As it is with any medium or genre of fiction, if you read enough superhero comics, you begin to see the strings as the patterns of storytelling become apparent. The ebb and flow of death, rebirth, victory and tragedy can make the wares comics peddle often seem predictable or, even worse, boring. Of course, the repetition of story is bound to happen. With nearly a century under the genre's belt, it often feels as if the state of superhero comics has pretty much done everything it can do. On a purely superficial level, there's some truth to this.
However, when comics subvert expectations or lull readers into a false sense of narrative normalcy, they pull off a magic trick no other medium (besides maybe some soap operas... and pro wrestling) can nail nearly as effectively: The long game shocker.
To avoid any massive (and we do mean massive) spoilers, I won't tell you exactly what the prestige of The Batman Who Laughs #2 is, but it's safe to say it feels like someone pulling your card out of a deck after shredding it to pieces. And as you sit in awe they you how it was done, you'll slap your forehead in disgust for not being able to figure it out, because it seems so obvious in hindsight. Scott Snyder and Jock make the reveal work like gangbusters, in a miniseries that could have been obnoxious given the titular character's aesthetics.
Snyder is a writer who excels at bridging the gap between the mundane and the fantastical. When he leans too heavily on either side, sometimes the cracks begin to show, but when he rides that line and has an amazing artist like Jock riding shotgun, it's comic book bliss.
The Batman Who Laughs #2 picks up immediately after Bruce is exposed to a copious amount of the Joker's chemical compound of crazy juice. The cliffhanger of issue #1 is resolved a bit too quickly, but you forget about it being somewhat glossed over when the story kick into gear, a move which might be by design. After all, the ramifications of being dosed with that much Joker poison will continue to come into play as the miniseries goes on. For now, though, the world opens up a bit more and the major players who were shrouded in mystery in the first issue begin to take shape. This all occurs without the book loosing any steam or its intensity.
What works best about this series thus far is the oddly narrow scope of it. This story is personal, and instead of branching out and gathering new heroes and villains in subsequent issues, The Batman Who Laughs #2 tightens its roster and draws the dividing lines between them. To put it simply, The Batman Who Laughs #2 is another weird issue in a weird miniseries. It's not necessarily Grant Morrison-weird, but it's out there enough to potentially be kind of off-putting to new readers. Thankfully, Snyder and Jock are able to give you all the pertinent information about who the titular Dark Multiverse version of Batman is, and why he might be the most terrifying thing Gotham City has ever faced. The plotting is tight, even if the big twist at the end feels as if it might have been better placed as a second act reveal or a third act Hail Mary. In the end, the premature nature of the moment doesn't really dampen its effectiveness.
As usual, Jock is doing stellar work. This guy is one of the best in the game, and it's great to see him work with Snyder again. When they create something together, there seems to be a shorthand between, a symbiotic relationship playing out on the page between two creators who are on the same wavelength. It's the same vibe you get when you read a comic by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips. Jock is able to handle pretty much an scenario he's thrown, crafting beautifully framed panels for any moment. It doesn't matter if the The Batman Who Laughs is hacking up Gotham police officers, or if it's a tight shot of Alfred looking perturbed; every scene is presented with deft craftsmanship and nuance.
While the big reveal at the end of the issue may have played its hand a little too early in the miniseries, it's hard to blame Snyder and Jock for doing so. If we had such amazing cards, we'd be excited to splay them out on the table right away, too. The smaller scale of this story plays to both Snyder and Jock's strengths, making one wish these guys would do another ongoing series together again. This is a different kind of Batman tale, one filled with all the weirdness of the greater DC Comics Universe with enough grit to make it feel grounded. In shirt, it shouldn't be missed.