Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Sean Murphy
Artwork: Sean Murphy, Matt Hollingsworth (colours)
Release Date: 3rd January 2018
Comics are great. They do exactly what they say on the tin for the most part, especially if you read Marvel. There’s a nasty villain with some theatrical plot to destroy the world, and a square-jawed hero swooping into to save the day. The crowd cheers and everyone who reads it walks away feeling happy with the state of the world thanks to their little glimpse of good triumphing over evil. I do enjoy these stories from time to time, and like a popcorn movie they always go down easy. But they do also get bloody boring after a while.
Thankfully then, there are also comics like Sean Murphy’s Batman: White Knight out there.
White Knight #4 takes you further down the rabbit hole of the sane Joker’s mind, revealing a scheme every bit as unpredictable as one an insane Joker could come up with. Having lured Batman into destroying a library in order to gain access to the files hidden within, he uses the existence of the Batman fund to put himself forward for city councilman. And with anti-police and anti-Bat sympathies running rampant among the Gotham public it seems like nothing is going to stop him. Not even the Bat family themselves, who turn up only to be greeted with abuse from the peaceful protesters.
While this is happening we see the fake Harley and now “neo-Joker” plotting to pull the old Joker out from within Napier’s mind by committing crimes that not even the Joker himself would think of, and Harley desperately trying to claim her love back by making him jealous. However, in doing so, the pair have begun to uncover a conspiracy which sheds yet more doubt on the now former hero Batman and his family’s past.
Sean Murphy treats his story like he does his artwork. Every single panel is painstakingly made, from the detail of each window to the bolts on the Batmobile during a chase scene. And like those drawings, the story is so multi-layered and complex that you can find yourself forgetting past events until they affect the current events in this issue. Take for instance the funeral of Alfred a few issues back. An event that further bridged the gap between Bruce, Dick and Babs, changing how Bruce reacts in action and showing a clear animosity between him and his Bat-fam. Napier takes advantage of that by handing them the keys to a Special Forces police initiative.
While the main plot moves forward you see the subplot of Harley and Napier’s relationship come into the spotlight. We see some genuine moments between the two which show how their relationship always should have been – and it’s not the abusive one-sided relationship which is frequently glorified in other media outlets. We see that he is taking this path for her, because he wants to be better. And only now can he really show it when he’s not blinded by insanity that made him take fake Harley under his wing in the first place.
This issue caught me off guard. It hits you in the heart with a storyline that has had you doubting every character you thought you knew. It really is subtly and beautifully done by Murphy, and with all the other events that are going on, you have this foundation being laid for what is essentially a brand new character to build on. Jack loves Harley and all this is for her. Or is it? If these four issues have shown anything, it’s that this story is unique in its sane madness. A Batman story in reverse where the villain goes to higher highs while Batman tumbles deeper and deeper into exile and hatred. Perfect.
The writer of this piece was: Indiana “Indy” Marlow
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