Warning: SPOILERS for The Batman Who Laughs #1
The Joker has taken steps to transform Batman into one of his most terrible fears... and in the process, possibly doom the entire DC Universe in The Batman Who Laughs #1.
For the unfamiliar, 'The Batman Who Laughs' was first introduced in DC Comics' massive Dark Nights: Metal event, which brought an army of nightmare Batmen and women to invade the regular DC reality. The de facto leader of these evil Batmen - and arguably the most terrifying - was The Batman Who Laughs, a version of Bruce Wayne who snapped the neck of The Joker. But when The Joker died, a toxin was released to turn Bruce Wayne into a Joker/Batman hybrid who destroyed his family and his entire world. Now, the same thing might happen to the main DC Universe.
It’s unclear where exactly The Batman Who Laughs miniseries, written by the character’s creator Scott Snyder with art from Jock, falls on the DCU timeline. It is in continuity, that we know for sure, and takes place after the events of Dark Nights: Metal. The miniseries begins with The Batman Who Laughs breaking into Arkham Asylum accompanied by a different, older Bruce Wayne, and causing everyone to panic in the process.
As The Batman Who Laughs is the perfect mixture of The Joker and Batman, his main goal is chaos (executed to perfection). However he does have a few specific motivations: presumably, to kill the main DC versions of both halves of his own identity. As a result, the threat of this particular villains means Joker and Batman are teaming up once again. The Batman Who Laughs tries to murder Joker in his cell at Arkham, but only succeeds in killing a body double that Joker has placed in the prison for this exact purpose.
In the resulting confusion another Joker, which is presumed to be the main Joker, slips into the Batcave. The Clown Prince of Crime confronts Batman and Alfred, informing them that the only way defeat the Batman Who Laughs... is to become him. The Joker then proceeds to commit suicide right in front of Batman, and just like the version that created the villain now hunting them, The Joker's death releases a toxin to turn Batman into a white-faced laughing maniac. The Batman Who Laughs #1 ends with The Joker dead in Batman's arms... and the Dark Knight laughing uncontrollably.
It’s a surprisingly huge move for the DC Universe, and a fantastic cliffhanger for a first issue. Still, there’s enough to suggest that this brand-new status quo isn’t going to stick. Yes, DC Comics definitely could kill off The Joker. After all, it’s still a mysterious and unsolved paradox that there are not one, but three Jokers in DC's Universe. Even if this Joker is gone there is potentially two more out there. The Batman Who Laughs #1 wouldn’t be the first time that The Joker has “died” only to mysteriously resurrect. It’s more likely, though, that the clown who dies in Batman’s arms in The Batman Who Laughs #1 is yet another body double and lackey of The Joker, similar to the pawn that was murdered in Arkham Asylum.
The more concerning element of the cliffhanger is Batman’s Joker transformation. However, earlier in the issue, Batman does mention to Alfred that he’s already theorized Joker would carry such a toxin in his body. It’s not much of stretch to assume that Batman - being Batman - created an antidote to prevent himself becoming The Joker. Whether this antidote works or Batman is able to take it in time is a very different story. A story that will continue when The Batman Who Laughs #2 arrives.
The Batman Who Laughs #1 is available now from DC Comics.