BATMAN: THE MAN WHO LAUGHS
Writer: Ed Brubaker
Artist: Doug Mahnke
Colorist: David Baron
Letterer: Rob Leigh
It should come as no surprise to you guys that I'm once again doing some reviews to coincide with some DC characters 80th anniversaries. This time I'm doing some of my favorite Joker stories and of course I picked one by my favorite writer, Ed Bruaker. Brubaker along with artist Doug Mahnke bring is a tale set during the early days of Batman's crimefighting career, before the days of super criminals. We witness firsthand the beginning of this decades long fight between two of DC's most famous characters.
Even early on in his career, Batman had already dealt with some of the worst criminals the world had to offer, but he wasnt prepared for the madness that would ensue from this grinning, chalk faced villain. While Joker has gone through many iterations, Brubaker went with the cold, serial killer version that wasn't heavy on the jokes. What really worked well, was the fact that we dont really see Joker that much and instead deal with the ramifications of his actions.
We see this story through the eyes of the two men who are trying to take down this Clown Prince of Crime, Batman and Captain Gordon (this is set before he becomes comissioner). Neither one of these men were truly prepared for what they were up against, but use their respective skills to triumph over evil. I think the fact that we get narration from both men over the course of their hunt made for an interesting story. Both men were relatively young in their crimefighting careers but and had their own way of handling this horrific situation. In the end they came together to defeat the Joker.
Mahnke's art is once again perfectly suited for any tale set in Gotham and this book proves it yet again. His Joker is downright terrifying, not only in the way he looks but also in the way he kills his victims. Those smiling faces on the dead bodies are sure to leave a lasting impression. We can't forget how his Batman is one of the most intimidating and imposing versions you'll ever see. Every time Mahnke visits Gotham he delivers one hell of a book.
While this may not be one of the marquee Joker stories, it is by far one of my favorites and I love how it loosely ties into BATMAN: YEAR ONE. We even get the ending where Gordon lights the Bat Signal for the first time. Brubaker and Mahnke crafted what, in my opinion, is an essential Joker story for any fan of the character. Plus.... it's Ed Brubaker for f**ks sake!