Graphic Novel/Comics Review

Batman: The Man Who Laughs

(2008) Ed Brubaker, Titan Books, 16.99, hrdbk, 144pp, ISBN 978-1-845-7-6724-1


This volume collects "The Man Who Laughs", a one-shot that retells the Joker's first appearance, and "Made of Wood" from Detective Comics 784-786, a three-part team up between Batman and the Golden Age Green Lantern, Alan Scott. Back when the Joker first appeared in Batman 1, Spring 1940, he was a jewel thief who had created an ingenious poison for killing his victims, putting hideous grins on their faces. In this retelling, Brubaker is fairly consistant with the original tale, except what motivates the Joker this time around is revenge against those who owned the chemical factory where he was 'made' by falling into a vat while committing a robbery as the Red Hood (thereby tying this in with Alan Moore's The Killing Joke). The faithful story is OK, but not really satisfying in its own right; luckily there's Doug Mahnke's exquisite art to raise it above the humdrum. "Made of Wood" is another tale that's good to look at, but fairly pedestrian to read. Green Lantern investigates a serial killer in the past who seems to just stop. In the present a new serial killer is copying the MO of the old one and is being investigated by Batman. What, if anything, is the connection between the cases? And can either hero act quickly enough to prevent the death of retired Police Commissioner James Gordon?

In the meantime DC have also produced a volume: Batman: Vampire (2008, Titan Books, 12.99, trdpbk, 288pp, ISBN 978-1-845-7-6645-8) which collects the three 'Elseworlds' titles during which Batman met and defeated Dracula, only to be bitten and become a vampire himself. These are great little books written by Doug Moench, brilliantly pencilled by Kelley Jones, and beautifully inked by John Beatty and Malcolm Jones III, all topped off with the vibrant colours of Les Dorscheid and Gregory Wright. The original books were Batman & Dracula: Red Rain (1991), Batman: Bloodstorm (1994) and Batman: Crimson Mist (1999), and this collection of them represents great value for money.

Tony Chester

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