No. It's not funny.
In The Absence of Comedy
When the Joker manages to wriggle his way from the depths of Arkham to
freedom, a worm coming up in the rain, there's a certain quiet that comes
over the company I keep.
We grow more serious, all thoughts of humor, all traces of a life outside
of our job wipes away. We understand the gravity of the situation and we
grow rigid with life-or-death intensity, knowing that lives hang in the
balance, and this macabre circus will only end once the foul man is put
back into the catacombs of the asylum.
It was the first time we'd had to face him since my relocation to
Bludhaven, and even at the distance, I felt a chill run through me. I
looked to the swell of my abdomen, and I wondered briefly why I dared
bringing life into this world-what right did I have?
This was a world of darkness that was currently being terrorized by a
madman. I knew the gravity of our situation-we all did.
"He's not here any more. He got away from me. There's a tracer on him now,
We all knew so very well. but I was still not prepared for the timberless
voice coming through my com system, or the words that were said. You
purposely do not prepare yourself, because preparing for the worst means
dwelling on the worst. And none of us can afford to put ourselves through
that, every single time the word comes down that the Joker has escaped.
The Batman's voice had lost the controlled strength we'd all known so well
over the years. It was a breathy, lifeless sotto voce rasp eking through
my speakers. Instantly I felt my stomach knot. Something had happened.
"Nightwing should be able to find him. Permission. to use any means
With the last, his voice faltered. Something terrible had truly happened.
"Bruce. what is it?" I asked, trying to keep the even, reassuring tones of
a 911 operator.
I was greeted with the silence I had come to expect, when he didn't feel
like discussing certain problems.
"Why aren't you going after him? You're the closest." I knew if he wasn't
in pursuit, something was seriously amiss, but I had NO way of helping, if
he wouldn't open his mouth. "Are you injured?"
"I. am not," he conceded, but the pain in his voice said otherwise.
"I can have Robin on your location in seven. Do you require assistance?"
There was the sound of him sliding down the wall, I was certain. "Batman
out." And then nothing.
They said when they found him, he was still sitting against the wall,
somehow lost. One would have suspected full-blown vengeance, given the
circumstances. I remembered how he lost control when Jason, his second
Robin died, and I remember how it took the Man of Steel to restrain him. I
remember the look in his eye-a man lost and helpless to his own rage.
They said he was lost again, but not to any visible emotion that they were
able to discern.
Nightwing helped him out of the puddle of blood. It was a sticky,
coagulating mess by the time Nightwing was through with the Joker enough to
provide backup to his mentor. Robin had done nothing, upon entering the
scene. He'd stayed in the rafters of the warehouse, knowing there was
nothing that HE could do for either of the building's occupants.
Nightwing, by that point, would be the only one of us who would get any
sort of response from him. We all knew him well enough to know that.
And he'd gotten him out of that puddle of blood. That was reaction enough
at the moment.
Robin said it was something to behold, and not in an appealing sort of way.
The head, the body, every ounce of blood drained from the body, pooling
around the Dark Knight, clinging to his cape and boots, trapping him,
somehow. The image my own mind conjures is something that will haunt me
forever. I can not imagine what he will have to live with.
I was waiting in the cave with Alfred and Cassandra by the time Bruce had
finally made the drive back home-under his own power. I knew it meant a lot
to him that his two birds were willing to allow him his self respect.
Nightwing stood in front of me, blocking the sound of his voice with his
own body from him. "He spoke a little. before the police showed up, and we
had to leave them with the body. He blames himself for the Joker finding
out her identity. He blames himself for the Joker using it against them."
There was little surprise there. Nightwing told me the rest, and I had to
wrap my arms around my midsection, as if that would somehow protect me from
the chill that had suddenly run through the room.
Nightwing took off his mask and my husband hugged me, lingering for just a
moment. He looked at our treasured possession beneath my heart with a
terrible pain, but he attempted to hold it within. He knew I would need his
strength to hear the words that he now spoke to me. This wasn't easy news
to hear, and watching the end result-Bruce, trying to function normally,
and yet completely lost-was crippling.
He shuffled and paused as he moved about the cave, knowing he'd lost
something he didn't even know he'd had.
He'd gotten there just after the Joker had beheaded Selina.
Rage alone probably made him want to tear the Joker limb-from-limb, but he
must have hesitated, paused in some way that allowed the Joker to get a
word in edgewise. That was always deadly; letting the clown talk.
We'd known for years he was bank-rolling doctors, lawyers, garbage men,
convenience store workers. Too many to effectively stop for very long-not
when we could never find the source of his funding.
The Joker said he'd been planning this break-out for quite some time, and
had been looking for appropriate inspiration, and through his channels,
he'd found just the thing. He'd come across a tidbit that his morose mind
found delectable in some way, and had decided to turn it into a feast.
He'd used the element of surprise to his advantage, drugged Selina Kyle
with gas in her own home, and had removed her. There was a table set for
two, candles gutting and a meal still warming in the oven when police
arrived a few hours later. He'd taken her to a warehouse that the Batman
would be sure to find, chained her upside down from the cage that quartered
off the manager's office, and decapitated her cleanly, and without remorse
while she was still unconscious. It was the only way, of course. She'd
never have let him do so, in a fair fight.
This was a man who enjoyed watching people struggle, plead, fight back-
anything. This was a man who enjoyed the thrill of the hunt and the
amusement of the difficult kill-and yet he'd done none of this.
The plan he had in his head required Selina Kyle dead. It required that
every last bit of life be gone from her when the Batman appeared.
It required that the Batman hesitate just long enough for the Joker to
talk, and give him the 'why.'
Tonight was the night Selina was to announce that not all of the
illustrious Batman's plans were fool-proof, that sometimes, being prepared
just wasn't enough. Sometimes, the best equipment, no matter how well-
tested, or how efficiently used, failed. Sometimes, in the most interesting
That brief pause in Batman's momentum, the thing that slowed him from
tearing the Joker to pieces on sight, tore down his world, and left him
dully taking off his belt, laying the components on his table with
practiced precision. It left him removing his cape and cowl with routine
practice while we watched, helpless to console, helpless to do anything
more than stay at room's length, letting him struggle with this knowledge
on his own.
It was something that should have been given to him by Selina and savored
like a fine wine. But it was not to transpire that way. It was a world of
darkness, terrorized by a madman. The Joker wanted-needed-to be the one
that delivered the punchline of the joke to the Batman, that he was to have
the simplest and yet greatest of human joys; he was to have been a father.