With Comic-Con around the corner (the fest overruns San Diego July 21-24), fans can expect a flood of superhero-related news items to spread across the Internet as studios line up future tentpoles and kick start viral marketing campaigns. And even though Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises isn’t expected to have much of a presence at the convention, the anticipated sequel just made a pre-Con splash by tossing a teaser poster into the mix.

Check it out the first ever Dark Knight Rises poster below:

It’s bleak. And it’s not just the washed out, black-and-white tones. It appears to suggest that major skyscrapers in Gotham are crumbling to the ground … a stark contrast to bright lights and bustle that was reflected in posters for The Dark Knight. Either that or massive pieces of popcorn are popping in Gotham. Maybe Bane (Tom Hardy) and Catwoman (Anne Hathaway) have a delicious scheme cooked up for the Caped Crusader?

Speaking of the announced antagonists, they’re noticeably absent from this teaser poster. Some of the best marketing for The Dark Knight gave us glimpses of Heath Ledger in his Joker outfit, working his bloody smile into the imagery. It immediately created a memorable image that this poster doesn’t quite convey. Bonus points for working the Bat signal into the design, though. Look closely, and you’ll see.

Hopefully we’ll get even more in the teaser trailers that are supposed to be attached to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 this weekend. And then there’s always Comic-Con, where Warner could continue to generate buzz for a sequel that doesn’t really need it.

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