Batman: The Man Who Laughs by Ed Brubaker

Title: Batman.
Story Arc
: The Man Who Laughs.
Writer(s): Ed Brubaker.
Artist(s): Doug Manhke, Sean Phillips, Patch Zircher, Aaron Sowd & Steve Bird.
Colourist(s): David Baron, Dave Stewart & Jason Wright.
Letterer(s): Rob Leigh, Bill Oakley & Todd Klein.
PublisherDC Comics.

: Hardcover – Deluxe Edition.
Release Date: September 29th, 2020.
Pages: 208.
Genre(s): Comics, Science-Fiction.
ISBN13: 9781779503022.
My Overall Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.


Evil can pervade the purest of hearts, but nothing could ever explain the mind of the Joker. Many have tried to understand his reasoning, his raison d’être, or even his existence. In fact, it might be the absence of these very ideas that makes his character an emblematic personification of evil. For Batman, he turned out to become his ultimate life partner as they developed an immortal bond representing the quintessential necessity of good and evil. How did Bruce Wayne even attempt to solve the mystery behind this madman’s mind though? This latest deluxe edition of the classic graphic novel includes the landmark story of Batman: The Man Who Laughs, the never-before-reprinted Elseworlds tale Batman: Gotham Noir, the mystery “Made of Wood” from the issues #784-786 of the Detective Comics comic book series, as well as a special collection of preliminary art by artist Doug Mahnke.

What is Batman: The Man Who Laughs about? Taking place between Batman: Year One and Batman: The Killing Joke, the story introduces the world to the Joker for the very first time. While Bruce Wayne might have only just started to wage his war on crime while wearing his cape in Gotham City’s dark nights, he was never prepared to meet this chalk-faced laughing maniac who juggled his way to the front of Gotham’s scene, terrorizing the world as he accumulates an insane body count. With the help of James Gordon, with whom he has only just begun an eternal friendship, this first encounter for the Dark Knight will be a poisonous trial that will mark the beginning of an unparalleled bond that illustrates the pure staggering contrasts of life, like light and darkness, day and night, good and evil.

Gotham Noir is an Elseworlds story notable for being the very first collaboration between the legendary creative team of Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips, the very creators behind the tour de force comic book series of Criminal, Incognito, Fatale, The Fade Out, and Kill or Be Killed. This story introduces us to a much more cynical James Gordon, no longer a cop, living in a world where Batman is but a folks tale shared by deranged criminals, who now finds himself entangled in a devastating murder where he remains the prime suspect. To prove his innocence, he tackles this case headfirst and unveils a plot bigger than he would’ve ever imagined.

The “Made of Wood” story-arc, written by Ed Brubaker and penciled by Patch Zircher, explores a murder-mystery where Batman teams up with the Green Lantern (Alan Scott) to take down a serial killer that has been active for over half a century.

“Really? And how the hell do you think you’re going to stop me?”

— Ed Brubaker

It’s unsurprising that the legendary writer Ed Brubaker is behind one of the most paramount stories in Batman’s lore, the very mystery that introduces Batman to the Clown Prince of Crime. With his perfect grasp over noir fiction, this origin story impeccably captures the detective mystery that encapsulates the Joker’s sudden introduction to Gotham City. Throughout this adventure, with both Bruce Wayne and James Gordon’s first-person narration to immerse readers into their respective minds, you embark on a journey to try and elucidate the Joker’s modus operandi. Despite the hints he leaves around the city, his terrifying public performances through media outlets, his comical, goofy, yet deadly persona, he somehow still remains a giant question mark in the face of the Dark Knight as he tries to desperately connect the dots. Is he the Red Hood? Is he a deranged psychopath escaped from a psych ward? Is he out there on a mission or cluelessly prancing around in the anarchy he creates? Rest assured, writer Ed Brubaker perfectly delivers this story with deadly charm and charisma.

This wouldn’t have worked so flawlessly if it weren’t for artist Doug Mahnke’s artwork. Without ever purposefully depicting a grim, dark, and sinister Gotham City, he captures the city’s fear and panic strictly through his character designs. Without a doubt, his iteration of the Joker strikes all the perfect chords, depicting him in his purple suit, with his fedora hat on top of his green hair, with his white and wrinkly skin, with his ghastly grin, and his skinny yet combat-savvy figure. The visual style is also reminiscent of an era of comic books bathing in mystery and suspense, scoring points in terms of appeal and direction. There simply couldn’t have been a better origin story for the one villain that will forever torture the Caped Crusader throughout his war on crime.

On top of The Man Who Laughs graphic novel, this volume also includes a never-before-reprinted Elseworlds tale called Batman: Gotham Noir. Alongside his own partner-in-crime artist Sean Phillips, this collaboration beautiful captures their style of narrative and visual storytelling, giving us a stellar noir mystery centered around James Gordon as he weaves his way in and out of complicated situations to ultimately unveil his own internal and personal struggle to overcome his haunting past. This is an excellent addition to this deluxe edition as previous volumes never included this story before.

The “Made of Wood” story-arc was also a riveting and intriguing mystery included in this graphic novel that further explores the Dark Knight’s detective skills alongside his friend James Gordon, while also infusing a tangent narrative with the Green Lantern (Alan Scott), who was once the hero of Gotham City before Batman showed up. It’s nothing too complex or even mind-blowing but made for an excellent tale to be presented alongside the previous two, further showcasing the gruesome mystery-oriented stories that often comes with the Dark Knight.

Batman: The Man Who Laughs is a quintessential story exploring the Joker’s first appearance within Gotham City.




28 thoughts on “Batman: The Man Who Laughs by Ed Brubaker

  1. Ooh, I want this! 😁 I do admire Brubaker’s storytelling skills and his moderate madness – he always knows the limits to believability in stories and only very rarely oversteps his mark, creating iconic plots and moments.
    Fab review, Lashaan – this one goes on my TBR and probably even Christmas wishlist 😁

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Awesome, glad to hear you enjoyed this one. The artwork looks very effective for this type of story. And it’s always nice to get access again to older stories that might be out of print. I’m not sure if I’ve ever read anything written by Brubaker. Looking at the dates he was writing for Marvel, where I’d have been most likely to see him, it appears he was writing after I’d stopped actively collecting. But it sounds like he’s a writer worth checking out.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I do love revisiting classics! I remember reading this one digitally first when I was only exploring comic books countless years ago. I’m glad to finally go through it in this deluxe edition on tops of discovering those two additional stories. I can assure you that Ed Brubaker is a critically-acclaimed writer. He knows how to tell good stories! 😀


    1. It has always been a favourite for me too, one of the first ones I discovered years ago when I wanted to see what the “Modern Age” Batman stories were like. Gotham Noir was a splendid addition to this deluxe edition. Worth checking out if you can get your hands on it in the future, good sir. Thanks for reading and for the kind words! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  3. When I finally start reading the Batman comics I own, I’d like to read this too, which I guess makes sense since the ones I own are Batman Year One and the Killing Joke, lol.
    I really like Brubaker too. I’ve only read Velvet volumes 1 & 2, but they had me so hooked.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hahaha very wise picks too! I would definitely recommend this on top of Year One and The Killing Joke for people who want to discover the great classics of Batman’s comic book legacy! 😀 I still need to read Velvet myself but I still vividly remember your review of it from years ago hahah

      Liked by 1 person

  4. “the story introduces the world to the Joker for the very first time”…ooh, nice, that’s a story I’m definitely interested for, but I have to admit I really like the sound of all the stories included in this book. The Elseworld story really does sounds very cool too!😀 Combined with the artwork, this is another DC book that I’m going to be adding to my collection quite soon (well next to some of the other’s you recommended… long as my shelve space holds up….😂😂)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hahahaha I can’t blame you, my friend. It is time for you to curate that epic must-have DC collection and discover the glorious stories that they have dished out over the past 80 years, including this classic story that inspired The Dark Knight movie by Christopher Nolan! 😉

      P.S. Just because you’re on a roll for great stories, especially stand-alone stories, worth picking up, I want to mention Harleen by Stjepan Šejić which I reviewed during your hiatus. That’s one graphic novel you WANT to hold in your hands! 😉 Among many others… but we gotta be careful with your shelve space too now, don’t we??? 😛

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You just had to mention Stjepan didn’t you? He’s one of my favorite artists and one I enjoyed since Aphrodite IX. I had no idea he went to DC too🤔🤔 Aargh…you are killing me here😂😂😂 Heads off to order some stuff right now…..🤔🤔🤔😂😂😂
        As for Christopher Nolan’s trilogy….I’m planning on rewatching those movies for the Raistlin Rewatches series soon! 😀😀

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Hahaha fantastic then! I’m glad to hear that you already know of his exquisite art. I believe you’ll be stunned by Harleen when you get the chance. 😉 Even the book’s design is PERFECT! 😀

        Hell yes for Nolan’s trilogy rewatch! It’s almost a mandatory yearly thing! 😀 Looking forward to hearing your thoughts on it then.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. The frames look fresh. The story is good? Bingo. Thanks for sharing Lashaan, you are tempting me to create a month dedicated to comic reviews. They have always had a special place in my heart ever since my grandma would take me around to all the different comic book shops and buy me whatever comic I wanted. It was heaven.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s definitely a must-read for any fan of Batman/Joker! You definitely put a smile on my face with your kind words, sir. It always makes me happy to hear how I contributed to make people WANT to read more comics. There’s just too much to enjoy from them to ignore them, if you ask me! I’ve read them sparingly throughout my childhood, focusing my attention much more towards mangas instead, but ever since I dove into comics over five years ago, I know I can’t stop consuming them anymore! 😀


  6. Another great Joker review man! I actually have the original hardcover edition of “The Man Who Laughs” which I bought when it came out in 2006/2007 (I think), I’ve re-read this story a few times but it’s been a while since my last revisit. I have to correct that especially in the Crown Prince of Crime’s 80th year! By the way, do you know the character of the Joker was inspired by the 1928 silent horror film “The Man Who Laughs”? I’ve recently bought the blu-ray of it as I’m a fan of classic horror and silent film and very interested to see it given it’s apparent influence on the creation of the Joker.

    Darn, I may have to pick up this new Deluxe Edition for the larger trim size and the extra material which it also collects…especially that Ed Brubaker/Sean Phillips story! If you like Brubaker’s Batman work, I can’t recommend Gotham Central enough…it’s what theb Gotham tv show should have been (and why I was initially excited for it) – and fingers crossed that HBO Max series will be!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Chris! I’ve only read it digitally before I really started collecting and I don’t know what got into me, but I hadn’t gotten myself a copy until now with this excellent deluxe edition! I definitely do recommend checking it out for the extra Brubaker/Phillips story. It’s a hidden gem.

      I did know about the Joker character’s origin and actually have a copy of Victor Hugo’s novel that I also wanted to read before checking out that very movie hahaha And well… too many things to do in too little time! 😛

      I plan on getting around to the first volume of Gotham Central before 2021 (it was part of my 2020 New Years Resolution hahaha) and I can’t wait for it. I have a good feeling that the HBO spin-off series of The Batman will rely much more on this comic book series than any other show before hahaha

      Liked by 1 person

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