I was in the mood for a good old traditional Batman yarn, and you can’t get much more traditional than Batman versus the Joker. BATMAN: THE MAN WHO LAUGHS is a trade paperback reprinting the long story of the same name, plus an unrelated three-part Batman story featuring the original Green Lantern. Both have scripts by Ed Brubaker, one of the most highly-regarded writers in comics today.
“The Man Who Laughs” is an updated retelling of Batman’s first battle against the Joker, but it’s a reasonably faithful one and includes a number of respectful nods to the long careers of the characters. I like this early setting for Batman stories, when everything still seems new, Jim Gordon is still a police detective, not the commissioner, and Batman is still a lone vigilante. Brubaker’s script is excellent, and I like the art by Doug Mahnke, too.
“Made of Wood”, the story featuring the original Green Lantern, is even better. I’ve always been really fond of the Golden Age Green Lantern, whose secret identity is broadcaster Alan Scott. This story features a modern-day serial killer who evidently has ties to an old, unsolved case that involved Green Lantern several decades earlier. At one point, Batman and GL discuss the case while playing golf in their civilian identities as Bruce Wayne and Alan Scott. I love the sense of camaraderie among many of the DC superheroes and the way they know each other’s secret identities. Again, Brubaker’s script is top-notch, and the art by Patrick Zircher likewise. By the way, the title of this story, for those of you who aren’t comics fans, refers to the fact that Green Lantern’s power ring is powerless against anything made of wood, its only weakness. I always thought this was a little goofy, but charming in its way, probably more so than the modern-day GL’s weakness, which is the color yellow.
I had a great time reading this one, so good, in fact, that I may feel a Batman binge coming on . . .