DC Comics Creates New Batman Origin Story With Daredevil Writer Chip Zdarsky

There is a lot of, many Batman origin stories, but, judging by its debut issue, few are as ambitious or exploratory as Batman: The Knight.

A 10-issue miniseries that charts Bruce Wayne’s emotionally charged odyssey from vengeful billionaire boy to world’s greatest detective begins to cut to the heart of what makes a troubled young man do terrible things in his first episode. This is no superhero game: Chip Zdarsky and Carmine Di Giandomenico threw Wayne into a gauntlet of growing pains and hubris, where psychological distress is just as vital to the story as his fistfights beautifully rendered.

It’s mean, it’s moody, it’s good.

Who is making Batman: The Knight?

Batman: The Knight #1 brings together Eisner Prize-winning writer Chip Zdarsky and artist Carmine Di Giandomenico. The two have had recent contact with Gotham City: Zdarksy completed a 6-issue run on the anthology series Batman: Urban Legends last August when Di Giandomenico illustrated three issues (#991-993) of James Robinson’s short passage on Police comics. The number is colored by Ivan Plascencia (a frequent collaborator of Di Giandomenico during his run on the flash) and literate by industry stalwart Pat Brosseau.

What is Batman: The Knight about?

Batman: The Knight Number 1 isn’t so much about how Bruce Wayne started his path to the Batcave, but how he felt when he did. This issue chronicles Wayne’s disastrous last semester at Gotham Academy: he torments bullies, usually freaks out his soon-to-be girlfriend Dana Dunlop, and sneaks out of his mansion to punch strangers at underground fight clubs. Bruce is, to put it mildly, a mess, and his devoted butler Alfred Pennyworth is at his wit’s end.

That’s why Dana suggests that he see his family psychiatrist, a curious doctor who finds Wayne’s fate intriguing and who is really insistent on conducting shady hypnotherapy sessions. The doctor is young villain Hugo Strange, an alarming presence that adds a substantial amount of peril to the problem. Strange’s conversations with Bruce are presented as the only relatively stable element in Batman: The Knight #1 while all the other sequences in the number make it clear how close he came to losing himself in anger. Readers will quickly recognize where the real danger for Wayne lies in this story; the danger is not only in the streets, it’s in this room.

Why is Batman: The Knight #1 happening now?

Image: Chip Zdarsky, Carmine Di Giandomenico/DC Comics

It’s the year 2022 and DC needs to have some sort of mandate for every generation to get their own Batman origin story. Batman: Year Zero was published nine years ago, Batman: Year One is 35, and the sooner you decide not to do the math on how old The Untold Legend of Batman it’s better. Outraged, there’s a Year 2 Batman movie coming out in March, which just might send movie buffs and stale comic book readers running to their nearest comic book store to find out what this Bruce Wayne character did on the printed page. Releasing a new origin story for Batman at this time is a timely move on DC’s part.

Is there required reading?

The short answer is no. It’s an origin story, don’t be ridiculous.

yet. If Batman’s origins are in spades, at least DC has had the wisdom to let each new take tackle a different aspect of Bruce Wayne’s formative years. Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo Year zero depicts Batman’s first (or zeroth) year as an overzealous vigilante who may be just in over his head; Frank Miller and Dave Mazzucchelli First year explores how Batman and Lt. Jim Gordon’s relationship evolved during their first year in Gotham; Len Wein, John Byrne and Jim Aparo Unpublished legend ties Batman’s origin to Robin’s and features both as legacy characters: Bruce was technically the second Batman after his father’s adventurous night as the capped hero (a story adapted from Detective comics #235) while Dick Grayson was technically the second Robin, following Bruce’s first costumed foray as Gotham City’s masked Avenger.

Each story is great on its own, and they all have something unique to offer. It’s not necessarily required reading, but it’s fascinating to see how the Batman saga comes together by reading these seemingly disparate stories. It’s still early, but Knight has the goods to become the latest essential example of how Batman’s story continues to stay fresh even as our real world continues to change around it.

Batman: Is The Knight #1 any good?

“I let you down,” Alfred says to a shocked young Bruce Wayne, leaning over a steering wheel, after stopping the car while overcome with emotion in Batman: The Knight #1 (2022).

Image: Chip Zdarsky, Carmine di Giandomenico/DC Comics

If you’ve read Zdarsky’s ridiculously good book daredevil run and often wondered how he could approach a race on Batman, you just clicked on paydirt.

Knight is a more grounded origin story than what we’ve seen before. The grappling hooks, the art of escape, the muscle car, these are miles on the road. Zdarsky isn’t interested in racing for the familiar touchstones of Bruce’s long journey to Dark Knightdom; he’s more invested in Bruce’s brilliant mind. And at this point in the story, Bruce’s brain is being pulled in all sorts of directions.

Bruce’s regular nightmares are point-blank recreations of the night his parents were murdered, the mugger’s gun barely obscuring his remorseless smile just before the gun went off and Bruce woke up. State of shock. And Bruce wakes up to find he’s still angry. He trains his body as a gymnast with no real goal in mind and unleashes his pent-up frustrations on nameless (and economically desperate) adversaries in Gotham’s underground fight clubs.

Di Giandomenico goes to great lengths to make sure Bruce’s little tortures show up on his face, body, and hands. The toll Bruce pays is noticed by the people who care about him most, which makes Bruce’s interactions with them all the more painful to read. At one point Alfred calls him a spoiled, rich kid, and you can almost hear the agony in his voice. Zdarsky is incredibly good at scripting deeply human moments and Batman: The Knight #1 has a real doozy.

One thing becomes patently clear in this story: Young Bruce wants to punish people who hurt others, and he does it with alarming cruelty. Alfred sees him, fears him, and out of love sets Bruce on a path with consequences neither of them can understand. Later, Bruce tests his growing deductive mind against an adversary in a scene with the kind of thrilling dramatic height you don’t read about in a debut issue so often. Wayne, still a child, tastes justice for the first time and discovers that he loves it. But what terrible things could he do as he navigates this new quest?

That’s a crazy question, given what’s being discovered in Batman: The Knight #1, a compelling and chilling new take on the Batman mythos.

A panel that jumped

The face of a shirtless young Bruce Wayne is shrouded in dark shadows as someone off-panel asks

Image: Chip Zdarsky, Carmine Di Giandomenico/DC Comics

Wherever Bruce ends up next, one thing is for sure: it’s going to hurt.