Like the Arkham series before it, Gotham Knights is a game that draws from many corners of the Batman franchise to create its own, cohesive universe. This is a game that shines a spotlight on the Dark Knight’s former sidekicks and the shadowy Court of Owls. But the game isn’t simply borrowing from existing Batman mythology; it’s also making some key additions of its own. And one of those additions is the focal point of Gotham Knights’ prequel comic book, Gilded City.
Written by Evan Narcisse (Rise of the Black Panther) and drawn by ABEL (Harley Quinn), Batman: Gotham Knights – Gilded City is a story that takes place both in the immediate leadup to the game and in Gotham City’s distant past. And it all hinges on a new DC hero, a 19th Century freedom fighter known as The Runaway.
IGN can exclusively reveal a preview of the first two issues of this limited series. Check out the slideshow gallery below to see covers, interior art and a glimpse of the first two in-game DLC items being included, and then read on to learn more about how the comic sets the stage for the game.
The Plot of Gotham Knights: Gilded City
While the plot of the Gotham Knights game is being kept under wraps leading up to release, we do know some important details. The game kicks off after the sudden deaths of Batman and Commissioner Gordon. In the aftermath of that twin tragedy, Nightwing, Batgirl Red Hood and Robin will have to team up to restore order to Gotham and unravel a massive conspiracy involving the Court of Owls.
Gilded City is a direct prequel to the game, one set before Batman and Gordon’s deaths. Narcisse is familiar with the plot of the game, having worked as a narrative consultant for Gotham Knights and other superhero games like Marvel’s Spider-Man and Marvel’s Avengers. But his goal here is ultimately to tell a story that stands on its own two legs. Narcisse stresses to IGN that the comic is “linked more thematically than causally” to the game. Gilded City is less about filling in major story gaps than helping to establish this version of Gotham City and the relationships between Batman and his sidekicks.
That approach makes sense, given that that one such relationship looks to be one of the biggest points of divergence between Gotham Knights and the traditional DC Universe. Batman’s bond with Nightwing looks to be strained at best in this universe. Far from being the happy-go-lucky acrobat who escaped the Dark Knight’s shadow, this version of Dick Grayson is openly hostile to his adoptive father. If the cover to Gilded City #2 is any indication, the two characters may even come to blows over the course of the story.
In short, Gilded City will explore why the bonds between Batman and his partners have begun to fray and why this version of the Caped Crusader hasn’t been able to salvage those relationships. This Batman’s obsession with his mission has begun to overshadow everything else
“You’ll see the Dark Knight who’s still in his prime, but one who must also face the relationship consequences of his single-minded pursuit of his mission,” teases Narcisse.
As for the threat Batman is confronting in the comic, it remains to be seen just how closely the conflict connects to the game’s main villains, like the aforementioned Court of Owls and rogues like Penguin and Mister Freeze. As the first issue opens, the Bat-family is facing a new crime spree where ordinary Gotham citizens are seemingly driven mad by an unknown contagion.
Who Is The Runaway?
While the comic will help set the stage for the game’s story mode, its biggest contribution to the Batman mythos actually happens far earlier in the DC timeline. The series introduces a new character named The Runaway, one who was active in Gotham in the decades before the Civil War.
This hero’s secret identity is a mystery as the series opens, but their codename, costume and mission all point to The Runaway being an escaped slave who defends African Americans fleeing to the relative safety of the North. Whomever they are, The Runaway is being introduced as a hero active in Gotham long before Batman, and one who isn’t part of the Wayne family’s centuries-long legacy in the city.
“As with a lot of characters, the Runaway started with a story need,” Narcisse tells IGN. “I needed to have a hero seated in Gotham City’s past but didn’t want it to be a character in the Wayne family lineage. That led me to think about co-creating a character who came from circumstances that were almost the exact opposite of Bruce Wayne’s: no generational wealth or socioeconomic privilege and strongly tied to the working class of Gotham. Those ideas wound up percolating and resulted in a hero with a lot more proximity to different kinds of injustice.”
Narcisse hints that there will be some important connections between the two storylines, despite the nearly 200 years of separation. The comic will reveal what Bruce Wayne knows about The Runaway’s exploits, and perhaps even whether that legendary vigilante helped inspire the creation of Batman.
But there’s also a more practical connection between the two storylines. The Runaway will clash with the 19th Century incarnation of the Court of Owls, foreshadowing a major battle to come in 2022.
“The viral behavorial threat that Batman and the Bat-family are dealing with has direct ties to the Runaway in the 19th Century,” Narcisse says. “And, since the Court of Owls has been the secret power underneath Gotham since the city’s founding, they definitely take issue with the masked vigilante’s attempts to thwart their evil agenda.”
This was definitely a case of DC dropping in an Easter egg of things to come. Though Narcisse didn’t work on that issue, he did loop co-writer Becky Cloonan in on his plans for the character. Unsurprisingly, Narcisse is hopeful the hero will catch on and begin appearing in other DC projects. This cameo suggests that process has already begun.
Gotham Knights: Gilded City’s Exclusive DLC
As with previous video game-themed DC comics like Batman/Fortnite: Zero Point, Gilded City will include some exclusive DLC for use in the Gotham Knights game. Each issue will include a code for a different cosmetic item. These single-use codes will be included with print copies of the issue and also provided to subscribers of DC Universe Infinite, but they won’t be included with digital purchases on storefronts like Comixology.
The first of these cosmetics is a new skin for the Batcycle, which gives the vehicle a stark, white makeover:
The second is a skin that transforms Nightwing’s escrima sticks into old-fashioned rifle barrels:
DC isn’t revealing what DLC is included in the remaining four issues, but these cosmetics should provide some added incentive for players to pick up the prequel series.
Batman: Gotham Knights – Gilded City #1 releases on October 25, the same day as the game.
For more on Gotham Knights, check out our video of two different versions of Red Hood playing co-op together, and see our full reveal of 28 different superhero suits featured in the game. If you want to see everything we’ve revealed from Gotham Knights so far, check out our IGN First hub.
Jesse is a mild-mannered staff writer for IGN. Allow him to lend a machete to your intellectual thicket by following @jschedeen on Twitter.
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Author: Jesse Schedeen