Since his reveal, the Batman Who Laughs has been the breakout character of DC Comics’ character-packed Dark Nights: Metal event, immediately inspiring fan art and cosplay. Scott Snyder and artist Greg Capullo created an instantly compelling and genuinely creepy villain — a hybrid between Batman and the Joker.
And after using him as an unstoppable force for six months, this week, in the final issue of Dark Nights: Metal, they had to stick the landing: They had to show us how he could be defeated.
It turns out that a Batman who has the moral compass of the Joker can’t be defeated by Batman alone — he’s got to form an unlikely team up to get an edge.
[Warning: This post contains spoilers for Dark Nights: Metal #6.]
There’s a lot going on in Dark Nights: Metal #6. Batman riding a Joker-dragon while wearing armor made from the metal used to create the multiverse — a team of good Batmen from across the multiverse summoned to fight the team of nightmare Batmen from across the dark multiverse — a half-dozen redefinitions of the boundaries of the DC Multiverse that set the stage for Scott Snyder’s upcoming Justice League run and Neil Gaiman’s return to The Sandman.
But there’s also a final showdown between Batman and the Batman Who Laughs. The BWL is Batman — but a Batman who finally gave into his worst impulses to murder the Joker. And in the Joker’s final death trap, that Batman was infected with a neurotoxin that eroded his moral center, altering his brain until he saw the world the way the Joker did.
As the BWL says to Batman in their confrontation:
So where is the advantage for our hero, when he’s fighting an exact equal who knows his mind inside and out, but has none of his moral limitations? Things seem bleak, as the Batman Who Laughs is about to execute Batman with the gun that killed his own parents, when a very unlikely cavalry arrives.
It’s the Joker. Batman has brought him in for a single, temporary moment of shared goals.
The last we see of the Batman Who Laughs is him tussling with the Joker in a collapsing cave, as Batman dashes away to finally save the Earth from sinking into the Dark Multiverse forever. It won’t be the last we’ll see of the Joker — and it seems possible that it’s not the last we’ll see of the Batman Who Laughs either, especially considering how compelling he’s proved to be among fans.
But for certain: Dark Nights: Metal #6 has brought this part of the story to a close. What happens next won’t just be about Batman, but the entire DC Universe.