In 2017, in September’s Dark Days: The Casting #1, a mysterious character was introduced to the official DC Universe. He was a blend of Batman and the Joker, looking as gruesome as that combination sounds.
Officially created by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo, probably the best Batman team of authors of the modern era, the character became a notorious newcomer that quickly became an exceptionally popular and critically acclaimed Batman villain. He is – the Batman Who Laughs!
The Right Way to Read The Batman Who Laughs Comics
The reading order for The Batman Who Laughs includes a series of works in which the character has appeared, both as a major and as a minor character. The reading order can be divided into two major sections – the DC Rebirth titles and the DC Universe titles – based on the imprint for each of the stories.
In this section, we are going to go through the complete reading order with all the titles listed in their proper reading order. In the next section, we are going to give you more details on the stories themselves.
Here’s the reading order for the DC Rebirth titles:
|Dark Days: The Casting #1a|
|Dark Nights: Metal #1|
|Dark Nights: Metal #2|
|Teen Titans #12|
|Batman: The Red Death #1b|
|Batman: The Murder Machine #1b|
|Batman: The Dawnbreaker #1b|
|Batman: The Drowned #1b|
|Green Arrow #32|
|Batman: The Merciless #1b|
|Dark Nights: Metal #3|
|Batman: The Devastator #1b|
|The Batman Who Laughs #1|
|The Flash #33|
|Justice League #32|
|Justice League #33|
|Dark Nights: Metal #4|
|Dark Nights: Metal #5|
|Dark Knights Rising: The Wild Hunt #1|
|Dark Nights: Metal #6|
There are some things you have to know to properly interpret this reading order. First, the Teen Titans issues are from the Vol. 6 series, the Green Arrow issues are from the Vol. 6 series, The Flash issues are from the Vol. 4 series, and the Justice League issues are from the Vol. 3 series.
In the title marked with a, The Batman Who Laughs only makes a very brief cameo appearance and is not even named. However, since it is technically his first-ever comic book appearance, we have decided to include it as an “Extra” title in this reading order.
Each of the issues marked with b only features a very brief appearance from the Batman Who Laughs. In addition, these appearances are explained in a general way through the main event and are not plot-related. However, those who want to have a complete grasp of the series might want to know these issues as well.
This concludes the chronological of the DC Rebirth titles. Now, let us see the reading order for the DC Universe titles:
|The Immortal Men #1c|
|The Immortal Men #3c|
|Justice League #7d|
|Justice League #8|
|The Batman Who Laughs #1|
|The Batman Who Laughs #2|
|The Batman Who Laughs #3|
|The Batman Who Laughs: The Grim Knight #1e|
|The Batman Who Laughs #4|
|The Batman Who Laughs #5|
|The Batman Who Laughs #6|
|The Batman Who Laughs #7|
|Supergirl Annual #2f|
|The Infected: Scarab #1f|
|The Infected: Deathbringer #1f|
|Harley Quinn’s Villain of the Year #1g|
|Year of the Villain: Hell Arisen #1|
|Year of the Villain: Hell Arisen #2|
|Year of the Villain: Hell Arisen #3|
|Year of the Villain: Hell Arisen #4|
As with the former group, there are some things we need to explain first. As for the titles, the Justice League issues are from the Vol. 4 series, The Batman Who Laughs issues are from the Vol. 2 series, the Supergirl issues are from the Vol. 7 series, and the Hawkman issues are from the Vol. 5 series.
In the titles marked with c, The Batman Who Laughs makes just a few minor appearances here. These appearances do not advance his story much at all and can be completely skipped, unless you really want to read the whole thing.
In the issue marked with d, The Batman Who Laughs makes only a quick cameo to set up the next issue. Also, in addition to that, this quick cameo is mostly revised in the next issue anyway so you can skip this one as well if you want to.
The issue marked with e is mostly about the Grim Knight, and not the Batman Who Laughs. However, it helps expand upon the overall story from The Batman Who Laughs miniseries, which is why we think it could be interesting for some readers. It doesn’t add much to the story, though.
All of the issues marked with f feature only brief appearances from the Batman Who Laughs but they do help explain his connections to “Infected”. Finally, the issue marked with g is unclear in its connections to the main DC continuity but it does add to the plot and is an important piece of reading.
The story reveals how the Batman Who Laughs did in voting for “Villain of the Year”.
This concludes our general overview of the reading order of titles that feature The Batman Who Laughs. This is how you should read these titles and how you should approach the whole story. What we are going to do next is tell the story of The Batman Who Laughs through his appearances in the major storylines.
The Batman Who Laughs Chronology
The Batman Who Laughs the Earth-22 version of Batman from the Dark Multiverse. In this reality, the Earth-22 Joker learns that Batman is in fact Bruce Wayne and kills most of Batman’s other villains along with Commissioner Gordon. He then exposed thousands of citizens of Gotham City to the chemicals that transformed him and then killed several parents in front of their children in an attempt to turn them into a combination of himself and Batman.
When Batman grapples with the Joker it results in his death as Batman is exposed to a purified form of the chemicals which gradually transform him into a completely new fusion of Batman and the Joker; this iteration has the intelligence and physical strength of Bruce Wayne, the psychopathy of the Joker, and a distorted, sadistic sense of humor.
The process turns out to be irreversible when Batman finds out what is happening to him. The Batman Who Laughs takes over Earth-22, kills most of his allies and turns his son Damian Wayne into a mini-Joker and recruits the children infected with the Joker toxin as his “Rabid Robins”.
Dark Nights: Metal
Upon arriving on Prime-Earth (Earth 0), the Batman Who Laughs takes control of Gotham and oversees events on Challenger Mountain. He distributes Joker cards to Batman’s enemies and gives them the opportunity to change reality and take over parts of the city.
He is accompanied by Dark Damian and three Rabid Robins who intended to destroy all reality by connecting the Over-Monitor to Anti-Monitor’s astral brain. The Batman Who Laughs is defeated when the Prime Universe Batman is assisted by the Joker, who finds out that the other Batman is unaware of this scenario as he is still a version of Batman.
The Batman Who Laughs
Although believed to be dead, The Batman Who Laughs is in the care of Lex Luthor, who offers him a place in the Legion of Doom. At one point during the formation of the Legion of Doom, Joker met Lex Luthor and advised him not to include the Batman Who Laughs in the group. The Batman Who Laughs talks to Lex Luthor about the worlds beyond the Source Wall, while Joker listens.
The Batman Who Laughs finally resumes its attack on Batman and uses a number of alternate versions of Bruce Wayne to mock his counterpart as he prepares for a mass attack on Batman. As an added bonus, the Batman Who Laughs is allied with the Grim Knight, a version of Batman who uses guns and turns his Gotham into a military dictatorship.
Having no other way to stop his other self, Batman is forced to “accept” a twisted “transfusion” from the Joker that begins to turn him into a variant of the Batman Who Laughs, attempting to fight it down while relying on the psychosis of the technically-treated James Gordon Jr. to try to predict his foe.
When the Batman Who Laughs summons a version of Bruce Wayne who hasn’t even lost his parents, Batman is able to defeat his other self by luring him into a showdown in Wayne Cemetery, with Alfred subsequently using a transfusion from the other Bruce to restore Batman to normal before he is sent home and the Batman Who Laughs is locked up in the Hall of Justice dungeon.
A year later, The Batman Who Laughs is still locked in the Hall of Justice, but with the help of his new Secret Six, he begins to put his plan into action. It begins with Commissioner Gordon leading Batman and Superman into the cave under Crime Alley where King Shazam will infect Superman. Superman later appears to be “infected” (with Batman tuned in) on the way to the armory.
The Batman Who Laughs tells Superman that he plans to infect the world with his serum. Then he makes a flippant remark to Clark that his plan will be like the destruction of Krypton and Lois and Jon won’t survive. Superman attacks The Batman Who Laughs and appears to break his cover. The whole thing was debunked as an illusion by Batman, however, with The Batman Who Laughs praising him, saying he had a similar system on his own world.
The next step in Batman Who Laughs’s plan was for Scarab (the infected Blue Beetle) to hack into the Fortress of Solitude and Batcave computers. As this happens, he begins to mock Clark, saying that they were all evil inside and that he will soon know, but as Superman is about to be infected Supergirl catches the tainted Batarang and is unwittingly infected (as the batarang was designed to infect Kryptonians).
As the Legion of Doom signal shines in the sky, The Batman Who Laughs muses to himself that he is on a collision course with Lex Luthor, but isn’t too concerned because as he puts it, “Batman always wins.”
Dark Nights: Death Metal
During the plot of “Dark Nights: Death Metal”, The Batman Who Laughs becomes Perpetua’s lieutenant. Supported by an army of evil Batmen from the Dark Multiverse called the Dark Knights (made up of Baby Batman, Batmansaurus Rex, Batmobeast, Castle Bat, and Robin King), they assert her reign.
When Wonder Woman decides to do the first Anti-Crisis after talking to Wally West, she is confronted by the Batman Who Laughs, whom she crushes with an invisible Chainsaw of Truth. Although dead, the Dark Knights set out to start the real Batman Who Laughs plot: the preparation of the body of the last Bruce Wayne.
This body happens to be Batmanhattan, a version of Bruce Wayne who copied the formula created by Doctor Manhattan. In Castle Bat, the Dark Knights manage to transfer the mind of the Batman Who Laughs to Batmanhattan, an action that could have repercussions if Perpetua finds out about it.
After warning the Batman Who Laughs of beings like you her that might sense her actions (fearing they will destroy her), he continues to eliminate the remaining Dark Knights except for Robin King. The Batman Who Laughs then switches to a new form called “Darkest Knight”, claiming that he knows Diana is planning to remake the Multiverse, but he wants to do “52 Planets of Nightmares”.
The Darkest Knight and the Robin King burst into Valhalla Cemetery. Knowing that they are seeking the power of Wally, Jay Garrick, Barry Allen, and Wally West hunt down the Darkest Knight. Barry, Wally, and Jay team up with Kid Flash and the rest of the Flash family to overtake the Darkest Knight and his army of Dark Multiverse Flashes to reach the Mobius chair.
After some persuasive work from Wonder Woman, who returns to “Infinite Crisis”, Superboy-Prime crushes the worlds in crisis, saves Batman and Superman, and directs all of his energy to Wally. However, this does not work. Before they had a chance, the Darkest Knight manipulated the Mobius chair so that it always lights up. And now he has everything he needs to recreate the Multiverse in his own image called the Last 52.
With his new divine powers, the Darkest Knight orders Castle Bat (who transforms into a colossal Batman) to attack the heroes. The heroes don’t stand a chance against the giant, whose structure is made of every material in Kane County. After Lex gives Wonder Woman a diary written by Carter Hall, the Darkest Knight (who couldn’t break free from Perpetua) sends his evil Earths to kill the united army of heroes and villains.
As Batman uses the Black Lantern Ring to recreate the body of the Batman Who Laughs to fight for him, the battle rages between Perpetua and the Darkest Knight when the Heavenly Being punishes the former Dark Knight by claiming that she is the only one to protect the multiverse from the discovery of her kind.
The Darkest Knight captures Perpetua in the fragments of the Source Wall that originally held her back and kills her. He realigns Prime Earth so that the energy of Crisis continues to strengthen him and sends his “Favorite Soldiers” to attack the Heroes of Earth in their final moments while reviving the Devastator, the Drowned, and Red Death.
As the heroes stand up as one universe against the Darkest Knight’s horde, they remember their entire history when a gold-clad Wonder Woman emerges from the ground to face off against the Darkest Knight. A final battle breaks out between the gold-clad Wonder Woman and the Darkest Knight; a struggle that crosses time and space.
She is eventually brought to the Birth of Creation, where the Darkest Knight reveals that the people of Perpetua (the “Hands”) will simply wipe out the universe and, without restarting, half of Diana’s friends will be dead. Diana has two options: keep fighting and lose, or go to the Darkest Knight and use their combined powers to kill the Hands.
Diana refuses to give up and retaliates against the Darkest Knight, taking him through time and sending him into the dying embers of the earth’s sun.
When Diana sees the hands coming in and her friends fight as Batman resurrects his Bat-family and enemies against Robin King, where B-Rex and Batmage are resurrected and Lex sacrifices himself to kill Superman from the villainous Last Sun, Diana imagines the young universe and alive again, and pushes the Darkest Knight into the sun and kills him once and for all.