By Sean Murphy, Matt Hollingsworth, and Todd Klein
Batman: White Knight is the comic book we need right now. Ok, so you might not want it or think you need it, but rest assured this book and the treatment is gets from Sean Murphy is exactly the book comic fans, especially cynical Batman fans, need. This story showcases corruption and vigilantism as the true villains of Gotham, the true suppressors of the lower and middle class. Crime became the best way for the wealthy and the elite to profit off of the poor, and this all was best exemplified with the public’s fascination with Batman and villainization of the Joker. The first issue showed the beginning of the Joker’s, excuse me, Jack Napier’s plan. He wants Batman’s attention, he too is obsessed with the Bats, so he begins to show Batman how much they need each other. We see the public begin to turn on the GCPD, Bats, and sympathize with the poor Joker and the second issue just takes his plan to the next level. We see Jack in court, painting his experience with the GCPD, Arkham Asylum, and Batman with himself as a victim and scapegoat. Then, his plan takes shape with the help of his ultimate support system Harley Quinn, aka Harleen Quinzel, and some great scheme to team up with all the ultimate super villains.
Sean Murphy impressed us all with his previous Batman miniseries, Batman/Scarecrow: Year One and now he has completely outdone himself with this fresh take on our caped crusader and his ultimate nemesis. Murphy takes on double duty as both artist and writer for this series, and this second issue shows off why he is the perfect creator to bring this particular story to life. The beautifully creepy cover and colors are from Matt Hollingsworth with letters from Todd Klein. It seems like a story that could happen in our current state, with the mixing of social media and social causes all influencing public opinions and politics. Murphy paints a scary accurate picture that may hit a little too close to home for some.
There’s something beautiful about how the dialogue and the panels combine to really portray Jack Napier either becoming “woke” or diving deeper into his obsession with the Batman. Murphy seems to drop little hints throughout with his art that this Jack Napier may be the Joker’s biggest guise yet, like maybe this is his own version of a costume or disguise. You as the readers almost buy what this Jack Napier is selling, until he and Harley seem up to their old ways as they meet up with some familiar faces in the last panels. Ok, he is giving back to the community putting a library in Backport with his earnings from his lawsuit against the GCPD. But, can that make up for mind controlling some super villains? Guess we will have to wait for the next issue to know for sure.
This issue does a lot to explain the relationship not only between the Joker and Batman, but also sheds light on what happened between Joker and Harley. Batman: White Knight #2 feels like a love note to Harley Quinn, no really Harleen Quinzel. Let’s be specific, because we are not talking about the Harley Quinn wearing ripped fish nets, with catch phrases plastered across her chest and tons of tattoos and hair dye that you may see in various medias. No, Murphy seems to go out of his way to make sure the readers know this is Harleen Quinzel, the psychiatrist from Arkham who fell in love with the Joker while he was her patient. Perhaps she is the greatest victim of the Joker, giving up everything for the man who can never love her like she wants. Murphy gives new breathe and appreciation for this character, perhaps adding depth and self worth to a woman who is usually portrayed as a weak follower. Murphy takes us down a stroll down some pretty familiar paths with the Joker and Batman, giving new context showing Harley’s view point and her side of everything. This side story alone makes me, as woman comic book lover, appreciate what Murphy is doing on a personal level. He is throwing aside the sexualized depiction of a character that won over Batman fans initially with her utter devotion to the Joker.
There is a lot going on throughout this issue and it is all good. Meanwhile, Bruce is undergoing an awakening of his own. He is partnering with Dr. Freeze, yeah the bad guy, to harness newly available technology that can help not only Nora, but Alfred. Barbara Gordon provides some light hearted moments during this part, but it is not enough to really make sense of her continued incorporation in the book. Murphy is surely building toward something with Batman’s “family” possibly growing concerned with his mental state as they too might start to side with Napier. Then things get really messy when Bruce Wayne goes to a function with some other of the richer Gothamites and he learns about how they are all profiting off of the crime in Gotham. It can be argued that Batman is making the divide between the rich and the poor greater and greater as he wages his war on crime.
Do you like Batman? Chances are pretty high if you are reading this, so just do the right thing and get in on this series. This series has a great story that is something comic nerds have probably argued about across the world; what if Batman is the true villain and the Joker is the real savior of Gotham? This series has all the promise in the world to deliver that exact scenario, accompanied with some good compelling Alfred is sick storyline and a Harley Quinn image makeover. There is a lot of Batman on the shelves these days, but Batman: White Knight certainly stands apart from the other titles. This book is not linked to any major comic event or gearing up for a big cross over event, this is just good old fashioned good comic book story telling at it’s finest.