The Last Laugh
Since the defeat of Barbatos, The Batman Who Laughs has found himself prisoner of Lex Luthor and the Legion of Doom, who kept him in the bowels of their fortress so that Lex could pick his brains about the secrets of the Multiverse and the truth behind the Totality. Ultimately, Lex allowed The Batman Who Laughs to go free in exchange for information about Perpetua, the being living inside The Totality, but The Batman Who Laughs reveals that he could have escaped at any time and his work with the Legion of Doom was just part of his larger plan of sowing chaos throughout this new universe he’s forced to call home.
The Joker, having recently quit the Legion of Doom in spectacular fashion in Justice League #13, is well aware of The Batman Who Laughs’ presence and freedom, and the only thing that angers Joker more than an live Batman is an live Batman that’s stealing his schtick. It’s this that forces Joker to admit that he needs to team up with Batman, a conclusion the Dark Knight has also come to. Batman allows Joker access to the Batcave so they can work together to stop The Batman Who Laughs, but Joker has a different idea and pulls a gun on the hero. However, the gun seemingly backfires and strikes The Joker in the chest, killing him. Which was exactly his plan; with his dying words, The Joker tells Batman that the only way to defeat him is to become him, and seconds later, Batman has already succumbed to the ticking time bomb lurking inside The Joker’s DNA, doubling over in laughter with a sick, rictus stretched across his face.
Scott Snyder is no stranger to The Joker, having written two of the most iconic 21st century stories featuring the villain with “Death of the Family” and “Endgame.” And like most of the best Joker writers, he realizes that every time Batman comes into contact with The Joker, he’s basically a different guy with different motivations. The Joker of “Death of the Family” saw Batman as the king of Gotham City and himself as the royal jester, while The Joker of “Endgame” just wanted to tear the world down around Batman’s pointy ears. The Joker’s unpredictability is what makes him such a great villain for Batman, whose preparedness is a defining characteristic. But in this issue, Joker takes his unpredictability to a whole new level by turning Batman into a Batman Who Laughs.
However, there is method behind the madness, and if Batman can figure out a cure to stop himself fully embracing the lunacy of Joker’s viral infection, then perhaps he can find a way to save the Bruce Wayne of Earth -22 and stop The Batman Who Laughs once and for all. Batman works best with a problem to overcome and a deadline to do it under; while the cliffhanger for this first issue shows Batman already succumbing to the effects of Joker’s toxin, it took The Batman Who Laughs three days to fully go off the deep end, which should give Bruce Wayne some time find a cure and save both himself and his Dark Multiverse doppelgänger. As for The Joker’s death, it’s unlikely he’s really going to stay dead for long and even if he is, we’ve got two spare running around somewhere in the DC Universe.