WRITER: JAMES T TYNION IV, SCOTT SNYDER | ARTIST: EDUARDO RISSO | PUBLISHER: DC | FORMAT: SINGLE ISSUE | RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
What if Batman was the Punisher? What if, instead of being abandoned, crying on his knees in Crime Alley before the corpses of his parents, little Bruce Wayne had taken Joe Chill’s gun and shot the guy in the face? What if, instead of being inspired by the Bat crashing through the window of his study, Bruce had shot that in the face too? And what if, upon finally taking the cape and cowl, Batman had devoted his life’s work to shooting crooks in the face instead of punching them? What if… well, you get the idea.
So asks The Grim Knight #1, although it turns out the more pressing question is What would Jim Gordon make of all this? A tie-in one-shot to the ongoing Batman Who Laughs saga, it fills in some of the blanks on the Grim Knight’s crusade, alternating scenes in the present with flashbacks to a Year One gone wrong, in which Bruce Wayne simply shoots criminals in the face instead of taking them in. One feels that Frank Miller (and, to a lesser extent, Batfleck) would approve.
In the present day and another universe, the Grim Knight has kidnapped Gordon, working in conjunction with the Batman Who Laughs to bring down the Batman we all know and love. While Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV alternate between writing the two timelines (and universes), Eduardo Risso is on art duties for both – employing two equally impressive, very different styles to stunning effect. And it’s Risso’s art (with colouring from Dave Stewart) which carries the book.
For while the dialogue and story is written and structured well enough, the concept of Batman-as-Punisher isn’t groundbreaking stuff, and the writers’ take on a more murderous Year One never steps outside of that template enough to offer anything particularly insightful.
Where the Bat is concerned, that is. While The Grim Knight is an adequate Elseworlds-type book, it’s an excellent Jim Gordon story. Snyder and Tynion IV present Gordon as Batman’s equal, and a good man, even when his Batman is a monstrous bastard and a poster child for the Gotham branch of the NRA.
While it doesn’t make for essential reading on its own, this one-shot is a sick, slick chapter in The Batman Who Laughs story, recommended for its sublime artwork and Gordon characterization alone. Its Jim Gordon gives the book something to say, even if it isn’t really about Batman at all.