As if a sinister Batman/Joker hybrid wasn’t bad enough, The Batman Who Laughs #1 introduced us to yet another bastardized version of Bruce Wayne spawned from the depths of the Dark Multiverse: The Grim Knight.
For all intents and purposes, he’s a mash-up between Batman and The Punisher. In fact, as The Batman Who Laughs so eloquently puts it in Issue #2 of his own miniseries, “He’s [Bruce] if Joe Chill dropped the gun in the alley and [the boy] picked it up.”
Now, in The Batman Who Laughs: The Grim Knight #1, we finally learn the origin of this new, bloodthirsty Bruce, and we do it through the lens of one of the most quintessential Batman tales.
As the issue begins, The Grim Knight is escorting a bound and blindfolded Commissioner Gordon to an unknown location at gunpoint. A narration box confirms the pair is currently in the sewers beneath Crime Alley, and in a flashback sequence, we witness exactly what The Batman Who Laughs alluded to previously, as a young Bruce Wayne shoots and kills Joe Chill after the mugger guns down his parents.
However, in the next flashback, we see an adult Bruce sporting familiar grey sweats as he chops wood with his bare hands and kicks down trees outside of Wayne Manor. Then, as he rests in his armchair in front of a bust of his father, with a massive arsenal of weapons at his feet, a bat comes crashing through the window.
“Yes, father…” he says after grabbing a pistol and shooting the bat dead. “…I shall become a bat.”
This, of course, is a gruesome reimagining of scenes that originally played out in Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli’s seminal 1987 story Batman: Year One, which provided the Caped Crusader with a revamped origin following Crisis on Infinite Earths. However, the harrowing homage doesn’t end there.
Immediately after Bruce kills the bat, we’re transported to the Mayor of Gotham’s mansion, where, in Year One, Batman interrupted a dinner of the city’s most elite and most corrupt citizens. Here, The Grim Knight does the same, even going so far as to quote Batman’s original speech verbatim. Instead of simply giving them a scare, though, he burns everyone in the dining room alive.
Finally, we revisit Year One’s classic GCPD scene, where Lt. Gordon gives his officers a rundown of the recent assaults committed by Gotham’s mysterious new bat-vigilante. Except, in The Grim Knight’s world, they aren’t just assaults – they’re murders, and among the recently executed criminals are The Penguin, Black Mask, Killer Croc and the Red Hood Leader (aka the predecessor to The Joker).
Much like we saw in the seven Dark Knights one-shots during Dark Nights: Metal, this Dark Multiverse version of Bruce Wayne lived a very similar life to that of the one we know from the DC Universe proper. However, to paraphrase a certain Clown Prince of Crime from yet another classic Batman tale, all it takes is one bad day to reduce the most disciplined man alive to murder.