WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for The Batman Who Laughs #3 by Scott Snyder, Jock, David Baron and Sal Cipriano, on sale now.
In The Batman Who Laughs' first issue, Batman took a faceful of Joker toxin after the Joker attempted to commit suicide. The Joker's twisted intent was to give Batman the means to defeat his Dark Multiverse alter ego, the Batman Who Laughs. While Batman and Alfred were able to save the Joker's life, the toxin has already made its sanity-altering mark on Batman.
Batman had managed to partially stave off the ever-worsening effects of the poison via massive doses of his antivenom antidote. In Scott Snyder, Jock and David Baron's The Batman Who Laughs #3, however, that battle has been all but abandoned. On the issue's final page, Batman seemingly embraces the fate he has been trying to fight. Forging and donning his own version of the Batman Who Laugh's spiked metal headband, Bruce Wayne has for all intents and purposes become his foe -- just as the Joker intended.
But, has he? While the path taken by our Batman to become his horrifying counterpart is eerily similar to that of Earth-22's Batman, there remains one fundamentally important difference.
Why The Batman Laughs
In last year's The Batman Who Laughs one-shot by James Tynion IV and Riley Rossmo, Batman began his tortuous path to darkness in a similar manner. Exposure to the Joker's airborne toxin immediately after his death transformed Batman into this deadly, Jokerized incarnation of himself. On Earth-22, though, this was in the aftermath of the Joker's destruction of Gotham, his murder of Jim Gordon and the ghastly transformation of several orphaned children into his twisted minions.
These events led the Batman of that world to commit an unthinkable act of his own: Killing the Joker out of intense rage stemming from his foe's terrible actions. The Batman of Earth-0 has never faced this level of trauma at the Joker's hands. The Dark Knight of this dark world is one who was just broken by his worst enemy.
This Batman Also Laughs, But…
While the physical causes of our Batman's transformation are the same, the other circumstances are notably different. On Earth-0, Gotham is fine, at least as fine as Gotham ever gets; Jim Gordon hasn't been murdered; and no one has repeatedly reenacted the killing of Bruce's parents as he helplessly watches. Perhaps most significantly, the Joker wasn't killed by Batman -- he nearly died by his own hand, but ultimately survived, thanks in part to Batman himself.
The Batman who's transforming into this new incarnation of the Batman Who Laughs isn't a killer, and he isn't a broken man. The original Batman Who Laughs was a victim of the Joker's toxin, whereas our Batman has instead chosen to use it to empower himself. Earth-22 Bruce suffered the consequences of the Joker's final actions -- Earth-0 Bruce seeks to reap the benefits.
The Batman Who Wins
The original Batman Who Laughs was a product of the Dark Multiverse. As the character has stated, the worlds of the Dark Multiverse "are wrong to their core." Those worlds are "destined to die," as he's also said, but while they live, evil always seems to win.
Not so in the regular multiverse – the morally-opposite Earth-3 notwithstanding. This new Batman Who Laughs might have an origin rooted in his worst enemy and bear horrible similarities to his new foe, but he was born here in the "bright" multiverse. And that's the difference.
Our Bruce isn't going down a villainous path, he's just made a heroic sacrifice. By potentially giving up who he is to defeat a terrifying enemy, he's proven once again that, despite the outward façade of darkness, Batman is nothing short of a hero. And in this multiverse, the heroes always win.
The good Batman Who Laughs is gearing himself up to go against the bad. The Batman Who Laughs #4 goes on sale April 10.