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Bane of Kings continues his reviewing of comic books/graphic novels with The Man Who Laughs by Ed Brubaker, a collection of two stories set in the Batman universe, published of course by DC comics, illustrated by Doug Mahnke and Patrick Zircher.
“The Man Who Laughs is really a comic of two halves, and both separate stories manage to be entertaining, but whilst the first story that knocks it out of the park, the second suffers.“ ~The Founding Fields
This is a Batman comic that I was keen to get into, as outside of the video game Arkham City and Christopher Nolan’s amazing Dark Knight, I haven’t really encountered the Joker at all. I know he is arguably the most famous comic book villain ever, and there have been several encounters between him and Batman which I haven’t read, seen or heard about. And it was about time, I thought – to see what the Joker would be portrayed like in the Comics, and where a better place to start than The Man Who Laughs, a graphic novel that is chronologically, the next Batman comic to buy after Frank Miller’s fantastic Year One.
And, my verdict? Well, if you want to find out, you’ll have to stick around after this blurb:
Witness Batman’s historic first encounters with his deadliest foe, The Joker, in this hardcover volume featuring two tales written by Ed Brubaker (GOTHAM CENTRAL, Captain America), winner of 2007 Eisner Award for Best Writer.
A mysterious homicidal maniac is murdering prominent citizens of Gotham City, each time leaving a ghastly grin on the victims’ lifeless faces. Batman soon tracks down the killer: The Joker!
This volume gives readers new insight into the early encounters between Batman and The Joker that led the Clown Prince of Crime down the path to insanity. Guest-starring original Green Lantern Alan Scott.
The Man Who Laughs
The first part of this graphic novel explores Batman’s first encounter with the Joker, and thrusts Batman into a race against time against his ultimate nemesis. Like Year One, The Man Who Laughs has some superb artwork, and the artists have really captured the Joker on the page. Although this doesn’t explore his origins much, and it may be not as good as Year One, but it is still an enjoyable read and a must have for any Batman fan, showing Batman in the early stages of his career as a masked vigilante.
Although Catwoman doesn’t feature in this like she did in Year One, The Man Who Laugh‘s main focus is on the Batman, Joker and to a certain extent, Lieutenant Gordon. These are the main characters in this comic book, and The Man Who Laughs pushes both Batman and Gordon to their limits as they’re tested against the greatest Comic Book villain of all time.
The pace is fast, with no dull moment, and The Man Who Laughs is action packed and really enjoyable, with some spectacular scenes and a well crafted plot make this one not one to miss out on. However, once I finished the first half of The Man Who Laughs, I was left wondering, “Is this it?” It’s a short story for sure, and one that could have been made a bit longer, maybe at the cost of the second tale, which featured a much older Batman and the original Green Lantern, which I really didn’t get why it appeared in The Man Who Laughs at all – I mean, why have two seperated, unrelated stories in a graphic novel that’s clearly about the Joker?
Much like Year One, I loved the way that Gotham City was presented in this comic, with a noir hint that makes it feel a dark and mysterious place to live in. The confrontation between the Joker and Batman was a great peice of work, and although this Joker so far cannot match the Joker that Heath Ledger plays in The Dark Knight, he’s certianly an entertaining one and an antoganist that I want to read more about.
Verdict for The Man Who Laughs: 4/5
Made of Wood
The second half of The Man Who Laughs is entitled Made of Wood, in my opinion, not as good as the first. After a great, if a little short, story in the opening half, we’re now thrust into the later days in Batman’s career with seemingly no justificiation as to why these two stories are placed together. We get an apperance of Alan Scott’s Green Lantern, a DC character that I have absolutley no knowledge about whatseover, apart from his weakness, which was partly why I didn’t enjoy it as much as I would have done if I knew more about the character.
Made of Wood does have its strengths, though. The character interaction between the Green Lantern and Batman is great, and I loved how Gordon, now retired from his duties as Comissioner, is portrayed in this story. Although the story may be a typical murder mystery, it’s still entertaining, an even pace and some pretty awesome scenes, although sadly it won’t live up to the standard set by The Man Who Laughs.
Made of Wood was longer than The Man Who Laughs though, although I really wish it was the other way around. I don’t get why this was included in the same comic that was clearly about the Joker, as the main antonagist of the previous comic doesn’t even appear, or is even mentioned, in Made of Wood.
However, that said though, the artwork was once more well created and the storyline was enjoyable enough, if not as good as The Man Who Laughs‘ plot. This revolves around the Green Lantern and Batman joining forces to solve a 50 year old case, which again, doesn’t have a connection to the first comic, and after the tension created in The Man Who Laughs where you feel that Batman is being pushed to his limits, you feel as though you know Batman will make it out on top in Made of Wood, which is another reason why this comic was a let down for me. Too predictable for my liking, I’m afraid.
Verdict for Made of Wood: 2.5/5
Overall, we have a real mix of the good and the bad here with this collection, but this is certainly not one to overlook just because Made of Wood may not be that good, for The Man Who Laughs is an awesome follow up to Year One.
Overall Verdict: 3.5/5