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The history of The Batman Who Laughs from DC Comics.
While little is detailed about the life of the Batman of Earth -22 before becoming The Batman Who Laughs, it is likely that it followed much the same path as his original counterpart, but his world was always destined to die as part of the Dark Multiverse. One day, Batman was drugged and captured by the Joker, who went on to destroy Gotham City. The Clown Prince of Crime killed Batman's entire rogue's gallery, murdered Jim Gordon by dissolving him with acid, set the city alight by blowing up various buildings, and had his goons line up families so he could kill the parents and infected their children with Joker toxin, all in front of Batman. Having had enough and sure that the Joker had earned to die, the Caped Crusader eventually managed to break free of his bonds in a murderous rage and brutally beat the Joker before snapping his neck, killing him. Upon the Joker's death, a nano-toxin began to exit from the villain's mouth, which Batman accidentally breathed in.
Two days later, Batman explained to Superman that the reason Joker went so far was that he was dying from the chemicals that transformed him many years ago. However, although Joker succeeded in making him break his "one rule", Batman refused to let this turn him into a monster like the clown wanted. With the GCPD and Arkham Asylum in ruins, Superman had the "Jokerized" children quarantined at S.T.A.R. Labs while Batman returned to the Batcave to begin running some tests. Superman mentions how one of the children nearly tore a doctor's throat out, and then Batman laughs, surprising both of them.
Three days later, the whole Bat Family besides Robin were in the Batcave going through some very vigorous training. Nightwing knew that something was troubling Batman and the Dark Knight revealed that he was exposed to a new strain of nanotoxin that had been inside the Joker's heart and was released when Joker was killed. The toxin slowly rewrote Bruce's mind to become more like the Joker's and create the perfect fusion of the two: a Batman with Bruce Wayne's orderly mind and the Joker's madness, which led the Bat Family to deduce they were training to fight Batman. However, Batman claimed that the real reason why he brought them to the cave was that they would be the first to notice the symptoms and warn the other heroes, which is something he cannot allow to happen. Bruce then reveals a pair of machine guns before shooting the Bat Family dead.
One week later, Batman had killed the entire Justice League aboard the Watchtower with confiscated weaponry of the League's enemies stolen from the Watchtower's vault except for Superman and his family. Batman told the Man of Steel that he intended to use all the weapons they have confiscated over the years against the world just because he wants to since he no longer feels he has to hold himself back anymore. Superman responded that the world would rise up to stop him, but this claim just added to Batman's amusement. The Bat then revealed his new family of Jokerized Robins, among which was his son Damian Wayne, before exposing Superman to a strain of Black Kryptonite, claiming to have done the same thing to Supergirl previously, causing him and his son Jon to kill Lois Lane in a berserk state before dying themselves as part of the side effects.
Eventually, the world fell to Batman after he brought down all manner of opposing forces, ranging from armies to gods. Bruce believed he could not sink any lower until he met Barbatos, who showed him the nature of the Dark Multiverse and the existence of the central Multiverse above it. Batman was then tasked by Barbatos to locate his counterparts on other Earths to form a group of Dark Knights, which he will lead as The Batman Who Laughs, and aid in the deity's conquest of the central Multiverse.
Dark Nights: Metal
The Batman Who Laughs appears when Barbatos sends him to bring the Red Death of Earth -52 as a member of the Dark Knights, informing him that he could make a home for himself including the other former superheroes of the Dark Multiverse into the multiverse. After they defeat Cyborg in the Watchtower, The Batman Who Laughs elaborated the reason they were summoned into and it was due to a great ringing and that they were needed there to help save the world.
After Barbatos and the Dark Knights arrive on Prime Earth thanks to the Court of Owls, The Batman Who Laughs takes control of Gotham and rules over it from Challengers Mountain. In order to cause chaos, The Batman Who Laughs gave unique cards made of Cosmic Metallurgy to several enemies of Batman. They were The Riddler, Poison Ivy, Mad Hatter, Bane, Mister Freeze, Two-Face, Penguin, Scarecrow and Firefly. The cards the supervillains received allowed them to manipulate reality itself. Due to this advantage, they take over and ruled over different sections of Gotham.
The Batman Who Laughs later confronts Superman, who alongside Wonder Woman escaped their imprisonment on the giant tower in Metropolis, and explains that although he is Bruce Wayne, he decided it was better to let Arkham's inmates rule the city. Superman tries to get him to see reason but to no avail when The Batman Who Laughs tells him that his version of Superman said the same thing before he murdered him and his family. While The Devastator fought Superman, The Batman Who Laughs explained how each world in the Dark Multiverse is formed through the fears and hopes in the minds of beings from the Multiverse and uses Destroyer's history as an example. He also revealed that each member of the Dark Knights had killed their version of Superman (which could indicate Bruce's fears or his hidden desire). Superman tries to fight them but is unable to due to the Dark Knights consisting of dark matter, making his punches ineffective. However, the Flash is able to save Superman before The Destroyer can kill him and they escape the Dark Knights by going through a portal.
The Batman Who Laughs along with the rest of the Dark Knights attacked the Oblivion Bar and killed Nightmaster. While the Oblivion Bar is burning, The Batman Who Laughs gets The Dawnbreaker to play a song on the jukebox and works despite it's on fire. As they are listening to the song, Superman breaks the barrier between the Phantom Zone and the Dark Multiverse, confident Kendra was wrong about it being a trap. When he takes stock of his surroundings, he sees a dark tower shaped like an S, in which Superman realizes at that point it was a trap.
Then, three decrepit Supermen subdue him, and he hears someone ask him why he came which is then revealed to be Batman, who is almost completely drained of life. Superman explains that he got his message, but Batman reveals that the message he picked up was Barbatos deceiving him all along. The real message from him was actually hidden in the song from his last vision. The notes from the song "the Super Sons" played were ordered in the reverse of his emergency code as a warning not to come for him. As The Batman Who Laughs toasts over Superman's defeat, it is revealed that the final component needed to complete Barbatos' plan was the energy stored in Superman's cells. As Batman becomes engulfed in dark energy, he states that Barbatos was right about everything leading back to him in the first place and that everything will now be submerged in total darkness.
Eventually, the Dark Knights successfully capture all members of the Justice League and took them to Challenger's Mountain in Gotham City, where Barbatos resides. The Batman Who Laughs mocks the league by comparing them to the same superstitious and cowardly criminals he once fought. However, Cyborg gains a multiversal upgrade from the Mother Box built within him and uses it to free the leaguers (and other heroes) before transporting them all to Hypertime. Barbatos expresses his displeasure for this turn of events and berates The Batman Who Laughs, telling him that despite his team's preparations for every scenario, Cyborg's new upgrade brings an unknown element into play. But The Batman Who Laughs is not worried since as long as they have teams like the Suicide Squad and Teen Titans at their mercy, the league would return.
Sure enough, after coming up with a plan of their own, the Justice League re-emerged and split up in an attempt to find Nth Metal, which is deadly to those from the Dark Multiverse. Unfortunately, the Dark Knights had expected this and used the heroes to locate the metal before ambushing each of them. The Batman Who Laughs attacks Wonder Woman at the Rock of Eternity after she found Hawkman's mace (which is made of Nth Metal) and tells her it was pointless to keep fighting, as the universe was now deep enough in the dark for Barbatos’ nightmarish armies to invade their world. Although he is sure that Wonder Woman will continue to fight nevertheless, saying that she'll probably die in doing so. Undeterred by the villain's words, Wonder Woman and Kendra pushed through Barbatos' forces and helped recover a metal from the Forge of Worlds even more powerful than Nth Metal: Element X, a metal made from possibility. Barbatos saw that the tides of battle had suddenly turned against him and contacted The Batman Who Laughs to commence their backup plan.
Within his own Batcave, the Batman Who Laughs has finally removed the bandages on the mystery man's face, revealing him to be the Over-Monitor. The Batman Who Laughs explained his plan: use a machine to combine positive matter (the Over-Monitor) with antimatter (the Anti-Monitor's astral brain) and dark matter (the Batman Who Laughs), resulting in nothing but darkness. However, Batman showed up and defeated his Rabid Robins, leaving the two of them alone.
At first, Batman gets the upper hand, until Laughs pulled out a gun and shot him in the gut. He revealed that it was the very same gun that killed Thomas and Martha Wayne and that he kept it as a memento to remind him that moral codes always hold you back and get yourself and others killed. Batman told him to pull the trigger, and Laughs complies only to get shot in the back by a "BANG!" flag gun. That's when Batman revealed he wasn't talking to him. He was talking to the Joker, who calls Laughs "the Batman Who Talks". At first, the Batman Who Laughs thought the Joker was here to kill two Batmen with one stone, until the Joker reveals he and Batman are here to team up to fight against him (on the grounds that they never speak of this to anyone).
The Batman Who Laughs fought the two off, telling them that he knows them both too well, but the Joker, as he sliced off his fingers with Batarang switchblades, revealed the evil Batman's weakness: he may be able to prepare for everything, but only for everything that Bruce Wayne can come up with, and the one thing Bruce wouldn't think would ever happen is for Batman and the Joker to team up. So now, probably for the first time since his "transformation", the Batman Who Laughs had no idea what's going to come next. Batman managed to escape from the collapsing Challenger's Mountain with the Over-Monitor, while the Batman Who Laughs just laughed even as the Joker continued to assault him while the Batcave started to collapse on the two of them.
After Prime Earth and the rest of the Multiverse were restored to normal by the Justice League, it was revealed that The Batman Who Laughs survived his battle with the Joker (who obviously also survived) and had somehow remained on Prime Earth. He continued to oppose the heroes of this universe by usually working alongside other villainous organizations, such as The House of Conquest and the Legion of Doom.
The Batman Who Laughs Miniseries
The Laughing House
Upon stopping a smuggling operation in Gotham, Batman (of Prime Earth) discovers that the smugglers were transporting the body of a deceased Bruce Wayne out of the city. Batman examines the body closer and deduces that it belonged to an alternate version of himself who lived a happier life after retiring from vigilantism. From this, he knew that The Batman Who Laughs had resurfaced in Gotham City and told Alfred to drive him to an unspecified location. Meanwhile, security guards at Arkham Asylum were fighting against another version of Batman known as The Grim Knight who slaughtered them and almost everyone in the building. He opens the door to the Joker's cell where the Clown Prince of Crime greets him and asks if he has arrived to kill him. The Grim Knight tells him no before stepping aside to reveal someone who was: The Batman Who Laughs. Visible nervous, Joker attempts to make a deal with Laughs, who responds by impaling him in the head with a sickle.
Later after the massacre, it is discovered that the man killed in Joker's cell was an imposter and the real Joker's whereabouts are unknown. Batman explained to Commissioner Gordon what he knows about The Batman Who Laughs and tells him that he believes the madman's accomplice, The Grim Knight, was someone that Laughs snuck into their world during the events of Dark Knights: Metal and has kept hidden until now. However, Batman doesn't understand why he waited to use him and also where the death of the alternate Bruce Wayne fits into their plot, so the Dark Knight decides to find the Joker; the only man twisted enough to help unravel the scheme. He deduces that the Joker must have foreseen what Laughs had in store and may be trying to enter the Batcave, so Bruce returns there to deactivate the cave's underwater defences.
Sure enough, the Joker emerges from the water and Batman tells him that he is now safe from The Batman Who Laughs. But Joker brandishes a trick handgun saying he doesn't want to be safe before fatality shooting himself in the chest. Batman rushes over to Joker demanding to know why he did that, only for him to realize that the clown was releasing the same toxin from his heart that created The Batman Who Laughs. Joker told his arch-enemy that to only way to stop Laughs is to become him and seemingly dies from his injury. Batman then became exposed to the toxin and starts going through a similar transformation as his Earth -22 counterpart. To save himself, Bruce injects every kind of Joker Toxin antidote he had ever developed into his body all at once, but even that would only stave off the transformation for a week. Alfred reluctantly performs emergency surgery on the Joker to save his life under Batman's orders, as they still need him to stop The Batman Who Laughs.
Meanwhile, another alternate version of Bruce Wayne is found dead after falling onto the hood of a car. Batman meets Commissioner Gordon at the scene disguised as Detective Harvey Bullock and reveals that these alternate Waynes are comprised of Dark Matter, something which Laughs appears to be taking from them in the form of blood cells extracted around each victim's heart. Batman believes the reason for taking the blood cells is because Laughs is creating a serum that can bring out the worst in people and turn them into dark versions of themselves. He then tells Gordon of a protocol he devised called "Last Laugh" which should provide Gotham City clean air, food and water if it is faced with any biological or chemical attack. The protocol was based off the original Last Laugh system built within Gotham many years prior to make the city a safe haven for its inhabitants.
Later, The Batman Who Laughs reappears and makes his way into the highly restricted areas of Wayne Tower, killing almost any security that gets in his way before his Prime Earth self arrives to stop him. Knowing that Laughs will counter any technique he uses, Batman resorts to using moves he recently made up to ground the villain. He then told Laughs that this is where his plan ends, only to be shot by The Grim Knight from a nearby building. The Batman Who Laughs tells his Prime Earth self not to move as the bullet he was shot with has a Bat-Taser in it and heads over to a nearby console to deactivate "Last Laugh" using another special protocol designed to eradicate all records linked to Batman by means of destroying Wayne Tower using a controlled implosion. It was only supposed to work after everyone was out of the building but The Grim Knight had already disabled all the other safety protocols that would've ensured this.
The Batman Who Laughs proceeds to taunt Batman by telling him that the alternate Bruce Waynes who were bought to Prime Earth all lived happier lives than he has because their efforts changed Gotham, and out of all the other versions of Bruce out there he was most miserable and least accomplished. Before taking his leave, Laughs noticed that Batman was suffering from the same infliction that made him and says that they will be seeing each other again just as the implosion starts. Laughs then leaps through a window as Wayne Tower collapses.
The Batman Who Laughs' next stop is the Iceberg Lounge where he is repeatedly denied entry by staff because he refuses to give them his real name. He then slaughters through whatever security comes his way until he finds the Penguin rigging dice at a craps table. The Batman Who Laughs fights off the guards protecting Penguin while complimenting his cunning and pointing out the tricks and traps secretly built into the club itself. He talks about Penguin's trick umbrella that sprays alcohol for parties while Laughs turns that same umbrella into a makeshift flamethrower. He also mentions the gambling tables that can be used as bulletproof shields while he ducks behind them to avoid gunfire. Then he reaches for a pair of emergency defibrillators and remarks how clever it was for Penguin to increase the defibrillators' voltage so high that the shock can simulate the appearance of a heart attack when done on people. Penguin tries to plead but Laughs exposures the defibrillators to the melted ice on the floor which electrocutes everyone but him in the room.
Penguin is left barely conscious on the floor as Laughs tells him that many versions of Batman have struggled to end his crooked operations in other realities and have even competed against him in business to release his hold on the criminal underworld. Laughs then reveals another alternate Bruce Wayne who succeeded in ruining Penguin's business on a different world before taking some of that Wayne's blood with a syringe and impaling him in the head with a headbutt from his spiked visor. The Batman Who Laughs walks away from the scene while telling Penguin he should contact one of his men, Matches Malone, to help him rig the gambling tables.
Meanwhile, Prime Earth Batman's attempts to stop Laughs and The Grim Knight have not been going very well. He knows that The Batman Who Laughs plans to use the Last Laugh protocol through alternate means to poison Gotham's water supply, and to do that he needs Commissioner Gordon. But unfortunately, while getting the help of a more lucid James Gordon, Jr., the commissioner is kidnapped by The Grim Knight despite Batman's efforts to stop him. The Dark Knight is later contacted by Alfred who tells him that Joker has escaped the Batcave after waking up during open-heart surgery, causing Bruce to realize that being Batman just wasn't enough to bring down his villainous counterparts.
He returns to the Batcave and destroys the remaining remedies for Joker Toxin, allowing his transformation to get even worse, before creating a piece of headgear to further resemble The Batman Who Laughs. However, Bruce does not let himself fully succumb to the toxin's effects and explains to a horrified Alfred that Laughs has the ability to sense people's desires, and his headgear is a visor made of dark metal which allows him to filter his senses into finding what he himself wants. Bruce lets his condition worsen so he can gain the same ability by using the visor he made, in hopes of stopping Laughs before he murders another Bruce Wayne.
As Batman homes in on the next potential murder site, The Batman Who Laughs greets a captive Commissioner Gordon to his hideout and lets him know that preparations for the villain's plan is almost complete. He has already created four serums from dark matter and only needs six to poison the entire city. Laughs intends to have Gordon watch the carnage once it unfolds, but until then has The Grim Knight to stand guard and ensure that the commissioner doesn’t try to escape. However, The Grim Knight later decides to let Gordon loose while the madman is away so he can hunt Jim down using Laughs' Dark Robins.
The Batman Who Laughs makes his way to Blackgate Prison seeking to kill another Bruce Wayne from a different world while disguised as commanding officer David Harper. During his search, he finds Prime Earth Batman and uses him to retrieve a version of Bruce who is warden of an alternate Blackgate. Batman locates Warden Wayne but then comes under fire by prison security guards who mistaken him for The Batman Who Laughs. The Dark Knight has "David" get the warden to safety as he slows down his assailants with foam explosives. However, this opportunity gives Laughs a chance to activate a barrier and separate himself from the heroic counterpart. The Batman Who Laughs then proceeds to kill Warden Wayne before revealing his identity to Batman and taunts his faith in the good of people.
The Line of Fire
The pursuing guards corner Batman from behind as Laughs frames him for the alternate Wayne's death and orders them to open fire. Batman tries to tell the guards he isn't The Batman Who Laughs but real villain tells them to keep shooting and call in reinforcements before taking his leave. Batman is only able to escape the continued assault by using reverse psychology. He surprised the guards with his knowledge of their identities to have them cease fire, and using his condition, he made them truly believe he was The Batman Who Laughs. He then dared the guards to try and stop him from escaping Blackgate after threatening them and their loved ones.
While this was happening, the real Batman Who Laughs travelled deep beneath Gotham to meet with the Court of Owls and asks that he needs something from them. The Court however is not interested in hearing him out and contemplate making him suffer for their amusement. They decide to let the "littlest one" among them choose his fate, prompting a girl in a wheelchair to approach The Batman Who Laughs and ask him why they should listen to his request. Laughs tells the "little one" that they both share the same goal, to make Gotham the city it was meant to be, and all the Court has to do is grant him one small favor to make this possible.
The little one refuses and instead decides to unleash the Talons upon the madman, telling him to take up his request with them. But Laughs informs the little one that he already did while the Talons stumble into view with no arms. The Court of Owls begins to flee as The Batman Who Laughs detonates explosives he planted earlier to reshape their labyrinth and make escape much more difficult. Terrified for her life, the little one tells Laughs he can have whatever he wants from the Court, only for him to say that he just wanted them to all die screaming before pushing the little one into the water below them. He then admits that despite his actions he does have a lot of respect for the Court. So much so that in one reality he became their leader and transports that version of Bruce Wayne from his native world to Prime Earth. The alternate Bruce proceeds to attack The Batman Who Laughs and a fight commences between them, presumably to the death.
Sometime later, Prime Earth Batman is contacted by James Gordon Jr. who informs him that he managed to rescue the commissioner from The Grim Knight but is trapped within the sewers. Batman sends a vehicle to pick up the Gordons and meets with them in the Batcave to discuss their current situation. The Dark Knight lets his allies known that they now have the advantage because The Batman Who Laughs has yet to hack into the Last Laugh protocol for his own plans and they can still activate it themselves to keep the city safe from poisoning via the water supply. Commissioner Gordon gives his verification to activate Last Laugh and Batman was about to do the same, until he realizes that this is what The Batman Who Laughs wanted to whole time. Batman explains that Laughs wanted the commissioner to escape so they can activate the protocol, because he must have found some access point to the systems water reservoir and needed them to initiate Last Laugh to gain entry to it.
At that moment, Batman receives an in-coming called from The Batman Who Laughs and answers it despite warnings from the commissioner not to. Laughs appears before them through a hologram and says he really needs to tell Batman about something he discovered from the Court of Owls' city archives. He reveals that the original Last Laugh built into Gotham years ago was not just designed to make the city a safe haven, but to also turn it into an incubator for conquest. A fortress city where the people could launch assaults while being protected from the rest of the world. The knowledge that Gotham was violent even in its earliest days seemingly shatters Batman's faith in the city as he continues to hang on Laughs' every word. Alfred tries to tell Batman through his commutator that the Joker Toxin in his bloodstream is reaching critical levels, but the butler's call is muted as The Batman Who Laughs goals his Prime Earth self into activating the Last Laugh protocol.
Last Laugh... Activated
After finishing his call to the Batcave and ensuring Last Laughs' activation, The Batman Who Laughs seeks out the next Bruce Wayne to murder. He crosses into a world where an elderly Bruce was about to receive an award for his years of service to the citizens of Gotham. Laughs waits with a sniper rifle for Bruce to walk up to accept the award when he is contacted by Prime Earth Batman, who suddenly makes Laughs' target vanish. At this point, the toxin's effects have almost completely taken hold of the Dark Knight, but now believes that he has finally figured out a way to stop The Batman Who Laughs. Batman informs Laughs that he has transferred power away from all the Dark Metal in Gotham City except for the largest stash of it under Wayne Manor, and now has control over the dark energy building up there, catching a glimpse of every alternate Bruce Wayne in the Multiverse. Batman also told Laughs that he will summon the last Bruce needed for the Dark Matter serum if the villain arrives at Wayne Manor in one hour.
Despite already creating enough of his serum to affect most of the city, The Batman Who Laughs decided to meet Batman in front of the manor. Laughs admits he doesn't see what plan Batman could possibly have to use against him. He knows that if Batman exerts his body just a little more, he will complete his transformation and become just like Laughs himself. Regardless, both Batmen proceed to fight each other while Alfred via communicator keeps Batman updated on his condition. With little time left for his Prime Earth counterpart, The Batman Who Laughs decides to tell him the key to their happiness.
Laughs explains that every version of Bruce he has pulled from their respective worlds are the happiest because they compromised on their ideals to achieve their goals differently. However, Prime Earth Batman continues to be uncompromising, which Laughs believes actually prevents him from ever obtaining success or happiness. It is because of this The Batman Who Laughs thinks that even if Batman had seen every version of himself, he still wouldn't know how to find a single Bruce Wayne that was truly happy.
Batman responds that he knows of one, before summoning a young cheerful Bruce Wayne from before his parents' murder. Young Bruce notices the two men and believes them to be playing a game. Batman told the boy to run past him and don't stop while he tries to prevent the "monster" from catching him. However, The Batman Who Laughs says that he doesn't need the boy, since he is after the happiest Bruce Wayne in existence to complete his serum. One who has entirely let go of his sadness and past ideals to become the most "evolved" of them all. Laughs believed that Bruce Wayne to be Prime Earth Batman the moment his toxin-induced transformation is complete and stabs his adversary with a syringe.
All Roads Lead Home
Now, Batman has seemingly begun to embrace his growing madness and agrees with The Batman Who Laughs that letting go of his past concerns feels good. Laughs is delighted to hear this and lets him know that the syringe he stabbed him with earlier has a light that will turn red once Batman's body is ready to be harvested for blood. However, both Batmen knew there only be one winner between them, so The Batman Who Laughs brandishes his gun and points it at his own head, explaining it would be a greater victory for him to have his Prime Earth self become his successor.
Suddenly, the syringes light goes red and Laughs tells the Dark Knight to ravage the world as a true Batman, before shooting him instead of himself. Laughs admitted he almost believed Batman had fully turned, but knew that his counterpart was somehow still resisting the transformation when he realized the color of the syringe's light was changed by his foe's suit. Fed up with waiting, The Batman Who Laughs decides to just kill Batman and shoots him again before hearing the young Bruce Wayne that Batman summoned earlier. Laughs goes to chase the boy into a graveyard where he is ambushed by Alfred who fires at him repeatedly with a shotgun until he runs out of bullets.
The Batman Who Laughs survives the attack but is wounded, and tells Alfred that he would have killed him with just a few more shots. As the fallen Batman Who Laughs gets back on his feet, he reveals to Alfred that his Earth -22 counterpart also came close to killing him, but Laughs managed to trap his butler underground and eventually broke him back into servitude as his most loyal and trusted ally. Alfred refuses to believe this and keeps his shotgun aimed at Laughs as Prime Earth Batman kicks the villain from behind. The Batman Who Laughs is surprised that Batman has not finished his transformation yet and tauntingly asks if Alfred shooting him was his contingency plan.
At that moment, turrets emerge from the graves around them and fire high voltage harpoons into The Batman Who Laughs. Batman admits to Laughs that he was right about him being the worst version of Batman after seeing for himself all the other Bruce Waynes within different realities across the Multiverse. The Batman Who Laughs receives a powerful electric shock from the harpoons before he tears them away and is then hit in the head by Batman using his mother's tombstone. Batman tells Laughs that he was also right about how good it feels to just let go without worry before smacking him again with the tombstone as he tries to plead for mercy. Alfred then notices that Batman is now fully transformed and tries to make him stop his assault. However, Batman pushes him aside and continues to brutally beat The Batman Who Laughs while expressing his good feelings to the world and his desire to share them. Batman repeatedly bashes a tombstone against Laughs as he thanks the villain for making him feel such joy, until he is suddenly interrupted by the Joker who, after telling Batman "Your welcome!", shoots him in the shoulder, rendering him unconscious and preventing him from killing the Batman who Laughs.
Two weeks later, Batman is still healing from the injuries he sustained that night and a transfusion he received from his alternate younger self had almost completely restored him back to normal, due to the blood's unique properties. He melted down all the Dark Metal he had obtained so it cannot be used as a gateway into the Dark Multiverse. Meanwhile, The Batman Who Laughs was imprisoned inside a secret dungeon beneath the Hall Of Justice. Despite this, his Dark Matter serum did manage to infect Commissioner Gordon during his confrontation with The Grim Knight.
A year after The Batman Who Laughs' attempt to expose Gotham City to Dark Matter, it is revealed that at some point the evil Dark Knight managed to forged new Batarangs made from N'th Metal inside his own Batcave beneath Crime Ally and lace them with the Dark Matter serum he previously created. He managed to infect Shazam with one of the tainted Batarangs and eventually had the infected Commissioner Gordon lure Batman and Superman into his Batcave by claiming Laughs had orchestrated a kidnapping. After the heroes arrived, they discover that The Batman Who Laughs has marked every superhero in the universe as potential targets for his tainted Batarangs. Batman believes that Laughs wanted them to discover this so they would not know who to trust among their allies should some have already been exposed to the projectiles.
Suddenly, the heroes are attacked by the infected Shazam who was able to defeat them both in combat. However, Superman manages to obtain two tainted Batarangs from him; the one that infected Shazam and one intended for Superman himself. The heroes later learn at the Fortress of Solitude that The Batman Who Laughs had created six Batarangs, with each one meant for a specific target. Because he was an intended victim, Superman decides to go undercover as one of the infected in order to learn more about Laughs' plans. He does this by dosing himself with Joker Toxin and fighting against its effects just enough to stay in control of his actions. The Man of Steel breaks into the dungeon where The Batman Who Laughs is being held and frees the madman using his heat vision, all the while Batman supervisors the break out from afar.
Laughs watches with glee as Superman blasts through the walls of his cell to their escape. However, he tells Superman to stop at the Hall of Justice Armory so he can pick up some confiscated weaponry before they leave. Superman struggles to control himself as he asks The Batman Who Laughs about his plans, to which Laughs claims that his infected are going to kill every living thing in the multiverse just like how Superman's parents died on Krypton and that neither Lois Lane or Jon Kent will be spared the agony. This causes Superman to briefly lose his senses and attack Laughs before Batman appears to inject the Kryptonian with an antidote to the Joker Toxin in his body. Batman then activates security protocols to restrain both Superman and The Batman Who Laughs.
Laughs admits that he already knew of their infiltration attempt and the fact they have not really left his cell, as hard light holograms were used to disguise the surrounding areas. However, he does let slip a clue which tells the heroes that Commissioner Gordon had been working for him. The Batman Who Laughs remains bound in his cell as Batman and Superman go to locate Gordon. Despite his predicament, Laughs was confident his plans would come together and reveals that he was preparing to eventually confront Lex Luthor, as he posed a threat to his plans and the Legion of Doom.
Meanwhile, Commissioner Gordon had managed to trick the heroes into smuggling the infected Blue Beetle inside the Fortress of Solitude, who proceeds to take control of the fortress's technology. Superman and Batman are then held back from stopping him by the other infected crimefighters Donna Troy and Hawkman before Gordon explains to them what Laughs has planned. Back in his own universe, The Batman Who Laughs had restructured the Justice Leagues Watchtower satellite using Dark Metal to transform it into a weapon capable of infecting an entire planet with Dark Matter. Laughs wants to bring the satellite to Prime Earth from the Dark Multiverse and use it to corrupt the world's population.
Each of the infected represents a specific energy required to open a giant portal between realities, and Laughs has already assembled five of the six individuals he needs, but still has to infect a Kryptonian to complete his plan. Batman manages to blind the infected with smoke and escape to another part of the fortress with Superman before coming up with a way to stop them. Unfortunately, Supergirl arrives at the fortress and is infected with the tainted Batarang meant for Superman, transforming her into the final member of The Batman Who Laughs' Secret Six and allowing a portal to the Dark Multiverse to open above them.
Batman and Superman act fast to close the portal, with Batman attempting to destroy a tower Blue Beetle made to hold the portal open, and Superman trying to stop the satellite from entering their world. Meanwhile, The Batman Who Laughs contacts Donna Troy and Hawkman using a unique frequency they can hear through the metal of their outfits, instructing them to break him free from his underground cell while the heroes are distracted. The World's Finest soon succeed in closing the portal and capture Commissioner Gordon. But while that plan was thwarted, The Batman Who Laughs had managed to escape from his prison under the Hall of Justice and still had six heroes infected with Dark Matter under his command.
Year of the Villain: Hell Arisen
After giving the Crime Syndicate an audience with the god-like Perpetua, Lex Luthor was ordered by her to eliminate an energy signature originating from the Dark Multiverse on his homeworld of Prime Earth. Lex heads back to his world with an army of Human/Martian hybrids called Apex Predators to provide him assistance should he need it. Meanwhile, The Batman Who Laughs is in Arizona to get information from Rip Hunter, who is at the madman's mercy after his base is destroyed. Hunter reveals to Laughs that Hypertime is broken due to Perpetua's restructuring of the multiverse and time is no longer set in place, meaning changes to the present could echo backward or forward through the timestream. The Batman Who Laughs believes he can make this phenomenon work to his advantage when he suddenly alerted the Lex Luthor has arrived in Metropolis and orders the new Secret Six (minus Gordon) to move into position.
Back in Metropolis, Lex uses his computers at the city's museum of science to learn more about the threat he is facing when he is suddenly confronted by it. Members of the Secret Six surround Lex as he attempts to summon his Apex Predators, only to discover they have already been defeated. Luthor then blasts Shazam with the cosmic powers giving to him by Perpetua but is confused when the blast does nothing to harm his opponent. Suddenly, The Batman Who Laughs appears on Lex's computer monitors to tell him that all the power he was given has no effect on anyone from the Dark Multiverse or those exposed to Dark Matter.
Dark Nights: Death Metal
The Batman Who Laughs reigns as king of Earth, he enslaves members of the Justice League—including Wonder Woman—and for laughs, he tasks them with ruling over various areas of Earth. He knows Diana has melted down her Invisible Jet, and he rightly suspects Batman wants to harness the alloy to forge armor capable of shielding the Justice League from Perpetua's sight. However, Wonder Woman makes it clear she has no desire to build armor. She demonstrates as much when she unleashes her invisible Chainsaw of Truth and kills him, after which his enforcers, consisting of Batmage, Beyonder, and B-Rex, enact the Batman Who Laughs's true plan: preparing the body of the final Bruce Wayne.
Although his body is destroyed, his brain remained intact and was salvaged by the evil Batmen, who observed as it was surgically transplanted into the final Bruce Wayne's body, which according to the Batman Who Laughs is mostly an energy construct that will absorb his mind when inserted. The Batman Who Laughs soon awakens, and initially seems to have trouble adjusting to the body before he uses his newfound powers to atomize B-Rex in a matter of seconds. He then changes his form to one identical to his previous body, albeit blue, before proceeding to destroy his remaining enforcers with the exception of a single Robin, whom he deems the Robin King. He then transforms into a new, all-black form with darkness emanating from his body, rechristening himself as the Darkest Knight.