretty standard setup for the character.  The idea of Batman being poisoned by and turning into the Joker has been used a number of times, even being the crux of the last Arkham game, Arkham Knight.  Regardless of the less than surprising origin, Tynion IV has the voice of Batman down perfectly and shows his flexibility in the merged titular character.  The same can’t really be said for the other characters in the book, who all seem to be gullible enough to let Batman get the upper hand, serving as grotesque manikins, adding no more than window dressing to proceedings..

The at is provided by Riley Rossmo who gives the book his usual twist.  Rossmo’s art was recently seen in the Batman Shadow crossover, where Batman had to deal with…..the Joker.  At least at this rate, Rossmo is getting plenty of practice working on the Joker!  Rossmo’s unique art suits this warped world well, with panels over laying a main picture panel adding to the chaotic feel, which may well impact the reading in digital format.  Still if you liked the Batman Shadow book, chances are this will be your cup of tea also.  As always with these one-shots, the colors are exceptional.  This high standard is continued by the sublime work of Ivan Plascencia who delivers a painted look that adds to the madness. Very often letterers go unsung.  Tom Napolitano is the latest to draft a cursive that echoes the crazy of the Joker extremely well.

This book is quite an unsettling read, as well it should be when the hero takes on the traits of his arch nemesis.  Still  I am not certain whether it’s the idea of the story or the execution that has me rattled.  It’s true, that I have been less than impressed with the visual of this particular Dark Batman, being how closely he resembles Judge Death from the Judge Dredd comics.  With so much is at stake in the multiverse, I had hoped that we would have got more than a rehash of a video game story, even if in this media, things are taken a tad further.

Writing -3.5 Stars
Art – 4 Stars
Colors – 5 Stars

Written by; James Tynion IV
Art by; Riley Rossmo
Colors by; Ivan Plascencia
Letters by; Tom Napolitano
Published by; DC Comics

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