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4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
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This volume collects two stories by Ed Brubaker - the single issue 66-page story "The Man Who Laughs" and the three-issue "Made of Wood" from Detective Comics #784-786.

"The Man Who Laughs" is a `Batman: Year One' story, (re)telling the Joker's first appearance and encounter with Batman and Captain Jim Gordon. A crime scene is discovered where someone has been conducting chemical experiments on people - with what we recognises as Joker Venom. The Joker then makes a TV broadcast, stealing an outside-broadcast van, and threatening to kill a number of prominent Gotham businessmen, including Bruce Wayne. Batman slowly works his way through the clues to the chemical company where he fought the Red Hood, where he spots some clues that might indicate the Joker was the man in the mask... Meanwhile, the Joker intends to poison the inhabitants of Gotham in revenge for what has happened to him...

This is an excellent story, with superb artwork.

"Made of Wood" is a three-part story guest starring the Golden Age Green Lantern, and now-retired Commissioner Gordon. Gordon discovers a body dumped in front of the statue to the Green Lantern erected in the 1940s. Back in the day, there were a number of similar killings, with the bodies, then and now, marked with the message "made of wood". Gordon starts investigating the original murders while Batman and the Green Lantern investigate the current, and the stories eventually converge, which is good news for Gordon, as he has discovered the killer, the hard way...

This is a good story, with excellent artwork, but I couldn't help thinking "was that it" at the end, but that might have been just me, and should not be taken as a reflection on the quality of the storytelling.
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on 14 May 2015
The book confusingly contains two very different stories. The first is its name sake Batman the man who laughs and the second is the completley non Joker related made of wood story line. I'm all for the release of any Batman/ Detective Comics collected editions but picking up this book you would have thought to get a complete Joker related experience.
The four stars is based on the collection as a whole. while it was disappointing to only get half a book starring the Joker both stories are enjoyable.
The first half which is Batman the Man who Laughs is set after Batman: Year One, Shaman, The Monster Men and The Mad Monk and details the first confrontation between Batman and Joker. The storyline although its no Killing Joke is still highly enjoyable and amusing. With mentions in other novels of the joker attempting to poison Gothams water supply here we finally see the plan in fruition. While its hardly a master plan i take into account that this is Jokers first go round with Gotham so i cut him some slack. Overall its relatively well written with a few good joker lines but it does feel a little rushed. it would have been good to explore Batman and Jokers first encounter in more detail and see the relationship develop between them.
The art is ok i much prefer the clear crisp solid art of books such as Killing Joke but the art in this story is still better than certain other novels.

The second story Made of Wood consists of Detective comics Issues: #784 - #786 and is set years away from the Man Who Laughs story set after the No Mans Land, Officer Down, Murderer and Fugitive story lines with Jim Gordon well into retirement. it mainly revolves around a Batman and Vintage Green Lantern team up (Not the cool Green Lantern). Involving alot of detective work and not too much action some may find this story boring. The story has no particular wow factors and is overall pretty mediocre but still enjoyable. I doubt this would have sold well as its own Graphic Novel. I myself, who try (note the try) to be a bit of a chronology buff just enjoyed seeing Jim Gordon actually in action again after his long ongoing absense and occasional cameo in the bat stories set around the time of these issues publication. but obviously you wont have those same views as we just saw Jim Gordon a couple of pages ago in the previous years ago storyline.
The art is actually better than Man Who Laughs being detailed, defined and solid with good use of shadows and character details. If modern Batman novels where drawn like this i would be alot happier whilst reading them.
Combined the stories just scrape four stars this is a point of interest story if anything, just remember you are only buying half a Joker book. and the second half may confuse you if your not familiar with Batman lore.
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on 14 July 2015
This is a bit of an odd comic. Split up into two stories we have the title story and then one that feels like it has been chucked in randomly to make up page numbers. The Man Who Laughs is an interesting story but it would have benefitted from being significantly longer and really delving into the relationships between the characters. It feels like things are heating up and then it ends. As a Batman fan I found it interesting from a historical perspective but if it wasn't a retelling of their first encounter it would be completely forgettable. It does provide a great base for reading Scott Snyder's Death of the Family though.

The second story sticks out like a sore thumb as Bats teams up with the Old Man Lantern Alan Scott to fight crime. It is a fun little story but the comic would have been better served with a reprinting of the original meeting between Batman and Joker from the 40s and maybe some nice extras to make this book a lot more interesting and really play up the fact that it works best as Batman history rather than a compelling story.
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From the very first page - you know that this is going to be a grizzly story, of the `Year One' Batman graphic novels this is the most graphic so far - in terms of gruesome imagery. A series of semi decomposed bodies are retrieved by the police from an industrial building. James Gordon reflects that he's seen plenty of dead bodies, but he's "never seen anything like this", there's a new malevolent presence in the City ...The Joker.

The Man Who Laughs is the fifth book in the Year One continuity, it bends the continuity slightly by seemingly occurring immediately after Batman: Year One itself and also some time after Batman and the Mad Monk. It's a modern take on the original telling of how the Joker came to be and his possible origins as another of Batman's foes. Although constantly grinning, his actions are no joke and The Joker is portrayed as an ultra-violent sociopath who kills with detached ease. The Joker looks superb, it never fails to amaze me how the same costumes and characters take on whole new aspects of personality with each new artist. The artwork in The Man Who Laughs is more gritty than the preceding four books and it reflects the more sinister content, Batman looks meaner, James Gordon looks more dishevelled and Gotham looks a little meaner. The colours are muted and more realistic, bright hues were used to good effect in The Mad Monk - here emotive expressions are key to injecting extra depth.

Although the Joker is the focus of the book, the most striking aspect is the more natural relationship between Batman and Gordon. It's still a bit cloak and dagger, but there seems to be less mystery and more friendship between the two, there's an assumed partnership and the two are more obviously semi-dependant on each other than before even it if it is unofficial and off-the-record. This gives the sense of an organic relationship which has grown since Year One when a firm mutual respect was established. There's now a reliance which enables both men to achieve a common goal through very different means and neither is afraid to speak their mind, there's no awkwardness, only comfortable dialogue.

There are some things I've come to expect from Batman comics, a reference to the wider DC Universe (usually Superman) and here we get a double whammy with a quick line mentioning Supes and The Flash! Alfred tends to get some great lines of dialogue, though sadly he doesn't deliver any killer lines here. Although this is a good retelling of the Joker's emergence, the overall story feels a little anaemic and the ending seems rushed and not satisfyingly worked out. You do get two stories for the price of one though, the second story is an interesting Batman / Green Lantern combo and makes for a welcome filler.

In a nutshell: The Joker as he should be; with a manic personality which is unpredictable and unnerving, he feels very dangerous. If it weren't for The Killing Joke I may have thought more of this comic - if it were more developed rather than existing as a short story then it could have been more gripping. Good, but not essential Bat-reading, I'd give this 3.5 stars if I could - but I can't here so on balance I'll give it 3 because I was expecting more than this delivered and it simply felt a little average after the most promising of starts.
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on 6 April 2016
The book details Batman's first encounter with the newly christened Joker, reimagining the plot of Joker's first appearance in Batman#1 in 1939. The artwork is great from Doug Manhke; showing all the pain in Joker's victims and perfectly capturing each impact from Batman's fists.

Crucially, this is the only book I've encountered that shows Joker had to practice and perfect his techniques before unvealing them as a super-villain.
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on 23 March 2015
Nice for the fundamental stories of the Joker and the fear he puts a city under. It is interesting to see how the cops approach him, as a psycho with a gimmick they don't understand, Gordon viewing the Joker as a madman that can't be relented again and of course batman's view of the other side of him.

nice to have for my collection
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on 14 January 2009
I had heard over and over about how the Jokers first crime was to poison Gotham reservoir, but never actually read the story. Finally I find 'The Man Who Laughs', an excellent telling of Gothams first encounter with the Clown Prince of Crime.
This is a dark, psychotic Joker in the vein of Frank Millers own, ready to kill at the drop of a hat. The story is well told, with good character incites, showing the Jokers genius, as well as more of the early days of Gordon and Batman. The artwork fits perfectly with the tone of the story.

I have just 2 minor complaints, firstly (THIS MAY BE A SLIGHT SPOILER TO THOSE WHO DON'T KNOW THE STORY) is when Batman gets to see what it's like
inside the Jokers head, as I always felt that part of their relationship was that Batman never truly understood, he could just make his best guesses. The Joker is supposed to be a chaotic character and this just rationalises him a little more, however it could explain the sympathy Batman feels towards him in books like Killing Joke.
The second is that the story is too short, it only takes up about half the book, the second half is the story Made of Wood, featuring a team up between Batman and the original Green Lantern. This story is good, showing his detective roots and having a more noir feel, but this isn't why I bought the book, I wanted more Joker action, and after how good the first story is, it just falls a little flat. Maybe it's just because I'm not a big Green Lantern fan.....

Overall though a very good read, definitely worth adding to a collection
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on 8 April 2013
The Man Who Laughs features two separate stories, named The Man Who Laughs and Made of Wood, each approximately 70 pages long. The first of these is the story you are probably looking for, and tells the story of Batman and the Joker's first encounter. This is a dark story that shows Batman adapt to his first 'supervillain'. The story is dark and twisted, like the Joker himself, and I consider it an essential read for any Batman fan, my only complaint being that at 70 pages long this is a fairly short story.

The second story, Made of Wood, is a crossover story of Batman and Green Lantern investigating a series of murders. This story takes place much later in Batman's career, and is entirely unrelated to The Man Who Laughs, though still a decent story.

I recommend reading both Batman: Year One and Batman: The Killing Joke before reading The Man Who Laughs.
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on 20 October 2009
it's tickling just how much i enjoyed this. i was hooked from page one and couldn't put it down. the art work captivated and the plot didn't disappoint. i also really enjoyed the killing joke but "the man who laugh's" was far more suited to my liking. i'd advise any batman fan to get there hands on a copy of this.
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on 18 September 2008
Now and then a graphic novel comes along that you know will be considered a classic, and this is one of those. This is a Joker story with quality written all over it. Set in year one, this is the tale of Batman's first encounter with the Joker, and Joker's first attempt at killing the population of Gotham.

Taking on a 'year one' Joker story is a brave thing to do and Ed Brubaker does an excellant job. This story is only 71 pages long but the narrative is cleverly written, and the artwork by Doug Mahnke is stunning - especially the Joker illustrations. The story flows well and is easy to read - I only purchased it today and I've read it twice already!

I'm so pleased that there's finally a Joker story to compare with 'The Killing Joke', and that's the biggest compliment I can give this book. I'm not saying it's better but it's a top story. It is certainly worth the extra money to buy the hardback edition, which is just as well because the paperback is not out until next year (Why has it taken so long?).

There are two stories in this graphic novel and the second one - Made Of Wood - features Batman and Green Lantern working together, with Jim Gordon prominent in the story. This is also a good read, and makes this wonderful package even sweeter. Highly recommended.
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