When I was first introduced to The Batman Who Laughs, I experienced the most excitement I’ve had for a new character in DC Comics in as long as I can remember. When I learned about his twisted and horrific origin, I was happily climbing onto Scott Synder’s hook. And then when I watched him develop during the events of Metal, I knew this character had potential to become one of the best villains the Multiverse has ever seen.
But from the first time I set my sights on the character, there’s been one thing that’s bothered me about him: how the heck does he see in that visor? Part of why I was drawn so strongly to The Batman Who Laughs is because he reminds me so much of Ridley Scott’s legendary creation, the xenomorph. Even though it doesn’t have any discernible eyes, when the xenomorph looks at a person, you know it’s looking right at them. There’s a feeling of complete and utter dread associated with the creature’s gaze that cuts right through you and strikes terror into your core. That’s what I imagine it feels like when The Batman Who Laughs looks at a person, and that’s what he stirs in me. Alien is one of the greatest horror films of all time, and the xenomorph is undoubtedly one of the greatest monsters in all of horror — so as a horror and comics fan, I can’t think of a greater compliment to pay Snyder’s creation.
But we never actually see the xenomorph’s eyes, because well, it doesn’t have any. That’s where The Batman Who Laughs is different — not only does he have eyes, but we get to see them. That’s right, we’re finally getting to see under the visor! Snyder told me back at NYCC 2018 that we’d get to see what The Batman Who Laughs looks like under his mask, and he’s finally delivered on that promise.
I knew the reveal was coming in this issue because Snyder told us it was on his social media, but I was so caught up in the story that the moment still caught me by surprise. Hats off to Jock for providing one of the best “Wow” moments I’ve had in comics in some time. This definitely feels like one of those moments in comics that people will be talking about for a long time. The Batman Who Laughs’ face is visually striking, and I found myself flipping back to it more than once before finishing the issue. I’m reluctant to go any further into detail for fear of spoiling the moment for those that have yet to read the issue. It’s best experienced yourself.
The Batman Who Laughs’ visor dominates this issue. As we saw at the end of issue #3, Bruce has crafted his own visor to mirror what his enemy is using, because Batman was failing to win this fight, and as the old saying goes, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.
Alfred didn’t take very well to seeing his son shed the mantle that his entire identity is built around, and a fight ensues between the two as a result. This is a critical moment, for while Batman is struggling heavily with the Joker toxin, and his philosophical approach to combating The Batman Who Laughs, he also has to stop himself from killing the man who’s been his surrogate father for nearly his entire life.
As Bruce is brutally thrust between shades of The Joker, The Batman Who Laughs, and himself, Jock treats us to a look at the ravages the Joker’s toxin has brought upon Bruce physically, and while its not pretty, it sure does look awesome (if watching a man physically morph into his greatest fear is awesome to you).
While Jock is wowing us visually, Snyder reveals the secret of The Batman Who Laughs’ visor, and we finally learn how this twisted nightmare can see out of a metal mask covered in spikes. The secret has been with us since Metal, and is in fact metal — dark metal to be exact. Finally gaining insight into how The Batman Who Laughs sees the world (literally), Batman hopes to gain the ability to anticipate his adversary’s next move.
But let’s not forget The Joker’s role in all of this. He is, after all, the hand behind the creation of both The Batman Who Laughs, and the toxin-riddled, not-quite-transformed Batman we’re rooting for. Snyder has the a special touch when it comes to exploring the most twisted co-dependent relationship in all of comics — Batman and The Joker. We’re looking at this dysfunctional codependency in perhaps the most raw version that we’ve ever seen. Batman has never been closer to The Joker than he is right now, and he’s perhaps never been closer to defeat — the toxin has ensured that on both fronts.
There’s a shared moment between the two here where The Joker lets his friend and nemesis know what’s in his toxic, twisted heart, and it’s easily my favorite moment in this issue. I was struck by both Snyder and Jock’s work throughout these panels — Jock on the last moment we see Batman and The Joker together here, laughing maniacally, had me reminiscing about Brian Bolland and The Killing Joke. Snyder killed me with how raw, emotional, and strangely heartfelt the duo’s dialogue was, and then mere seconds later I’m laughing my ass off at how utterly and delightfully f*cked up the moment becomes. Man, what a good comic book.