Warning! This post contains spoilers! Key plot points are revealed below!
OK. You've been warned. Batman: Lovers and Madmen is set early in Batman's career. He is feeling a bit smug because he has cleaned up Gotham and the streets are safe again. He knew ability applied correctly, logically would win the day. But then a new criminal appears. A man called Jack. Logic does not apply to him. His crimes and murders, though they could be well planned, are, in a word, crazy. Batman has troubles dealing with this. Logic does not apply. At the same time, Bruce Wayne, seeking balance in his life, begins a relationship with a beautiful museum guide. Of course the two parts of his life collide and Jack gravely wounds the woman. Batman stays with her instead of chasing Jack. But Batman wounds Jack on both cheeks with his razor sharp batarangs to let him know it is not over.
Batman is at a loss. His logical style of crime fighting is not succeeding against Jack. Batman is feeling inadequate, feeling like a failure. He comes to the conclusion that the only way to deal with Jack is to remove him. Permanently. Not being able to do the deed himself, Batman uses his contacts with the underworld to put a hit on Jack. Even other criminals dislike Jack. Well, the hit fails, Jack falls into a vat of pharmaceuticals and becomes the Joker. Batman has created a creature even more monstrous than Jack was. In order to focus on his quest to eradicate evil and not endanger loved ones, Bruce Wayne plays the cad and breaks off his relationship with the woman.
My verdict? I hated this graphic novel. Hated? Maybe despised is a better world.
And of course, I will tell you why:
I can accept Batman in his many versions. Dedicated Batman. Scary Batman. Genius Batman. Techno Batman. Hardcore Batman. Slightly unbalanced Batman. Even funny Batman. But the one thing Batman despises is killing. And this version of Batman takes out a freakin' hit on Jack! I cannot swallow this and reject it. Even in The Dark Knight Returns where Batman is the direct cause of the grievous wounding and perhaps the death of at least one criminal, he does not actively seek the death of the criminals. In fact one of the moral choices Batman faces is whether to kill the Joker or not..
So, despite the excellent characterization of Jack/the Joker as a psychotic, I cannot and will not enjoy this book because, in my opinion, it does not stay true to the essence of the character of Batman.