6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
"My city has started to lose control of itself",
This review is from: Batman: Man Who Laughs (Paperback)
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.
Location: Doncaster, Yorkshire, UK.
Top Reviewer Ranking: 73