As we move ever closer to the end of The Batman Who Laughs, it’s becoming more and more clear that the seven-issue miniseries is about saying goodbye. Over the last five issues, Scott Snyder, Jock, David Baron and Sal Cipriano have crafted a world in which Bruce is forced to say farewell to himself, the ones he loves and the city he has spent his life protecting. It’s also arguably a space for Scott Snyder to say goodbye to the character that he’s spent much of the last decade shaping and who, in turn, has greatly shaped him and his career.
At the center of The Batman Who Laughs is Bruce Wayne himself, who ironically is far from the man he once was. In the most desperate of moments, he had to kill his past to save Gotham’s future, becoming the thing he most feared in an attempt to save the world from it. In that act, he bid farewell to Alfred, the closest thing he had to a family.
He also had to commit a strange kind of ritual and spiritual suicide over and over as he saw multiple versions of himself murdered by the Batman Who Laughs. Maybe that’s what his ultimate antagonist wanted, for Batman to give up every vestige of himself? Well, in the sixth issue we get an answer to what has been driving the dark reflection of Bruce, and it’s far more twisted and tragic than we could have imagined.
With Bruce bidding farewell to the life he once had and the person he was, The Batman Who Laughs has worked as an appraisal of that life and that personhood. It’s shined a light on his obsession with the Joker, his failures as a father, and, ultimately, as a hero. Here, Snyder and Co. center Bruce’s sacrifice and how once again he’s often more powerful as a symbol than the man in the cowl.
It’s easy to see Batman as a singular, lonesome figure—a man who works alone and needs no one. But, of course, the truth is far more complex. From the Robins to Jim Gordon, Alfred to Selina, Bruce is a man with many human connections that truly drive him. After all, wasn’t it the death of the two people that he loved the most that drove him to become the Bat?
That love is arguably Batman’s biggest power; it fuels him, inspires him and forces him to continually put himself at risk. It’s always been a strange balance, though, as his style of sacrifice is often selfish. But in The Batman Who Laughs, he had to make a choice that was in the most literal sense, to his own detriment. Batman became truly selfless, giving up his own sense of self and identity to protect those he loves. It’s a choice that in issue #6 translates into what Batman does best—inspiring a new generation of heroes who want to live up to the symbol that shines bright in the dark Gotham nights.
Batman as a symbol is a concept that has long been explored, and here we once again get to see him create a legacy of heroics that also plays into a full circle for Snyder and Jock. In their Batman: The Black Mirror graphic novel, they cemented James Gordon Jr. as a sociopathic killer, but he’s been on a redemptive arc alongside Bruce in The Batman Who Laughs. As Batman finds himself at his weakest, at the mercy of the villainous Nth dimension demon and his minions, something impossible happens and not one, but two Batman Beyonds appear. However, as the pair are unmasked, it’s revealed that neither are Terry McGinnis. The heroes behind the futuristic cowls are actually Jim Gordon and James Gordon Jr., a new iteration of a Bat-Family, and one that’s determined to save him no matter the cost. Sadly, they’re too late, as the Batman Who Laughs has a goal too, and it’s finally revealed in the culmination of this issue.
It turns out that—as his name should have maybe hinted—all that the Batman Who Laughs really wants is for Bruce to be happy. And though many of the other Earths’ Bruce Waynes seemed to be the happiest versions of the hero, the murderous Joker hybrid believes that the day Bruce became truly happy was when he let go of his past, his loss, his heroism, and became the Batman Who Laughs.
With only one issue left to go, it’s impossible to know how the day will be saved. But for now, Bruce is in the midst of another transformation, and it’s one that means it might not just be the creative team saying goodbye to him forever.
The Batman Who Laughs #6 by Scott Snyder, Jock and David Baron is now available in print and as a digital download.