Sean Murphy is delivering his magnum opus when it comes to Batman and the Joker. Through his elseworlds tale Batman: White Knight we’ve seen interesting interpretations of Harley Quinn, Joker, Batman, and even Gotham itself. He’s turned a lot of things on their head while revealing a more realistic view of how we might actually perceive a vigilante like Batman. The fifth chapter in this eight part series drops today.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
Jack’s mind and body begin to betray him as he prepares for an inevitable showdown with Batman, and Bruce himself struggles to keep his team united. As the game gets tougher, Batman seeks counsel from a shocking source–and after Wayne Manor is infiltrated, a car chase for the ages aims to curb Napier’s supercriminal crew once and for all.
Why does this matter?
Ever wanted to see Joker turn into a seemingly good guy and take on Batman? You get that here. Plus, Murphy’s art is incredibly detailed and pretty to look at.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
Joker will be changing back soon, right?
This issue veers into a surprising direction focusing on Batman and Joker’s symbiotic relationship or lack thereof. Murphy is playing around with motifs and symbolism of Gotham from the public perception of the Wayne family to the deeper meaning of how Batman and Joker relate to their favorite gothic city. With a new Joker on the prowl, it’s quite clear Murphy is starting to show what happens when someone comes between the love affair between Batman and Joker. Murphy has already shown Joker literally praying to an altar of Batman so it’s not a stretch to see he’s possibly veering this story into a team up conclusion. That said, he’s laying the groundwork in the right way so it feels earned.
There are some amazing panels in this issue with incredible lighting highlighting the gothic and crumbling Gotham. Matt Hollingsworth dazzles with his color work in that regard, especially in how he uses oranges to light Gotham. On one page there’s a poster-worthy shot of Batman swinging towards us with a sprawling Gotham behind him in incredible detail. The fact that it’s annoying there are some panels in the top left corner cluttering this pretty image, even though they are helpful in telling the story, is a testament to his work. Later in the issue, Murphy uses the powers of Poison Ivy in a clever way and his ability to draw these wispy vines amongst detailed rooms heightens the sense of realism in the scene.
Never doubt Batman.
It can’t be perfect can it?
There’s a catastrophic event that’s a bit of a head-scratcher two thirds into the comic. It’s clear why it happens, but the how is hard to believe. A giant tanker probably can’t veer as quickly as it does which in turn creates huge property damage. On top of that, the villains who are fleeing somehow make it out alive (we never see how they made it out only that they did) which is also confusing. The progression of this scene might have been clearer if a select panel or two was shifted or changed, but as it is it reads like a forced way to get Batman from point A to point B in the plot.
Is It Good?
It’s hard not to like this series due to its highly detailed art and how well it tells the story. Whether or not you dig stories outside of canon will determine if you love this, but you’ll still enjoy the interesting ideas and how Murphy can play with Batman motifs the main series just can’t do.