Sunday, November 22, 2009

Batman: The Man Who Laughs by Ed Brubaker, Dough Mahnke, Patrick Zircher and Aaron Sowd

Batman is still something of an urban legend when the city is troubled by murders perpetrated by a white-skinned, green-haired killer with an insane laugh, who makes it his own personal mission to go around killing Gotham's Lions of Industry, by making them look just like him, and die laughing.

But why is he killing these people and what does he want? Can an insane man truly want anything that the rest of the world can understand? Batman tries to bring him down, but he keeps running into, and up against, Police Comissioner James Gordon. And when Batman's alter-ego Bruce Wayne becomes a target of the Joker, he's going to have to really work hard to protect his true identity from being discovered by Jim Gordon- and everyone else!

But what is the Joker's true target? Can Batman find out and bring the Joker down before he unleashes his diabolical plan on the people he hates the most?

The second story, "Made of Wood" has the retired Jim Gordon discovering a corpse in the park with the words "Made of Wood" carved into his chest, dumped at the base of a statue of the first Green Lantern. Batman takes him for a ride, and says that since the original Green Lantern's weakness was wood, as well as the dumping ground, convince him that this has something to do with the Green Lantern specifically.

Bruce calls Alan Scott, the secret identity of the first Green Lantern, and asks him what he knows about the killings, since Scott was trying to bring down a "Made of Wood" killer during his own heydey in Gotham. The problem is that the killer was never caught, and the Killings just abruptly stopped.

But even as Batman and Green Lantern try to track down today's killer, and see if he's a mere copycat or the same killer from back then, Jim Gordon is also on the case. But when he stumbles onto the killer, can Batman and Green Lantern rescue him in time to keep him from being the latest victim of the "Made of Wood" killer?

I enjoyed both stories in this volume. The one of the Joker is meant to be the Batman's first case against the Joker as his foe, but honestly, I don't remember what the introduction of the Joker was in the original run of the comic. But this one is definitely worthy of being considered a classic. Seeing the cops deal with a real crazy- someone who is so insane, yet smart and able to plan while creating almost pure chaos, is very effective, and leaves you with a creepy feeling. And if you keep in mind that while the readers know who and what the Joker is, neither Batman nor the Police do, at this point.

"Made of Wood" is another creepily effective story. The original Green Lantern is another character I haven't read much of, and I have no idea why he looks so youthful in this story. I'm assuming that his lantern, which runs on magic, has something to do with it. This is another crazy-scary killer, and for a time, we even get to see the world through his own eyes- twisted, distorted and skewed. The best part of the story is how well Batman works and gets along with Green Lantern- seeing the two characters working the same case is an unexpected pleasure, and well worth the cost of the entire graphic novel.

I liked the juxtaposition of the two stories, both dealing with crazy killers, but two different kinds of crazy. Both stories can make a shiver crawl down your spine, even if the one about the Joker is muted because readers already know the character. But the "Made of Wood" killer is unknown, and therefore scarier because unknown means completely unpredictable- and I did prefer "Made of Wood" out of the two stories because of that. But both of them are worth the read, and this is a graphic novel you are going to want to buy- the stories are pure delight to read. Highly recommended.

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