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The Batman Who Laughs just did its version of The Killing Joke

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Tell me if you’ve heard this one before...

Batman, in a Batman Who Laughs mask, From the cover of The Batman Who Laughs #4, DC Comics (2019). Jock/DC Comics

The previous installment in The Batman Who Laughs told the origin of the Grim Knight, a sort of Punisher/Batman hybrid, through a retreading of Batman: Year One, the most influential version of Batman’s origin.

This week’s The Batman Who Laughs #4 has a take on another of history’s most significant Batman stories, in a scene that could be considered Dark Knight scribe Scott Snyder’s take on the most pivotal moment in The Killing Joke.

[Ed. note: This post will contain spoilers for The Batman Who Laughs.]

Batman and a man disguised as the Joker in The Killing Joke, DC Comics (1988).
From The Killing Joke.
Alan Moore, Brian Bolland/DC Comics

While it’s often overshadowed by Barbara Gordon’s trauma, Alan Moore and Brian Bolland’s The Killing Joke is really centered around Batman, the Joker, and their strange relationship. The first and final scenes of the story are concerned with the same questions: Will Batman and the Joker be at war forever, or will one of them eventually kill the other? Is there any way to stop their rivalry before then?

In The Batman Who Laughs #4, Snyder and Jock give their own approach to this question.

Things aren’t going so well for Batman right now in The Batman Who Laughs miniseries. The Batman Who Laughs is murdering alternate-universe Bruce Waynes, Commissioner Gordon has been kidnapped, and Batman himself has been infected with a toxin that is eroding his moral center.

With every minute that passes, Batman becomes more and more like the Batman Who Laughs — his dialogue balloons are even breaking into the BWL’s jagged red lettering. But there’s no rest for the Bat-weary, and as he searches for the Batman Who Laughs, it’s the Joker who finds him.

From The Batman Who Laughs #4, DC Comics (2019).
“Why are you here?!”
Scott Snyder, Jock/DC Comics

“You and I,” the Joker explains, “we’ll always be at war. You think we matter, I think life is a bad @$#%!$& joke. I believe that one day I’ll win. That I’ll watch you scream at my feet as this city dies, and on that day I will laugh at you. But just once, and never again, here and now ... I ... I want you to know ...”

Batman and the Joker in The Batman Who Laughs #4, DC Comics (2019).
“So you’re here to say good-bye?” “No, Bats. I’m here to say good luck.”
Scott Snyder, Jock/DC Comics

What’s scarier than your nemesis wanting to kill you? Your nemesis preferring to make your life hell at his every opportunity for as long as he possibly can. Snyder and Jock call back to The Killing Joke — even to the point of having (a neurotoxin-addled) Batman and the Joker share a laugh — with their own spin on it. Batman and the Joker will be at war until one of them dies, because that’s precisely how the Joker really wants it.

As we’ve seen in Snyder’s Justice League, the Joker hates the Batman Who Laughs. The Joker’s disgust for the BWL is even part of how he was defeated in Dark Nights Metal. But The Batman Who Laughs #4 shows that this isn’t your usual supervillain rivalry about how only he gets to kill Batman. The Joker enjoys the “game” of it all — and he knows that the Batman Who Laughs is someone who smashes the board.

Now somebody get Mark Hamill to read the Joker’s speech in this scene.