We’ve seen many comics come and go with Batman turned into a villain or at least much harsher than his normal DCU. We are even in the middle of an event where all the DC Universe heroes and villains are dealing with evil versions of Batman from the Dark Muliverse in the Metal event. That said, what makes Batman: White Knight so intriguing is the fact that Joker will be making a turn as a heroic protagonist while Batman is the evil antagonist. How writer Sean Murphy plans on executing on the idea of Joker playing the hero of the story is a big mystery. A mystery that is more than enough to get me to check out the first issue of this new mini-series. So let’s not wait any longer and check out Batman: White Knight #1.
Writer and Artist: Sean Murphy
Colorist: Matt Hollingsworth
Story Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 9 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 8.5 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: The Batmobile is driven into Arkham Asylum with Jack Napier (formerly the Joker) stepping out of it and being greeted by the cops. Jack goes into Batman’s prison cell and says he needs his help.
One year ago Batman chases the Joker through Gotham City. Batgirl tells Batman to slow down before he hurts someone but he doesn’t listen. Nightwing is right behind them to save some construction workers who almost get driven over by the Batmobile.
Batman chases Joker to a warehouse. Joker attacks Batman from behind while he speaks on how much Batman needs him. Batman quickly defeats Joker and tells his nemesis that he means nothing to him, much to Joker’s heart break. Joker calls Batman Gotham City’s greatest villain. Batman proceeds to pound Joker to a bloody pulp.
Joker request pills he believes will make him normal. Batman agrees and force feeds Joker the pills, much to Batgirl, Nightwing and GCPD officials horror.
As all that happens some records everything on their phone.
Some time later the news a reporter discusses the controversial footage released showing what Batman did to the Joker, now being labeled “Batgate.” The reporter calls the GCPD for allowing Batman to act in such violent ways. A GCPD official brings up Joker’s criminal background but the reporter continues reminds him of how much corruption is in the GCPD.
At the hospital Harvey Bullock is glad the public saw Batman’s true colors. Renee Montoya argues with Harvey about what he said.
Batgirl shows up to see how Joker is doing. Commissioner Gordon says Joker will pull through but is more worried about someone else.
Some time later Joker, now Jack Napier is locked up in a prison cell filled with Batman memorabilia.
Over at Wayne Tower Dick Grayson and Barbara Gordon confront Bruce about his actions recently. Bruce leads Dick and Barbara into a secret room where Alfred is currently being kept alive by Mr. Freeze’s tech. Bruce breaks down and says he was hoping to save Alfred before things got worse.
In his prison cell, Jack reflects on how he saw Gotham City boring and wanted to make it laugh and how his failed comedy career led him to a life of crime. When he found Batman he wanted Batman to need him but he now knows that will never be their relationship.
At the mayor’s office the Mayor reprimands Commissioner Gordon for allowing Batman continue his vigilante ways, which led to even more bad press for them.
The Mayor’s assistant enter his office and reveals that Jack has been in studying in Arkham’s library for several days to build a case against Batman, GCPD and the city.
Commissioner Gordon is confident Jack does not have a case and wants to meet with him.
Commissioner Gordon has a meeting with Jack at Arkham. It is there that Jack reveals that he has quite a case against Batman, GCPD and the city. He goes over how Batman almost killed several construction workers, destroyed property and possibly injured several others all to chase him through the city. Jack goes on to say the GCPD then willingly allowed Batman to beat him to death while they watched, making them accessories to Batman’s crime.
Commissioner Gordon says that Batman isn’t part of the GCPD. Jack says he found pictures of the Batsignal on the roof of GCPD headquarters that says otherwise.
Jack then says that he now wants to help Gotham City as it deserves better than the GCPD, Joker and Batman. He says he will become the city’s White Knight. End of issue.
The Good: Sean Murphy does not waste any time in crafting an intriguing world in Batman: White Knight #1. Every little detail that Murphy provides us from all the characters dialogue felt incredibly important in shaping how this world works. It’s in those details that make Batman: White Knight feel like a must read mini-series for Batman fans.
One of the best things that Murphy does with Batman: White Knight #1 is that he uses logic to frame every character choice that is made. That is best seen with how Batman is portrayed as the antagonist in the series. Rather than just treating him as a villain we get to witness why Joker, as Jack Napier, the GCPD and the citizens of Gotham City would turn against him is because of his violent nature. The unnecessary use of force just because he can paints him in the light that Joker and the GCPD must stop him.
At the same time Murphy does a good job quickly establishing why as Batman we are seeing Bruce Wayne act in a much more violent way. The Mr. Freeze-like turn for the Bruce was a brilliant way to turn on the switch for this uncaring Batman. While it explains Bruce’s harsher actions, Murphy makes sure that it does not mean that Bruce as Batman is redeemable. That thread makes what Alfred’s status is in the present an even more intriguing sub-plot to follow.
All of this development on Batman’s turn made Joker’s own transformation to Jack Napier even more compelling. The final battle between Batman and the Joker felt like a punch to the face for the theory that both characters represent two sides of the same coin. Batman straight up rejecting that notion is not far off to how we know the normal DCU version of the character feels.
This all made Joker’s reaction to Batman’s rejection come off as real. There seems to be something more to how Joker ended up breaking because of Batman’s words. Because the way Joker speech went down seemed to indicate there is much more to this DCU’s history than we can already perceive. Those questions as to Batman and Joker’s history helps make this world that Murphy is creating something that readers want to come back and learn about.
That history will help further compliment how Joker ended up transforming back into Jack Napier. While the journey for Jack Napier to be reborn was very dialogue heavy it all felt important to understand exactly who this character is and how in the present we see that he already captured Batman. Everything about how Murphy displayed Jack Napier as a genius beyond words was all grounded in the fact that as Joker he was already able to match Batman. That untapped potential was finally released in the verbal beat down he gave Commissioner Gordon in showing his innocence, in this case, and why Gotham City needs him to be the White Knight.
What will be interesting to see from how both Batman and Jack are now positioned is what their relationship will be. From the opening we see that it is Batman, not Bruce Wayne, that is locked up. Does this mean that something happens in Jack’s crusade to capture Batman that forces Bruce to be the Dark Knight full-time? Is that related to Alfred’s condition? These, among others, are questions that Murphy creates that help Batman: White Knight be a series that you want the next issue in your hands already.
While Batman and Joker get the main focus of Batman: White Knight #1 there is a good amount of time dedicated to the other residents of Gotham City. On Batman’s side of things we see how everyone around him from Commissioner Gordon and Renee Montoya to Barbara Gordon and Dick Grayson react to his actions against Joker. Though Barbara and Dick get an inside look at why Bruce is being so extreme as Batman it does make you wonder where their part of the story will be. They could easily be stand by Bruce’s side or help Jack bring him in as he has become too unhinged as Batman.
Similarly, it’ll be interesting to see how Commissioner Gordon and the GCPD’s relationship with Jack Napier. It is already clear that the media and Gotham City residents have turned against the GCPD. That pressure from all sides in the city will definitely force most of the GCPD and government officials hands to work with Jack as their new White Knight. What that means for Batman’s closest allies within the GCPD, Commissioner Gordon and Renee Montoya, will be interesting to see develop.
The artwork for Batman: White Knight #1 equally as strong. The stylized look Murphy gives his story gives a noir-feeling to everything going on. It helped emphasize the change in Batman and Joker’s relationship. The lighting effect was especially effective. This was best seen in the interrogation scene, with the darker lighting giving a greater sense of importance to Jack Napier’s statement that he will be Gotham City’s White Knight.
The Bad: Batman: White Knight #1 may turn some readers off with how much of an info dump it is. This is an extremely dialogue heavy issue with some characters repeating their dialogue multiple times. That repetitive does make Joker speaking on who he is get old by the final time he talks about who he is. It doesn’t get in the way of the quality of the story but may be something that will turn fans looking for a more action heavy Batman comic off.
Overall: From the writing to the artwork, Batman: White Knight #1 is a fantastic comic book. The time Sean Murphy spent on developing how Batman and Joker find themselves switching roles was handled extremely well. That development made this version of Gotham City and the residents living in it even more fascinating as GCPD and Batman Family play an important role in shaping this world.