'The Batman Who Laughs: The Grim Knight' #1 Review: A Disturbing Yet Uncomfortably Familiar Take on Gotham's Hero

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(Photo: DC Entertainment)

Comic books are something of a wonderland for stories that start with "what if?" Particularly when it comes to the big two of Marvel and DC, most of the characters have such long, rich histories that the idea of something deviating from the known has such tantalizing potential. It's that potential that The Batman Who Laughs: The Grim Knight #1 taps into with what might be one of the darker scenarios ever imagined.

The Grim Knight has already been touted as the "most dangerous Dark Knight of all," and to an extent that's true. Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV do a deft job of unfurling the story of a violent, control-obsessed Batman whose origin comes not so much in the murder of his parents, but in his actions immediately after that horrifying moment. The young Bruce Wayne who will become the Grim Knight shoots back at the murderer, and it changes everything.

And yet, it doesn't. While Snyder and Tynion's story is crafted well and put together beautifully, the Grim Knight doesn't feel like too far of a departure from the "real" Batman that DC fans are most familiar with -- particularly the current one in Tom King's run. Batman is brutal, sometimes vicious, and generally considers himself to be the superior mind when it comes to what's best for Gotham. The only real difference between the Grim Knight and the Batman readers are most familiar with is he sees law enforcement broadly and Jim Gordon specifically as being against him, something we've seen recently anyway when it comes to Bane.

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(Photo: DC Entertainment)

When one considers that, this Grim Knight doesn't quite have the feel of being the "most dangerous Dark Knight of all." That said, if you can let go of that expectation, Snyder and Tynion have done a brilliant job of exploring the impact of childhood trauma -- both experienced as a witness and by actively participating in this case -- has on shaping someone as an adult. In that same vein, their characterization of Gordon as being obsessively focused on bringing an out-of-control Batman to justice no matter what world he's on is a solid reminder that while he doesn't wear a cape or leap from rooftops in the night, Gordon is every bit as much of a superhero.

This layered, tightly told tale is given extra depth by Eduardo Risso's art. It has a vintage feel throughout the issue, giving the whole book a gritty yet familiar feel. This Grim Knight very much looks and feels like a more familiar Batman, just stripped of his humanity. It's the art in the issue that makes things a little darker, a bit more chilling as it drives home the brutality of the Grim Knight largely because of how familiar it all looks and feels.

Overall, The Batman Who Laughs: The Grim Knight #1 isn't a particularly shocking story, nor does it really break any new ground when it comes to Batman and variations of him. Instead, it's a solid book that encourages readers to examine the Batman we know and generally love while also taking into consideration that even the smallest change in a situation can lead to a very different outcome, and that a single moment can mean the difference between being a hero and being a villain. It's an idea worth being reminded of.

Published by DC Comics

On March 13, 2019

Written by Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV

Art by Eduardo Risso

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Color by Dave Stewart

Letters by Sal Cipriano