If you've been hesitant to read the 'new 52' books and you're feeling a little bit nostalgic, missing your classic comics, then the DC Comics Presents: Batman- The Demon and Son may be exactly what you need to cheer you up.
Say what you will about writer Chuck Dixon, but ever since I read his Batgirl: Year One and fell in love with Barbara Gordon, he's been at the top of my list of writers. When I learned that DC planned to re-release four issues (which he wrote) of Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #'s 142 - 145 in a one shot titled DC Presents: Batman - The Demon Laughs, I thought to myself, I have to review this book! It's Chuck Dixon writing Batman! Whether or not releasing this book was DC's way of quelling the flames of discontent from comic fans who have been adamantly against the 'new 52' or not, doesn't matter because the events that take place in this book seem pertinent to the current state of the DC Universe. If anything, compiling these issues into a one-shot gives fans who may not have read these stories before an opportunity to do so and evaluate for themselves how much has changed over the last ten years. The issues were originally published in June of 2001, a little over ten years ago, and it's funny seeing just how much Batman and his rogues gallery have changed in only ten years. The premise of the story is pretty simple; the Joker is broken free from Arkham by Talia al Ghul who has recruited the Joker to help her father, Ra's. Ra's has resolved to kill 95% of the world's population, and he's enlisted the Joker to help him come up with a way to do it. Clearly, they are both a little bit crazy. The tone of this book is unlike the Batman we've grown accustomed to, so don't go into it expecting Scott Snyder or Grant Morrison.
The most interesting thing I took away from reading this book is the way Dixon references Batman: The Killing Joke more than once. In a moment of foreshadowing, Barbara, with tears in her eyes, turns to Batman and says "You'll risk your life saving that homicidal maniac? You saved the Joker's life before, justice could have been served but you had to be noble..." Not only is this scene referencing the way Batman treated The Killing Joke (i.e. he has allowed the Joker to live even though he's killed Jason, crippled Barbara), but it's also a foreshadowing of what's to come. At the end of the story, Batman is forced with a serious decision: should he allow the Joker to die, or should he save his life? It makes a lot of sense as to why this, of all of DC's books, they chose to re-publish now and compile in a one-shot.
I don't remember the last time I read such a campy Joker. Maybe I am just jaded by these dark interpretations of the character. In fact, the tone of the book as a whole is a bit campy, so it's hard to take the plans of "world annihilation/domination" very seriously. This does not necessarily make it "bad," per-se, just not my cup of tea.
The scene where Batman finds the Joker is also interesting. Rather than surveying the scene and doing a bit more detective work, he decides instead to put the Joker into a Lazarus pit. It's just a very silly plot-line. Funny, but silly.
There are elements in this book (the scenes with Barbara, Batman's decision of how to deal with the Joker) that I think are very relevant to the books out now. How much has this character changed? Would he have gone through the lengths he did to save the Joker had the story been written today? It's definitely very interesting to read this and compare it to more modern interpretations of these characters. How are they different? How much has comics writing changed in ten years? While this may not have been my cup of tea, I think there are underlying elements in the plot that made it relevant; and for that it's worth reading. Maybe not purchasing, but definitely reading.