Review – Batman: White Knight #2 (DC Comics)

Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Sean Murphy
Artwork: Sean Murphy, Matt Hollingsworth (colours)
Release Date: 1st November 2017

Sean Murphy is up to his usual tricks with Batman: White Knight and damn glad I am about it too. He’s always been a favourite of mine, not just with his politically poignant punk-driven writing, but also by virtue of his uniquely rough-edged art. You can instantly tell when Murphy has had his hands on something because of his recognizable blend of alternative and vintage 1930s aesthetic, with a drawing style that almost feels like its been carved into the page with a butter knife and the black tones are the ink blood that filled in the spaces between the cuts.

I’ve read his trips into classic Vertigo Hellblazer and the fascinatingly close-to-the-bone Punk Rock Jesus, so when I heard he was going to take a crack at a Joker and Batman story, I knew I had to get a hold of it. What Murphy has done so well here is take the characters we all know so well and make us question them in the context of modern-day political and social views. From childhood we have been raised on the tales of the Bat, the archetype of human achievement and justice, a normal man who committed his life to becoming something that the world needs in order to be a better and safer place. But is that type of brute force justice really still relevant today? In a world that promotes peaceful protest and intellectualism in favour of the violent frontier justice? Have we surpassed the kind of pop culture that spawned characters like Batman or the hard-nosed detectives who broke the rules?

Interesting questions indeed, and what makes them even more compelling is that it’s The Joker himself who raises them. This issue brings the case against Batman and the G.C.P.D. to the public forum and shows us the facts that were always there: given the magnitude of collateral damage and super villains that have come out of the woodwork since his inception, have the police force just made things worse by allowing this masked man to beat up mentally ill people?

Jack Napier with his new found sanity is setting out to truly rescue Gotham from the corruption that has claimed victim to so many of the unprivileged lower classes, but is it really such a noble goal? Is he right about Gotham and, more importantly, is he right about the Caped Crusader? Honestly at this point I have no idea and that’s what has got me reading this. While we see the mask slip off Batman in the current wave of public outcry along with his own personal battles it’s hard to see him in a good light. Moreover, do we really want him to win? Surely we don’t want The Joker to be victorious?

Murphy once again has used a comic book story as a mouthpiece for social issues. He treads the fine line of using the characters of Gotham City as a way to discuss the timely real-world issue of police brutality, but also to investigate the impact of both the left and the right in their mutual claims of “justice”. He paints a picture of a world that we never care to look at – what is the social and economic impact of these crime fighters? Does the justice system have a reason to focus more on punishment rather than rehabilitation? But the most subtle overtone here is our own relation with current affairs and debate, in our bickering and sense of self-righteousness, how hard has it become to clearly know who’s right and who’s wrong anymore?

All of this is dealt with in such a genius manner whereby Sean still creates a brilliant Batman tale that tugs at the heartstrings of all the Conroy and Hamill Bat/Joker fans out there, packed with references and a hilarious piss take at what’s happened to our Harley. This is like Batman meets House of Cards, and I can’t wait for this tale to continue.

Rating: 5/5.

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The writer of this piece was: Indiana “Indy” Marlow
Indy Tweets from @smokingpunkindy

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