Batman: The Man Who Laughs (DC)
Written by Ed Brubaker, drawn by Doug Mahnke & Patrick Zircher
Collects Batman: The Man Who Laughs, Detective Comics #784-786
I’ve gone a little crazy requesting trades from my local library network. It’s been a lot of fun searching for all kinds of books I may have missed over the years or haven’t read in a while. Batman: The Man Who Laughs actually combines both of these because I somehow missed Ed Brubaker’s take on the Joker in the 2005 Man Who Laughs one-shot, but did read the three issue run on Detective Comics from 2003 also included in this collection.
I remember Man Who Laughs being a pretty big deal when I started working at Wizard in 2005. The prestige format book had come out before I got there and Brubaker’s star was definitely on the rise. A few of the guys on staff were huge fans of Gotham Central, which Bru co-wrote with Greg Rucka and so there was a lot of buzz about his then-new Captain America run and his other projects including the excellent Sleeper. Because of this, Man Who Laughs was a tough book to get your hands on in the Wizard library as people were constantly asking about it. Plus, one book like this can be very difficult to find in a huge, fairly unorganized library like that.
Basically, MWL is a story about the first meeting between Batman and the Joker. It acts as a nice sister story to Batman: Year One because, up to this point, the Dark Knight has only really faced off against mobsters, criminals and street thugs, but the appearance of the Joker takes things to a whole new psychotic level. In true Joker fashion, he comes on the scene like a bomb, presents rules for a game that he has no intention of following and eventually finds out exactly what kind of adversary he has in the form of Batman. Like I said when I wrote about the Lex Luthor-centric run of Action Comics recently, this is one of those stories that helps define a hero by the villains he attracts. Plus, as I’ve said in many a Books Of Oa post, Doug Mahnke is just the best and should draw everything ever.His Joker is waaaay creepy.
After that you’ve got a three issue arc from Detective Comics that teamed a pair of Gotham’s protectors up to solve a series of murders with roots back in the post-WWII era. Green Lantern Alan Scott tried to find a serial killer back in the day who carved “Made of Wood” into his victims. When a new killer with the same MO pops up in modern times, he joins forces with Batman to figure out what’s going on. This is a pretty straightforward whodunnit with a retired Jim Gordon working the case from a different angle. This is the kind of crime solving tale Bru became known for in Gotham Central, but with the added flare of seeing a par of superheroes working the case that makes stories like this set in a shared superhero universe fun.
I got pretty nostalgic reading these issues of Detective Comics because they came out when I was in college. I would come home for a break and my mom or dad would have my pull list waiting for me. I’d spend a good deal of time organizing everything and then putting them in a desired reading order before diving in. These comics reading experiences were much further and farther between than I was used to, but they were a lot more intense because it was such an immersive, deep-dive experience. When we get into a house one of the many things I’m looking forward to is getting my comic collection all in one place so I can go back, re-read books like this and see what’s worth keeping.