There’s a certain status quo with serial storytelling and an elseworld story is a nice way to mix things up. Sean Murphy’s Batman: White Knight #1 did just that by framing Batman as a slightly unhinged and violent hero who beats on the curable Joker. Now that he’s fixed and rubbed off the face paint the second issue explores Jack Napier’s first moves to rid Gotham of the Batman.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
Public support for Batman dwindles and Gotham City’s 99 percent rally around ex-Joker Jack Napier’s crusade to expose decades of corruption within the GCPD. A proposition inspires new revelations about Harley and The Joker’s past; and as Jack transforms into a hero of the middle class and takes extreme measures to mobilize a revolutionary army of super-villains, Bruce struggles to stay focused on engineering a technological breakthrough to save Alfred.
Why does this matter?
The last issue proved Murphy has a unique story on his hands and one that’s playing around with Joker and Batman having some kind of love/hate relationship. And by love I mean romantically, at least at a subconscious level. It’s an interesting take made more riveting due to Murphy’s incredibly detailed art.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
The jury rests!
This issue goes full steam ahead with Joker aka Jack Napier’s plan to destroy the GCPD and Batman for their admittedly fuzzy justice. They’ve thrown Joker into prison so many times with only eye witness accounts from Batman–a character who never backs up his claims in court–and essentially abused a criminal’s rights. This is Napier’s point of view anyway and Murphy takes this a step further with Joker beginning to build an army to fight Batman.
Batman fanatics who were waiting to see how this story was reviewed should start buying now as there are tons of cool characters and twists to explore. This issue contains a lot of villains and a few of them have some interesting new designs from Murphy. The coolest new element from Murphy is how he approaches Harley Quinn, who at first wears the recent movie costume, but quickly shifts to her classic Batman: the Animated Series costume. The explanation for this switch is quite clever (we talk about it in detail here) and it’ll expand your mind as far as why Harley has had different looks. It also makes some sense due to Joker’s previous insanity.
As Joker builds towards taking the fight to Batman Murphy also explores Bruce Wayne’s attempt to save Alfred and an interesting subplot that comes as a shock to Bruce. Murphy is playing around with the 1% being the ruling class in two different ways: The first being that Joker is appealing to the 99% as their savior and the voice that will fight for them. The second being an interesting concept of “Bat Impact Zones” which reduce real estate prices allowing the rich to buy up properties and then make a profit off government funded rebuilding. It’s a real world concept that Murphy applies well and it comes as a shock to Batman.
The art continues to be excellent and there isn’t a single panel you won’t linger on. There isn’t a lot of action in this issue, but it’s made up for by an excellent full-page spread of Joker crying at an altar of Batman iconography and a double page of the most famous villains seated at a table.
This scene is excellent.
It can’t be perfect can it?
Speaking briefly about a lack of action this issue also opens with a ton of dialogue that blots out the art and, at best guess, covers half the first page! This issue sets up a lot of what is to come but does so in heavy expositional scenes that make it a slog to get through. There’s great moody art throughout, and it’s not like every comic needs a fight scene, but it could have used a shot of action to ramp up the pace.
Barbara Gordon plays a small part in this issue and sticks out a bit due to her being somewhat cute and serving as comedy relief. The tone of the issue and the series so far doesn’t quite fit with her bubbly demeanor.
Is It Good?
Batman: White Knight #2 is infinitely compelling as it takes readers down a road of new ways of looking at characters. Batman, Joker, Harley Quinn, and more are featured in new ways that are fascinating.