First published as a standalone two-parter in 1998.
Writer: John Wagner / Alan Grant
Artist: Glenn Fabry / Jim Murray
This 2000AD/DC crossover story was the last of four, with Judgement on Gotham being the first (and only other one to feature Judge Death). Originally published in two parts in 1998 as two £2.95 volumes, Die Laughing has since been compiled into a graphic novel at least twice. Curiously, they switch artists half way through which is oddly jarring but both Fabry and Murray do a fantastic job here.
The story is no slouch either and is almost up there with Necropolis when it comes to epicness, weighing in at around 98 pages. Wagner and Grant do a good job of writing for the Joker character and this story is interesting because he is the fifth Dark Judge here. Die Laughing also sits in the main timeline making it well worth looking up.
Die Laughing starts in Gotham City with Batman following a goon back to Joker’s lair. Joker has a dimension jump device, the one that Judge Death brought to Gotham back during Judgement on Gotham, and he uses it to go to Mega-City One. However, the device malfunctions, leaving a dormant Joker behind, a body with no mind.
The rest of him makes it though and once he arrives, he sets a truly fiendish masterplan into action. He knows about the Dark Judges and decides to free them. They aren’t particularly grateful but he explains to them that he wants to be their manager, helping them to create death and destruction and all he wants in return is immortality. However, he doesn’t quite realise that means he has to go through the whole dead fluids, body decomposition process.
While Joker transitions into a fully-fledged Dark Judge, Mortis possesses Deputy Chief Judge Herriman and uses him to issue an arrest warrant for Judge Death’s true nemesis, Judge Anderson. No-one seems to notice his terrible lisp and decaying face and so Anderson is forced to escape arrest by jumping over to Gotham City where she alerts Batman to Joker’s new deadly alliance.
The Dark Judges make their way to the Megasphere, a structure that is being turned into a pleasure dome by a cult called The Hedonists, who are looking to seal themselves in and spend the rest of their lives living out their wildest desires. With ten thousand of them in self-imposed captivity, the Dark Judges can’t resist the opportunity to crash the party.
Batman arrives and finds Dredd, explaining that Herriman is under Mortis’ control. Dredd goes against orders and subdues his fellow Judges before he and Batman speed towards the Megasphere before it is sealed. Making it just in time, they find that the Dark Judges are already in full massacre mode and they begin following the trail of dead bodies towards them.
Joker discovers his ability, a loud laugh that explodes people’s heads but he’s already getting bored. He may be a psychopath but there’s no fun in mass murder for the sake of it. The other Dark Judges are having a great time though and much of the second half of Die Laughing is devoted to them doing their thing.
Eventually, Batman and Dredd catch up with them. Dredd takes on Fire while Batman battles Fear. The heroes overcome these two and Dredd is able to trap them in a suction trap (yet again). Batman goes after Mortis next and survives the battle long enough for the artificial sky to melt, trapping Mortis in the process. Dredd battles Death and is able to defeat his body before trapping his spirit within a fairground ride.
With the original four Dark Judges secured, Batman and Dredd go after Joker. Dredd manages to injure him and Batman traps him using his grappling hook. Joker however is wearing the dimension jump on his belt and jumps back to Gotham. However, this time his body remains and turns back into the goon that he took over while, back in Gotham, he ends up in his original body which is secured in Arkham Asylum.
All four Dark Judges recaptured.
Buy it now
If you want this, you’re best of getting The Batman/Judge Dredd Collection as this adds Judgement on Gotham as well. It’s pretty pricey on Amazon (link below) so I’d recommend trying your luck on eBay.