|"The Pursuit of Happiness"|
|First Published:||February 6, 2013|
|Previous Issue:||Detective Comics #16|
|Next Issue:||Detective Comics #18|
"The Pursuit of Happiness"Edit
Dr. Byron Merideth was not well-liked during his tenure at Arkham Asylum. To the relief of many of his coworkers who disapproved of his practices, he quit, and began a private practice meant to deal exclusively with those who had Joker-related obsessive disorders. Yesterday, Merideth's charred remains were discovered, identifiable only by his dental records. The arsonists called themselves the League of Smiles, and they were all patients of Merideth's. Only one member of the league remains unidentified by the Batman, their leader: Merrymaker.
When Batman investigates at the burnt remains of Merideth's office, he is almost immediately attacked by an insane thug, who is also looking for the doctor, demanding his medicine. Batman recognizes the man's symptoms as those of withdrawal from whatever cocktail of pharmaceuticals that Merideth prescribed. Thanks to the advantage of speed, Batman uses pressure points on the man's body to render him unconscious. Thus unobstructed, Batman grabs the hard drive from Merideth's computer, and takes it back to the Batcave.
After wading through files on Merideth's divorce, death threats from enemies, lawsuits from patients' families, and the security encryption, Batman finally gets at the important information. His attacker that night had been Dane Butler, a weight-lifter who had been rejected because of his appearance often enough that his interest in joining the circus had morphed into an obsession with the Joker. Despite finding extensive information on the other members, none of the files indicate someone with the personality traits required to be the Merrymaker.
After hearing a police radio call involving multiple murders, Batman realizes that he was too late to stop the League of Smiles' next crime. He surprises Commissioner Gordon and Harvey Bullock by appearing photogrammetrically in the morgue with them to examine the corpses. He determines from that these are not victims of the Joker or the League of Smiles, but they were meant to look like them. The toxin used in the murders differs significantly from Joker Venom. Bullock reacts with disbelief, urging Batman to look at the smiles on the victims, if he doesn't believe they were Joker victims. Following Bullock's advice, Batman looks at the smile on the corpse of Byron Merideth, and realizes his mistake. He gives Gordon an address to send a squad car to, warning them to bring a body-bag.
Meanwhile, the League of Smiles prepares to murder the residents of the Gotham Children's Hospital when they are interrupted outside the building by Batman. Appealing not to their sense of right and wrong, but rather to their devotion to the Joker, he offers them the chance to take down the Batman, asking "what would the Joker do?" After riling them up, he teases them into following him as he rappels up to a third floor east-facing apartment nearby, where he believes that Merrymaker waits.
Crashing through the window, Batman finds Merrymaker holding a woman hostage. Before the villain can do anything, Batman punches him in the face, shattering his mask, revealing that Merrymaker is Dr. Byron Merideth. Not long after, the remainder of the League of Smiles breaks into the room, as Batman explains how Merideth used Philip Miles to falsify his dental records, to fake his death; how he manipulated his patients into murdering for him in the Joker's name, though he did not actually serve the Joker.
The woman Merideth held hostage is his ex-wife, whom he hates. The youth centre they attacked was just one block away from her lawyer's house - and Batman has already sent the GCPD to collect the lawyer's body after Merideth killed him, using that attack as a distraction. He intended to keep sending the League of Smiles to create distractions for the police while he murdered his entire list of enemies, all while keeping a close eye on each of them. Eventually, Meredith had planned to send them all to their deaths, leaving himself free and clear.
Within seconds, the League of Smiles turns on Merideth, beating him with a righteous rage. Batman intervenes quickly, to prevent them from killing them.
The next morning, Emperor Penguin receives word that Batman is trying to convince the police that some of the previous night's killings were not Joker-related. Unconcerned about the fact that those killings were on his order, Emperor Penguin explains that the result is the same - his enemies are dead or running to him for protection. It is the dawn of a new era for Gotham, and he will rule as emperor.
Dr. Merideth recalls the first time he met the Joker. It was in Arkham Asylum some time ago. While, multiple doctors tried to diagnose the madman, each one was scared away by his insanity. Only two of the doctors were able to stomach him: Merideth himself, and Dr. Harleen Quinzel.
Now, Merideth is seated for his own psychiatric evaluation as a criminal, where he is questioned by one of his old colleagues, who tries to understand his psychology. The former doctor explains how he had given his notice of resignation the very next day after meeting the Joker, because he had seen the look of adoration and inspiration on Dr. Quinzel's face, and he had understood the influence that the Joker has. For normal people, the Joker inspires fear, but for the unstable, he merely inspires. He had seen as a doctor at Arkham how others had tried to emulate the Joker's behaviour. So, he had quit his work at the asylum and started a private practice in order to profit from that understanding.
After hearing so many sob-stories, every time the Joker resurfaced, Merideth came to decide that these people could not be rehabilitated - but they could certainly be manipulated. That was how he came to create the Merrymaker. He then began the League of Smiles, and was later thwarted by Batman, leading to his being in this office, explaining himself.
Musing about his tenure as a doctor there, Merideth remarks that Gotham City's criminals are among the only in the world who don't want to be found insane at trial, because they don't want to end up at Arkham. He prods his old colleague, hoping he can get a nice cell at Blackgate Penitentiary. Unfortunately, this doctor has no intention of sending him there. In fact, he decides - without any concern for accuracy - that Merideth is a sociopath who needs psychiatric help. Declaring him insane, he has Merideth carted off to the institution where he once worked.
Alone in his office, the psychiatrist begins doodling drawings of the Joker onto his pad - and had in fact been doing so during the duration of the interview, indicating his own unhealthy obsession with the madman.
"The Pursuit of Happiness"Edit
- League of Smiles
- Victor Zsasz (In Flashback Only)
- Dane Butler (First Appearance)
- James Gordon
- Harvey Bullock
- Byron Meredith's Ex-Wife (Only appearance)
- Emperor Penguin
- Ms. Finch (First Appearance)
- Gotham City
- Byron Meredith (Flashback and Main Story)
- The Joker (In Flashback Only)
- Harleen Quinzel (In Flashback Only)
- Torch (In Flashback Only)
- Mr. Happy (In Flashback Only)
- Annie McCloud (In Flashback Only)
- The Dentist (In Flashback Only)
- Batman (In Flashback Only)