Review: BATMAN WHITE KNIGHT #1 (SPOILERS)
By RUSSELL BERGER
There are what seems to be a million [plus] Batman stories out there, and it’s always safe to say that we’re going to get a million more. One irrefutable truth is that the “Dark Knight” sells like nearly no other character does. So when BATMAN: WHITE KNIGHT was originally announced, I was stoked to be getting a story by Sean Gordon Murphy (writer,) but iffy on the fact that it was another Batman story. Though, my iffiness almost instantly faded away upon seeing the solicit for this mini-series,
In a world where Batman has gone too far, The Joker must save Gotham City.
He’s been called a maniac, a killer and the “Clown Prince of Crime” but “white knight”? Never. Until now…
Set in a world where the Joker is cured of his insanity and homicidal tendencies, The Joker, now known as “Jack,” sets about trying to right his wrongs. First he plans to reconcile with Harley Quinn, and then he’ll try to save the city from the one person who he thinks is truly Gotham City’s greatest villain: Batman!
Superstar writer and artist Sean Murphy (PUNK ROCK JESUS, THE WAKE) presents a seven-issue miniseries of a twisted Gotham City with a massive cast of heroes and villains that, at its heart, is a tragic story of a hero and a villain: Batman and The Joker. But which is the hero—and which the villain?
Seeing that the focus of this title was going to be a JOKER who’s “rehabilitated” and trying to make amends to Gotham for everything he’s ever done trying to better the “Caped Crusader” really intrigued me. I personally can’t remember any story even attempting to go this angle– sure, Scott Snyder [and many before him] have made it clear that Joker does what he does for Batman, but this issue really set that off on a new level.
One of the standouts in this issue was the direction of Batman. The way SGM was able to really beat home the dark truths of everyone’s favorite vigilante,
There was this intense sense of realism throughout those (above panel) parts of the story, where Joker [or JACK NAPIER] was “spitting” truth. SGM really captured the current times by doing this. I think there was a real understanding of the character of Batman. How his “therapy” is fighting crime– breaking bones of criminals, scaring them to their core and ultimately all of the pain he receives doing so. I’ve argued many times with people who Bruce Wayne is just as much of a high functioning psychopath as the Joker is, if not more.
True, there is an innocence that is brought off through the character. I do believe that the character of Bruce/Batman does believe he’s doing what he’s doing so no other child has to watch their parents’ murdered in a cold, damp and dark alley– BUT I think that’s more of what the symbol Batman is embodies than the “soul” behind the cowl. There’s a quote that I love, which really sums up my point [and what I think SGM was trying to get across,] and that being, “never meet your heroes.”
Usually, your heroes are a symbol of greatness and right, but we’re blind to the methods they used to be that. The quote serves as a warning, similar to the quote, “never ask questions you don’t want to hear the answer to,” meaning that sometimes it’s best not to know. And I think both really play into what we got through this first issue, and I think sets a great tone moving forward with the title.
The language used throughout BATMAN: WHITE KNIGHT #1 was another factor that really drove home an intertwined [and influenced] by current times and the political climate that exists for us. The panel above was very much so what you could expect to see on something like Fox News or some other political correspondent show commenting on what’s going on with something along the lines of a police brutality case that sweeps the nation by storm.
There was an undeniable conservative v liberal feel to it. It felt like when you would see Antifa (Joker in this) being commented on, and the radical Left defends their violent tactics and it allows for a conservative on the panel to react appalled by what he/she is hearing. I find this to be extremely interesting, and a very healthy way of getting discussions started, between people who might not normally delve into such topics, by doing so with using reality to influence great stories.
Something that had concerned me going into this book was what the reasoning behind Batman becoming so radical himself would be. I was afraid that I’d read this issue and it would just be an Elseworld story where Batman is extremely out of character destroying, murdering and doing whatever he wanted. BUT thankfully that was not the case,
Unfortunately Alfred is dying. Though, out of this, we do get great reasoning behind an odd character portrayal [being Batman so violent and almost careless,] as well as what could be an interesting plot twist with Batman working with MR. FREEZE.
I get drawn back to [Scott] Snyder’s Court of Owls, as we know that in there the COO used Freeze to make their Compound, which reanimated their dead Talons and ultimately allowed them to be unstoppable killing machines. So to see a slightly similar process going here, all in order just to keep Alfred alive, is interesting and definitely will have me keeping my eyes open to see if anything spawns out of this.
Allow me to say that I never thought I could dislike someone [let alone the Joker] for using the law the way it was supposed to be used. SGM did a wonderful job at taking the “Clown Prince of Crime” and turning back the clock allowing Jack to become this “White Knight.” I’m sure that it’s some type of subconscious issue that I have with seeing criminals use the law they’re ultimately breaking [or broken] to their advantage– I’m also sure it has to deal with the fact it’s being used against Batman. That is great story telling. Being able to take a character that has a massive cult following, and is loved by every causal — non comic book fan, someone who just watches the movies and/or is well enough to know the basic gist of things — out there and make him into this “reborn” and wanting to right all of his wrongs person.
This ties back into what I had said earlier about “never meet your heroes,” as the reason that Joker did what he did to become Jack is because he didn’t like what he saw behind the curtain. THOUGH, I’m not buying it. I’ve got a feeling that in the end this will surely all turn out to be apart of Joker’s master plan. His moment to yell at the top of his lungs, “HAH! The joke’s on YOU, Batsy!” And of course, I could be wrong and this could be an intriguing and never before seen type of plot, but I’m not ready to bet on the latter just yet.
When it comes down to it, this issue was one of the best Batman issues I’ve read in a very long time. It was definitely a breath of fresh air, and allowed for some in-depth delving into what makes these characters who they are, and seeing how far you can bend them without going off track. I know that this will most likely come to bite me in the ass, but I have to, and so I give BATMAN: WHITE KNIGHT #1 an outstanding 4.7 out of 5.
You can pick up this amazing issue in a comic shop nearest you, and BATMAN: WHITE KNIGHT #2 will be hitting those shelves on Wednesday, November 1st,
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.