Previously in THE BATMAN WHO LAUGHS saga, the Grim Knight abducted Commissioner James Gordon for unknown purposes. Now, in THE BATMAN WHO LAUGHS: THE GRIM KNIGHT #1, we get a holistic view of his plans in addition to what made the Grim Knight the killer he is.

Throughout THE BATMAN WHO LAUGHS saga, the Grim Knight has arguably been the most mysterious Batman in the story. He has been a major player throughout the run’s narrative albeit behind the scenes. As a result, this issue’s depiction of the Grim Knight’s origins and ulterior motives is incredibly necessary. With this, THE BATMAN WHO LAUGHS: THE GRIM KNIGHT #1 maintains an incredibly well-developed portrayal of a twisted Bruce Wayne.

Thus, this installment in THE BATMAN WHO LAUGHS saga provides the overarching series with an extra layer of nuance and integral, engaging characterization.

the batman who laughs: the grim knight #1
THE BATMAN WHO LAUGHS: THE GRIM KNIGHT #1 variant cover. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

The Once and Future Commissioner Gordon

The issue commences with the Grim Knight escorting a hostage through the Gotham City sewers. That hostage, of course, is Commissioner Gordon, whom the Grim Knight captured in THE BATMAN WHO LAUGHS #3. Gordon goes on to explain that he does not understand the Grim Knight’s motivations. He understands those of the Batman Who Laughs since he is a Batman corrupted by the Joker. However, the Grim Knight remains a complete and total mystery to him, mainly because he does not understand how Batman would ever be inclined to use a gun.

So, the Grim Knight revisits the event that transformed him into a killer. On a fateful night in Crime Alley, his parents were murdered before his eyes. However, before the murderer could flee the scene, the Grim Knight picked up the murderer’s gun, shot, and killed him.

The Grim Knight was a mere child at the time.

Following this traumatic event, the Grim Knight embarked on a journey of strict discipline to create the symbol of Batman. During the duration of his career, the Grim Knight killed a multitude of Gotham City’s worst crime bosses, even going as far as burning a party of the city’s most corrupt alive.

the batman who laughs: the grim knight #1
THE BATMAN WHO LAUGHS: THE GRIM KNIGHT #1 page 1. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

The King of the City

Thus, the Grim Knight took control of the city. He maintained surveillance all throughout Gotham to observe every single individual’s actions, anticipating a crime to be committed.

His motives?

Ultimately, the Grim Knight never wants what happened to his parents to happen to anyone else, even if that wish requires him becoming Gotham City’s tyrant.

Unsurprisingly, those on the side of the law did not approve of the Grim Knight’s methods. Consequently, the Commissioner James Gordon of the Grim Knight’s reality eventually discovered the Grim Knight’s identity as Bruce Wayne and exposed him to the world, but not before totally humiliating him.

Therefore, the Grim Knight has proceeded to kidnap the James Gordon of our reality. He wishes to teach Gordon a lesson in a way, instructing him that suppressing the methods of the Grim Knight will continue to facilitate the merciless actions of the Batman Who Laughs.

So, the Grim Knight prepares to kill Gordon, but the Batman Who Laughs appears to stop the kill before it takes place.

THE BATMAN WHO LAUGHS: THE GRIM KNIGHT #1 is a fantastic issue, to say the least. Its strongest aspect lies in its characterization of the most ambiguous character in THE BATMAN WHO LAUGHS saga. Now, we understand the Grim Knight. We understand his impulses and how they contribute to the overarching story.

As a result, this particular one-shot proves to be more than just an accompanying adventure. It is an in-depth vignette of a horrifying Batman we would never want to encounter.

the batman who laughs: the grim knight #1
THE BATMAN WHO LAUGHS: THE GRIM KNIGHT #1 page 2. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

The Many Hues of THE BATMAN WHO LAUGHS: THE GRIM KNIGHT #1

The artwork of THE BATMAN WHO LAUGHS: THE GRIM KNIGHT #1 is absolutely astonishing. Firstly, the variant cover from Gabriele Dell Otto perfectly exemplifies the Grim Knight’s tactical nature. The symmetry of the image in addition to the array of weapons capture the Grim Knight’s discipline. With this, Edwardo Risso’s artwork throughout the issue is gorgeous, maintaining vibes reminiscent of noir. This is particularly apparent in the consistent presence of shadows and dark tones.

The sequence that stands out to me the most is the one taking place in Crime Alley at the beginning of the issue. Immediately, the sequence takes on an almost dream-like quality. The pages themselves fade into backgrounds that resemble watercolor paintings. Also, as aforementioned, the usage of shadows from this sequence on really emphasize the dark, surrealistic nature of this issue’s imagery. It is as though the Grim Knight is recollecting a nightmare he wishes to suppress.

Within that sequence, the image of a young Bruce Wayne transitioning from shock to anger is incredibly intimidating. That image alone proves to us that rage bred this child, catalyzing the birth of the Grim Knight. Additionally, the way the panels abruptly turn red when young Bruce shoots and kills his parents’ murderer is incredibly striking and captures the chilling nature of the issue thanks to colorist Dave Stewart.

So, overall, THE BATMAN WHO LAUGHS: THE GRIM KNIGHT #1 thrives in its art as it exemplifies the nature of the Grim Knight to a tee.

the batman who laughs: the grim knight #1
THE BATMAN WHO LAUGHS: THE GRIM KNIGHT #1 page 3. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

What Lies Beyond

The Grim Knight was an incredibly ambiguous character prior to this issue. We knew he was a killer, we just did not know why. We knew he operated on his own agenda, we just did not know out of what motive.

Now, we understand the ins and outs of the Grim Knight.

Because of this understanding, his relationship with the Batman Who Laughs has gotten more complex.

At the end of this installment, it appears as though the two may begin working together, which is strange considering the Grim Knight’s usual mode of operation.

Though, as we have come to learn, THE BATMAN WHO LAUGHS saga is a multi-faceted one. It keeps subverting our expectations. Thus, we will just have to remain on this ride, anticipating the twists and turns that lie ahead.

THE BATMAN WHO LAUGHS: THE GRIM KNIGHT #1 by Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV, Edwardo Risso, Dave Stewart, & Sal Cipriano
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Summary
THE BATMAN WHO LAUGHS: THE GRIM KNIGHT #1 gives us a fantastic, well-rounded perspective of the most ambiguous Batman in THE BATMAN WHO LAUGHS saga.
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