Writer: Jeff Lemire
Artist: Andrea Sorrentino
Colorist: Jordie Bellaire
Publisher: DC Comics
Batman: The Smile Killer #1 begins with a nightmarish opening in which the young Bruce Wayne encounters Joker while watching a children’s television show. The opening turns out to be one of the adult Wayne’s flashbacks as he returns to the present moment in which he (as Batman) and Commissioner Jim Gordan are teaming up to take down a suspect in a seemingly abandoned building. Sensing Joker’s signature criminal style, Batman tells Gordan to wait while he goes in ahead. Upon entering the building, however, Batman is swept up into a nightmarish world that reflects his own inner demons. The issue ends with Batman fighting to return to the reality that he knows to be true.
Batman: The Smile Killer is a great issue with excellent storytelling and artwork that is simple, yet elegant. At the verge of suspenseful moments, the perspective of the story cuts back and forth between the young Bruce’s grief and confusion, and the adult Bruce’s vengefulness and uncompromising sense of mission. The Smile Killer is a genuinely creepy issue that reflects on both sides of the Batman psychology: the youthful, wounded Bruce who never came to terms with his parents murder and the crime-fighting devotee he grew up to become. One of the great things about the traditional Batman mythos is that Batman’s personality is grim enough to be almost ridiculous. It’s a trait that allows various iterations of Batman to be delightfully campy. However, it’s also a trait that easily lends itself to sinister themes within more serious Batman stories. After all, defining one’s life in terms of past events is a trait simultaneously laughable and disturbing in any adult — let alone a vigilante superhero.
Batman: The Smile Killer is an excellent read that is a refreshing change from the slew of purely action-based comics. It’s a story that grabs the readers attention in the first issue and is perfect for both well-versed Batman fans and beginning comics readers.