Everyone in Gotham City knew that The Bat was the only one keeping The Joker under control. The police did their best but they were essentially powerless against the new breed of super-criminal that had come to dominate the town. And if a few innocent people got hurt as a turbo-charged Batmobile careened down the streets without concern for life of property… well, at least he wasn’t killing as many people as The Joker, right?
That changed one night when the man called The Joker was force-fed a random assortment of pills by an enraged Batman. Somehow, the chemical overdose caused a miraculous transformation. Not only was The Joker’s appearance restored to normal but he was rendered blessedly sane!
It turned out to be the worst thing that could have happened to The GCPD. Now Jack Napier – the man who was The Joker – has turned his considerable intellect toward building a better Gotham City. One that has no need of a Batman to protect it. His first target? The corrupt and incompetent police department. But that is for tomorrow.
Tonight, Jack is paying a visit a special lady and making plans for the future that have nothing to do with revenge or righteousness. Tonight, he proposes to his Harley Quinn…
No single comic series this year has surprised this critic as much as Batman: White Knight. Any expectations forged based on the previews were blown away by the first issue, whose action had little relation to the series as described. Instead of a zany role-reversal story where a perfectly sane Joker was set to catch an out-of-control Batman, we instead received a topical examination of how the rich get richer off the suffering of the poor and how media scapegoats enable the corruption of the law.
More than that, Sean Murphy has crafted a story that redefines the perception of Batman in a way that hasn’t been seen since Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns. Indeed, White Knight seems to be a rebuttal to the macho posturing that is Miller’s bread-and-butter. Murphy’s Batman is an obsessive thug, whose mask of calm collection slips and sparks violent reactions whenever he is confronted with anything that conflicts with his black-and-white world view.
It’s worth noting that despite his placement in the protagonist role, Jack Napier is no hero. By this issue’s end he takes actions that keep him firmly in the villain side of the column despite his stated noble intentions. The irony is that while Jack Napier may be sane he is still as ruthless as The Joker when push comes to shove. Indeed, without his insanity distracting him, he is more dangerous than ever!
The artwork is as impressive as the writing, with Murphy’s pencils and inks coupled with Matt Matt Hollingsworth’s colors evoking a Film Noir aesthetic that is as timeless as that seen in Batman: The Animated Series. Indeed, there’s quite a lot of nods to that classic cartoon in the artwork and the writing… including one that requires special, though spoiler-filled discussion.
To that end, if you wish to remain unspoiled, stop reading this review now and go knowing that this is a fantastic comic that should be required reading for every Bat-Fan. SPOILERS AHEAD!
This most shocking – and, for most fans I think, gratifying – aspect of this issue is the revelation that the original Harley Quinn had been replaced by an impostor and The Joker never cared enough to notice. Not only is this a nice rebuttal of the idea of Joker and Harley as some kind of ideal romantic couple but it’s a scathing indictment of the recent efforts of some creators at DC Comics to turn Harley Quinn into their version of Deadpool or reduce her to the role of eye-candy. The Harley Quinn we see here is the real deal – the woman who embraced the mad love that was offered to her but never got blinded by it. She lost her mind but never her intelligence.
I already stated that this comic should be required reading for any fan of the Batman franchise. That sentiment goes double for anyone who loves Harley Quinn. This is one hell of a good read and you’d be a damn fool to pass this book over.