Driven sane after One Bad Night, Jack Napier’s plan to take back Gotham City from the self-righteous vigilante called Batman has gone better than planned. Now a City Councilman, Napier has won the trust of the people and turned them against their home-town hero. He’s even managed to win the police and Batman’s allies to his way of thinking, spearheading the development of The GTO – a new task force that unites the police and Gotham’s vigilantes into an officially sanctioned accountable organization.
There’s just one problem. Jack’s body has begun to betray him and it’s taking more and more medication to keep his altered body chemistry stable… not to mention his mind! His in-house doctor and the love of his life Harleen is doing her best, but it may be only a matter of time before The Killing Joke.
Jack’s planning to go down fighting, however, as it’s also only a matter of time before push comes to shove with Batman. And even as his mortal enemy seeks an unexpected ally in his fight with the former Joker, the villain called Neo Joker – the former second Harley Quinn – starts her own campaign to win back her “Mistah J.”
Even as it passes its halfway mark to completion with this issue, Batman: White Knight continues to find new ways to surprise me. What Sean Murphy has crafted here is no mere Batman Elseworlds. This is a story to redefine the Batman mythology for a generation in a way no story has managed since Batman: The Dark Knight Returns.
Bold words, but I stand by them.
As with all great art, it is difficult to quantify just what it is that Murphy has done that makes White Knight work so well. It’s not that the story is vastly original, as the base plot contains deconstructive ideas that have been explored to death elsewhere, like the conceit that Batman is as crazy as the criminals he fights or speculations on what it would be like if The Joker were sane. It is not merely that Murphy has taken the foundation of nearly 80 years of classic superhero stories across multiple media and distilled these characters down to their quintessence, though he has done that. It is not that he manages multiple impossible conceits, such as a Joker/Harley romance that is an actual romance rather than romanticized abuse, and makes them work when all reason says they should not. It is all of that and more.
The artwork is fantastic, offering a view of Gotham City that is familiar yet vibrantly different and distinct. Like the story, it seems wholly original while being built on a foundation of classic ideas that work. With the colors of Matt Hollingsworth and the letters of Todd Klein providing the perfect finishing touches, this is one of the best looking books on the market and one that should be nominated for an Eisner in every category.
Batman: White Knight #5 goes on sale on February 7, 2018. Reserve it now on Comixology.