SYNOPSIS: “When you chase your own shadow…it leads you into the abyss.” In a Gotham City where every day feels darker and more irredeemable than the last, Batman makes a definitive choice — to kill off the Bruce Wayne identity for good and embrace the cowl full-time. But though he knows the streets of Gotham, Batman will soon come to find that he hardly knows himself. A serial killer is on the loose, and while the murder victims seem random at first, every clue draws Batman closer to the terrifying truth — that they are all connected, not just to each other…but to him… When an all-new rogues gallery of utterly depraved villains begins to emerge from the depths of the city, Batman will have to contend with the very nature of evil-including that which lurks inside in the darkest corners of his own heart-to face what’s coming for his city. Batman: Gargoyle of Gotham brings Rafael Grampá’s twisted vision of both the Dark Knight and the city of Gotham to life in a DC writing debut that will reach its icy black tendrils into the deepest and darkest corners of human nature and leave you gasping for breath-and for more!
Writer and artist Rafael Grampá first came to my attention with his short story, “Into the Circle”, appearing in Batman: Black & White (2013) #2. His detailed style immediately leapt out at me, feeling very indie and eclectic, a style I would have balked at looking at in my teens, but appreciate so much more in my adulthood. He later accompanied Frank Miller in The Dark Knight Returns: The Golden Child, being the only saving grace in that entry.
So, how does he fare on his own?
We’ve got another instant classic on our hands.
From its opening pages, the narration draws you into the seedy underbelly of Grampá’s vision of Gotham. He gives you an intimate tour of the inhumanity inflicted upon the unfortunate, showing the city’s need for a savior.
We get our first glimpses of this new threat, a brilliantly inspired new rogue to Gotham’s gallery. Drenched in shadow, this noirish villain serves as a perfect match to Batman when it comes to instilling fear and horror in his victims.
As Batman springs into action, readers are treated to lushly illustrated brutality. The scene is very comparable to the Dark Knight’s first appearances in Batman Begins and The Batman, striking terror into those who prey on the defenseless. Every blow is visceral, every panel has a purpose, and the Caped Crusader looks spectacular in every image.
Further scenes with Gordon and an activist named Nia flesh out the world and touch on the theme of class, with those who have less being depicted as faceless. Again, every panel is rich in detail, constructing a world that feels very tactile on the page.
As all this is going on, Batman (yes, Batman, not Bruce Wayne), has his own character arc to go through. While this idea isn’t a new one, the concept feels like it is something that could actually happen in this universe. Being a book under the Black Label banner gives Grampá the freedom to not be beholden to any restrictions on a character I would imagine DC would want to keep in publication. I am very invested in how this plays out and it is fantastic having Alfred around as a springboard for this. In fact, he even gets some time “in the field” in this issue, which was a lot of fun to see!
Then there is the tech! Grampá plays up all the wonderful toys this Batman has, replete with a cowl that has infrared vision, a boost to hearing, and his own vision of the Batmobile, dubbed “The Blind Machine”. Part Tumbler, part muscle car, with a little of the Arkham games thrown in, it is as unique as it is familiar! A sequence at the end definitely puts it through its paces!
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that there are TWO versions being offered. The standard of course, with a smattering of variants, and a “Noir Edition”, showcasing the art in stunning black and white! Well, not just black and white. The starkness of the art occasionally gets punctuated with a splash of red when the violence erupts into blood. It boldly stands out, making the impact more brutal. DC clearly has a lot of faith in Grampá’s talents if they are releasing a noir version concurrently and I would definitely agree that it is worth it.
Simply put, there isn’t a book on the stands like Batman: Gargoyle of Gotham! It’s a powerhouse of a comic, deftly written and lavishly illustrated. The narrative will suck you into Gotham and not let go. I felt like I was reading a spiritual brother to last year’s The Batman, just completely immersed in the environment and marveling at the visuals. This is a Bat-book you won’t forget! – Javier E. Trujillo