Joker's Madness, But With Batman's Mind
It might be hard to believe that the Bruce Wayne comic fans have read about for decades is somehow the worst version of Batman in the Multiverse. But to be specific, The Batman Who Laughs contextualizes his argument based on the Dark Knight's ability to effect change in his version of Gotham, and the world beyond it. He's using the truth of that mission (as he sees it) to destroy Batman piece by piece, showing that every time Batman retired, quit, or gave in, he found a better way to succeed.
It's a devious blow to strike, but as Snyder explains, it's one that only the merging of Batman with Joker could think of:
The Batman Who Laughs is himself a kind of final villain for me. Meaning he is the scariest villain that I've ever created or gotten to work on. Because he isn't the Joker, who is absolute alpha villain for Batman. He's worse, in the way that he's got all of Joker's evil but he's not chaotic and he's not impulsive. He's got Batman's strategic and brilliant mind, and all of his memories, and all of his training. So it's incredibly hard even to find a vulnerability.
Still not convinced that The Batman Who Laughs has presented a new, more existential threat to Bruce Wayne than the most iconic version of Joker? Well, manipulation, paranoia, and the injection of personal doubts are only attacking Batman's mind. Attacking Batman's body is another matter entirely. Because as terrifying as Joker's mind may be (in its similarities to Batman's, even), Batman will always have the upper hand in a fight. But what if he didn't?
Even if Joker hadn't killed himself to infect Batman in the very first issue of The Batman Who Laughs, Bruce would have a hard time standing against this new foe. Because even if his opponent is half Joker, the version of the villain that Batman is used to fighting has never actually been trying to kill him. At least, not as Scott Snyder sees it. That may prove to be the difference in what is shaping up to be Batman's greatest trial - at least with Snyder at the helm. Sure, Joker may claim to "understand" Batman like nobody else.
But is there anything more dangerous to a man who is masked, mysterious, and completely unknown... than the one person who has lived every moment of his life along with him?
Joker knows him so well, that's what makes him so scary. The Joker says, 'I know what you're afraid of, and I'm going to show you why that's so.' But Joker always does it in such a way that he's trying to prove a point. And I think there's something about Joker, also, that is performative and needs Batman. He wants Batman to acknowledge him, he doesn't want Batman ever to kill him, or do something past the line. At least our version of Joker, he's creating these things in his own weird mind to make Batman stronger, and continue this weird, evil dance with him. The Batman Who Laughs doesn't give a shit about dancing with Batman or any of it. He's just like, 'You're nothing to me, and the moment I saw you I had ten ways to kill you. I'm just going to move right through you.'
There's a moment in the issue where he puts his hand over Bruce's ribs... the same way Bruce describes his father putting his hand over his ribs, and filling in the spaces with his fingers as he was about to get shot. That's the terror of The Batman Who Laughs to me, and the fun of the series: there is nothing you have hidden from him. He knows you... and that's the ultimate villain.
The Batman Who Laughs #2 is available now from DC Comics.