During Scott Snyder’s Justice League run, I will admit I tended to like the various issues he and James Tynion would co-write that covered the bad guys. These were something of change-of-pace issues, showing important developments in the ongoing story, but at the same time, giving more room for characters that might otherwise be ignored or sidetracked a whole issue of their own to show who they were and what they could do.
It turns out Snyder did something like that for the Batman Who Laughs mini-series.
Issue: The Batman Who Laughs: The Grim Knight #1, March 2019
Writers: Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV
Artist: Eduardo Risso
The Plot: The Grim Knight, holding Jim Gordon captive, reflects back on the Jim Gordon from his own broken world.
Commentary: On the surface, the Grim Knight is just Batman if he was the Punisher. As a boy, this Bruce Wayne picked up the discarded handgun Joe Chill used to kill Thomas and Martha Wayne and gunned his killer down, thus instilling in the boy the feeling that guns were a powerful tool necessary to keep evil from triumphing. This issue gets a bit deeper into that, showing this Bruce was less enamored with guns and moreso with strict order, using guns to cleanse the streets of Gotham of anyone he disapproved of. On the main Earth, he’s holding Jim Gordon hostage. Gordon is trying to somewhat reason with the Grim Knight, mostly by saying he just doesn’t get what made this Batman go that route.
It does appear to be getting somewhat through to the Grim Knight though that has less to do with what Gordon is saying than simply by being Gordon. Essentially, Jim Gordon on the Grim Knight’s Earth was never the Batman’s friend. In point of fact, he was the Grim Knight’s most implacable enemy, the one person anywhere in Gotham who might have even the slightest of inklings about who the Grim Knight might be and how to bring him down. That Batman used the tech resources of Wayne Enterprises, scattered throughout the city, to monitor everything, including the cops. Once Gordon realizes this, he goes underground and starts planning.
That actually does raise an interesting idea, one that Snyder doesn’t touch so much in the various Dark Night stories: why are all the Batmen from the failed and broken worlds of the Dark Multiverse evil? The Grim Knight is not a good man, but he’s clearly better than the Batman Who Laughs, and the whole point of this issue seems to be the Grim Knight’s hoping he can somehow convince Gordon to switch sides before he has to turn Gordon over to the Batman Who Laughs. It’s a plan that ultimately doesn’t work, but one thing this issue does a good job of is displaying the two very different Jim Gordons. Both Gordons care very much for law and order and doing the right thing, but the one on the Prime Earth is Batman’s friend while the one from the Grim Knight’s world is not by a long shot. But every time a new Batman from the Dark Multiverse shows up, they end up siding with the Batman Who Laughs for…reasons. I have no idea what those are, but you’d think more of them would be Batmen on worlds where things just went hellishly wrong without Batman becoming some sort of mass murderer.
Then again, the Dark Multiverse is supposed to come from the secret fears and nightmares of the main world, so I guess Batman’s fear of becoming a killer would make more Dark Multiverse Batmen into killers. The less violent ones probably come from worlds based off the fears of other people in the DCU.
Regardless, the Grim Knight is perhaps not so grim as remorseful on some level, one who maybe regrets he and Gordon ended up on opposite sides of the push to keep Gotham safe, made more remorseful after he saw how much this Gordon got along with his Batman. It’s hard to say, but it could be the slightest crack in the wall needed to defeat the Batman Who Laughs.
Oh, and getting Risso to do the artwork? That makes this one-shot so much better.