Die Laughing came out in 1998, it is the fourth and last (so far) crossover of Batman and Judge Dredd. As with the others it’s written by John Wagner and Alan Grant with art by Glenn Fabry, Jim Murray, and Jason Brashill. The art in this thing is awesome too, it’s the best since the first book, but not quite up to that amazingness, oddly though the second book in this (it came out as two books) seems to have slightly different, not quite as good art for some reason, but it’s close. Basically what happens is the Joker gets a hold of the belt from the first crossover that allows him to make a dimensional jump to Mega-City One, something goes wrong though and not all of him is transported. His body stays in Gotham City in a coma like state. While in Mega-City One the Joker quickly takes over a gang and frees the now captured Dark Judges. His plan is to get immortality for freeing them, and he does. Judge Death makes Joker a Dark Judge and as you can imagine chaos insures. Judge Anderson meanwhile jumps to Gotham to warn Batman, and Batman goes to Mega-City One to team up with Dredd and stop the Judges again. The book overall is really fun, it’s the best Batman/Judge Dredd crossover since the first one, and almost as good as that one. I’d highly recommend this one to any Batman or Judge Dredd fans.
This is one of the stranger Batman Elseworlds stories I’ve read, well stranger while still keeping it good that is. The Doom That Came to Gotham is a three book story that takes place in the 1920′s, most of your favorite Batman world people are in there, yet slightly different, in pretty clever ways too. Bruce Wayne seems a bit crazier than normal, even has a gun, which is very un-Batman. But all of that isn’t what really brands this story, what puts its mark firmly here is the heavy H.P. Lovecraft influence on everything. You’ve got Lovecraft type monsters and demons around every corner, it’s pretty damn crazy, and makes things hella entertaining. To go along with this is some wonderful art that not only captures the era nicely it also illustrates the Lovecraft monsters in a way that makes them nightmarishly real. If you’re into demons and very old horror tales then The Doom That Came to Gotham is a Batman story for you.
Published in 1994 and written by Chuck Dixon this is the second crossover with The Punisher and Batman, though the first involving Bruce Wayne. This takes place after the first crossover; they even reference the first involving Azrael a few times, though if you haven’t read it you’re not missing anything. It isn’t connected in anyway and that crossover wasn’t very good anyway. In Deadly Knights the Punisher heads back to Gotham to find Jigsaw. Jigsaw has his sights set on taking over some of the mob families in Gotham with the help of the Joker. This book does kind of setup the similarities between Batman and Punisher, there’s a ton of internal dialog for both characters however in the end Batman pretty much outclasses the Punisher in every way. Robin and Microchip are also in this one, though not for very long, they basically hack a computer and that’s it. The book is 52 pages and a good chunk of that is the shootout, it’s the longest one I can remember reading in a while, though I guess with the Punisher it makes sense. This is a decent read, much better than the first crossover but still overall it’s just eh. Kind of disappointing but still not bad. Unless you’re a super Punisher or Batman you probably don’t need to read it.
Unless you’re completely new to comics and/or Batman there’s a very good chance you’ve heard of The Killing Joke. It’s maybe the most infamous Batman and Joker story there is, and it’s only one issue. Alan Moore and Brian Bolland came together for this incredible, completely universe changing one shot in 1988 and the story and art still hold up today as one of the best ever. Before I get to the actual story I need to put some focus on Brian Bolland. The art in this book is incredible; it has some of my favorite Joker images of all time. Chances are if you haven’t read this book before, you’ve still seen some of the art from it; it’s really just some next level greatness stuff. Now as for the story it’s no secret that Alan Moore is a bit of a sicko nut job and I think that really helps when writing for the Joker. In this book the Joker escapes, this is only discovered when Batman comes to visit and try to talk some sense into him because he realizes their relationship will most likely end with one of them dead. Now the Joker is on the loose and no one knows where he is. That doesn’t stay that way for long, soon the Joker arrives at Commissioner Gordon’s house, his daughter Barbara is there (at the time she was also Batgirl). There’s a knock on the door, Barbara assumes it’s a friend of hers and opens it…the Joker simply shoots her in the spine. Ending the career of Batgirl. Jim Gordon is beaten up and kidnapped. Now Batman needs to find the Joker with rising urgency. Finally the two meet, the Joker reveals all this has just been a plot to prove a point that anyone can go insane if they have a bad day, this theory he’s trying to prove by driving Jim Gordon mad. A lot of this is intertwined with the origin story of the Joker, a thing that is worth owning this book for alone because it’s great all on its own. As you expect Batman has saved the day at the end, though not before a lot of permanent damage was done to the DC universe. If you’re a fan of Batman there’s basically no way you shouldn’t have read this already, if you’re just getting into comics or Batman this should be very high on your must read list. It shows the complete insanity of the Joker, along with where he started and it had ramifications in comic books for many years to come. One of the best single issues of a comic ever written.
Cacophony is a three part Batman title written by Kevin Smith, it’s got art by Walt Flanagan, and it’s pretty great. It came out in 2008-2009 so this was before you had to worry about the whole DC reboot thing. Say what you will about Kevin Smith as a movie man, like him or hate him (personally I like him) but there’s no denying that he’s great when it comes to comics. What we’ve got for this one is a bit of a big story with the joker and a new villain. Deadshot breaks into Arkham in an attempt to kill the Joker, he’s stopped by some other masked man and the Joker escapes. The Joker finds out that his Joker venom has been turned into a drug for club kids so he’s out for revenge on Maxie Zeus, the man behind that. As we go on Batman of course chases the Joker in an attempt to stop him and along the way he finds out that this mystery man is actually hunting him, he’s somewhat of a hero killer. Overall this is really good but it’s not without its faults. The faults aren’t many, first (and smallest) is this doesn’t really seem like a stand-alone story, this seems like something that should have just been written into Batman or Detective Comics but I guess that doesn’t really matter. The biggest fault is I think two issues was way too short for this, the second issue seems a little rushed, causing the last issue to kind of run out of steam, I think this would have worked much better if it had been stretched over five issues. However those complaints aside it’s a great story that reinforces how insane the Joker is while introducing a new villain into the mix and leaving a nice open end. Though really the best thing about this I think is the artwork. Walt Flanagan captures what I see in my mind when I think of most of these characters. The Joker is perfect, Gordon is great, Batman has (almost) my favorite costume design (it’d have been perfect if we got the yellow chest oval). Everything is just fucking perfect from a visual standpoint. The art is serious and gritty without being dark and gothic, I wish more Batman comics looked like this. If you’re a fan of Batman this story will sit nicely with you, it’s a great addition to the Batman world and if you’re one of those rare people just now looking to get into Batman this is a story that you can go into and enjoy without needing to know tons of Bat-back story. Highly recommended.