SYNOPSIS: “A devil cub falls to earth and breaks its wing…” In the unmissable second installment of acclaimed storyteller Rafael Grampá’s masterpiece, the skies over Gotham grow darker still. To decide to kill your past is one thing, but actually doing it proves to be more fraught a road than Batman ever expected…especially when that very same past grows more tightly woven into his current case with every new clue he uncovers. And the closer Batman gets to the truth, the clearer it becomes that his real enemy’s power runs much deeper than just puppeteering a few costumed criminals…to the very heart of Gotham City itself!
Creator Rafael Grampá takes us further into his vision of Gotham, opting not to pick up immediately where he left off, but shortly after, allowing him to play with the narrative structure slightly for dramatic effect. This allows him to introduce another new villain, reframing what exactly Batman is dealing with, to a chilling effect.
I loved seeing Bruce (or should I say “Batman”?) reflect on his battle with Crytoon in the isolation of his sensory deprivation pool. Having the flashbacks be in black, white, and red is not only a fun taste of the Noir edition but also provides a stark impact, heightening the sense of violence thanks to the vivid color of the blood. Batman comes off very brutal here, a faint callback to a very quick flashback last issue, one that pays off big-time later.
This storyline is very intricate. The groundwork laid out that I glossed over comes into sharper focus with this installment, creating a rich tapestry that is both familiar and new. I appreciate that Grampá is making new Rogues here, with them carrying bizarre, frightening visages. The mind boggles at how he would interpret the classic foes, but I’m quite happy with these fresh enemies.
Gordon is a key supporting character, recalling both his partnership with Batman in The Batman and his involvement in the aftermath of the Wayne murders, a lá The Dark Knight Trilogy. Both he and Alfred have character revelations in this issue, with Gordon having to face the repercussions of his partnership with Batman. Gordon is a very active participant in the story, recalling his “screen time” in Batman: Year One, but by no means dominating the narrative. He feels just as alone as Batman, except even more isolated as he doesn’t have an Alfred in his corner.
Gotham very much is a character here, with an active populace screaming for change, silent and sinister danger around every corner, and unseen forces manipulating events in the city for decades. This isn’t the Court of Owls, however. The possibility Grampá raises about Batman’s origin being manipulated adds another layer of intrigue and excitement to the story, calling the Dark Knight to question his goal of murdering the Bruce Wayne identity. Everything in this story is so much deeper and complicated than I expected.
Grampá’s art is ornate, yet characters can have a cartoonish exaggeration at times, which by no means undercuts the drama and tension being created. There is a great sense of balance in his art, with the detail making the world feel rich and visceral. Matheus Lopes is the colorist, perfectly complimenting the visuals, adding grit, and making the characters pop. There is a splash page of Batman atop a cell tower in the rain that I would love to have as a poster or art print! It’s that magnificent!
After a spectacular debut issue, Rafael Grampá builds upon the foundation he laid, delivering another stunning tour de force! He brings us one step closer to the core of Bruce Wayne, unveiling a hidden truth about the night all meaning left his life. The effort Grampá is investing in every page is apparent and the art is intricately crafted, bringing to life a complex narrative and sinister mystery in another exciting Black Label book. Much like Sean Gordon Murphy’s White Knight, this is a special title from a creative with a singular vision. Do not miss it! – Javier E. Trujillo