The following article contains major spoilers for The Batman Who Laughs #1 by Scott Snyder, Jock, David Baron and Sal Cipriano, on sale now.
All of the Dark Knights of the Multiverse represent different ways in which Batman can fail, but few hit quite as close to home for the Caped Crusader as The Batman Who Laughs, his evil counterpart from Earth -22. Once the chief lieutenant of Barbatos tasked with helping sink the positive multiverse into the darkness, The Batman Who Laughs is the only Dark Knight who survived the battle for the fate of two multiverses and has been working on his own plans in the background of the DC Universe all year.
Making him even more dangerous, the Batman Who Laughs has brought along a brand new Dark Knight to help him, but he may not be the biggest threat facing Batman after all. The Joker is never one to be upstaged, and with an abominable Batman/Joker hybrid on the loose in Gotham, that simply won’t do. The Joker has a plan to help Batman defeat his dark doppelgänger, but it’s one that may doom the hero forever and provide The Clown Prince of Crime with the ultimate last laugh.
Like most of the Dark Knights of the Dark Multiverse, The Batman Who Laughs was once an ordinary Batman just like the one we know and love. He was a member of the Justice League, he had a support network of family and friends who acted as vigilantes in Gotham and he had his own Alfred who raised him and remained loyal to him through his crusade on crime. However, this universe’s Joker was even more merciless than any other we’ve seen before, and on a quest to break Batman he killed the rest of Gotham’s villains, murdered Jim Gordon and forced Batman to watch as he killed scores of parents in front of their children in Crime Alley. Eventually, this Batman snapped and killed The Joker, which is exactly what the villain wanted.
It turned out that The Joker had the ultimate dead man’s switch keyed to his biology, and when Batman murdered him, it unleashed a deadly toxin designed to turn whoever murdered The Joker into... the next Joker. It took several days for the toxin to have its effect on Batman, who slowly noticed the changes in his attitude and demeanor and by the time anyone else noticed it was too late. He took advantage of his family’s love for him to slaughter them, he took down the Justice League using contingencies put in place years earlier and in his most sickening act, he use Black Kryptonite to force Superman and Superboy to slaughter Lois Lane before they themselves died of exposure to it.
And now, a similar scene may be unfolding with our Batman.