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The Batman Who Laughs just crossed over with ... Watchmen

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Well, that’s certainly new

Doctor Manhattan in Doomsday Clock #7, DC Comics (2018). Geoff Johns, Gary Frank/DC Comics

A new Rorschach series from Batman writer Tom King isn’t the only connection between Batman and Watchmen any more. And I’m not talking about Doomsday Clock, the DC Comics/Watchmen crossover. Dark Nights: Death Metal, the even more gonzo sequel to the gonzo Dark Nights: Metal, has found its very own way to bring Doctor Manhattan into the conversation.

And it all starts with the Nightmare Batmen.

[Ed. note: This piece contains spoilers for Dark Nights: Death Metal #2.]

Batman’s narration recaps the most recent DC Universe crises, over images of Lex Luthor and Doctor Manhattan, in Dark Nights: Death Metal #2, DC Comics (2020). Image: Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo/DC Comics

If seven Nightmare Batmen was a crowd in Dark Nights: Metal, Death Metal has expanded the roster of evil Batmans to the point of ridiculousness. The first time around, every Batman got their own intro and even a member of the Justice League as their nemesis. In the sequel series, Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo are treating them as fully disposable, even fodder for jokes.

Take, for example, the Batom, a shrinking Batman who disguises himself as a lizard and is accidentally executed on the same page as he’s introduced.

The Batom, an alternate universe Bruce Wayne who became a shrinking superhero, unzipps his lizard costume and is run over by a monster truck, in Dark Nights: Death Metal #2, DC Comics (2020). Image: Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo/DC Comics

And the monster truck that Wonder Woman, Swamp Thing, and Wally West are riding around in? It’s a Batman, too!

“You may have severed my brain stem, but I am Batmobeast. In a world of genius machines, I rose to dominance,” says a monster truck in Dark Nights: Death Metal #2, DC Comics (2020). Image: Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo/DC Comics

Where does it end! Is the grass Batman? Are the trees Batman? Are there any DC Comics-owned characters who can’t be Batman?

Anyway, this is when Snyder and Capullo introduce, as hinted at in Death Metal #1, a Doctor Manhattan Batman.

An evil Alfred places the brain of the Batman Who Laughs into the body of the Bat-Manhattan Who Laughs, a “Bruce Wayne whose body is more energy construct that material flesh,” in Dark Nights: Death Metal, DC Comics (2020). Image: Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo/DC Comics

Apparently there’s a weird universe out there where Bruce Wayne was transformed into a being of pure energy — that is, he became the Bat-Manhattan. And since Wonder Woman killed the Batman Who Laughs in the last issue, his loyal lieutenants (with surgical help from some evil Alfreds) put his brain in the blue body to resurrect him and presumably give him some portion of the powers of Doctor Manhattan.

Upon waking up, the BWL immediately renders all of his Evil Batman lackeys into their component atoms, death-of-Rorshach-style. But this isn’t even his final form. A few moments later the breakout Batman villain of 2017 goes full cosmic monster and takes a new name as...

The Batman Who Laughs, using the powers of the Bat-Manhattan, transforms himself into a pointy-eared being of pure darkness: The Darkest Knight, in Dark Nights: Death Metal, DC Comics (2020). Image: Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo/DC Comics

The Darkest Knight.

Comic books can get very serious about very silly things, and so if you’re wondering exactly how to take all of this, I’ll offer this quote from Scott Snyder’s script for Dark Nights: Death Metal #2, seen in the issue’s backmatter. When describing a scene in which three evil Alfreds put the Batman Who Laughs’ brain into a Bruce Wayne/Doctor Manhattan body, as a Magic Batman, an Evil Batman Beyond, and a Robot Tyrannosaur Batman look on, he writes “As ridiculous as this all is, the hope is to keep it fun and a bit spooky.”

So how seriously should you take Dark Nights: Death Metal? As seriously as you want.