Publisher: DC (Black Label)
Writer/Artist: Sean Murphy
Colours: Matt Hollingsworth
Release Date: 24th July 2019
Gotham has always been a city of rebirth. Like a lot of cities in a world of superheroes, it seems like every five minutes it’s being demolished by ray guns, frozen solid or flooded, or even having a mountain sprout up out of nowhere. But give it a couple of issues and everything always seems to mysteriously return to normal. Thankfully, that’s not the case in the world of Sean Murphy’s White Knight, a Gotham that looks not just into the idea of what a true hero is, but also into the impact a force like the Batman has on the world, his relationships and the sanity of those he pursues.
The first issue of this new series takes the story in a totally different direction, albeit one with loud echoes of the events of the first arc. After a flashback that will likely prove relevant as the issues go on, we meet a Joker we all recognize. A psychopathic genius who seems to be finally free of his sane counterpart Jack Napier. A Joker who finds himself filled with spite about the changes Napier has inspired in Gotham, changes which have undone all the work the Clown Prince of Crime put into reducing Gotham to a fear-addled cesspit.
Elsewhere, Batman is now living in a city that is still unsure if it even needs him anymore. A city where the corruption exposed by Napier and the police squadron led by Nightwing and Batgirl has changed the landscape in a significant way.
Murphy continues to delve into these well-known characters, providing only teases and hints about where this volume might end up taking us. Once more it’s very much a character piece, digging deep into who Batman and The Joker really are. We are presented with a deeply isolated Batman, consumed with grief at the passing of Alfred and shut off from the rest of his loved ones, including the city that he dedicated his life to.
On the flipside of this coin we also get to explore the other side of The Joker character through Murphy’s impressive interpretation. Yes, we know he’s insane, but he also now knows that he has a sane side to him clawing to get out. How will he react to that knowledge? Will this conflict cause him to reach a consensus within himself, or will it push him further down the pit of darkness?
The artwork, also provided by Murphy, sees him at his manic, anarchic best. Every single panel is excruciatingly detailed, right down to the single window panes of every street or the tread on the many Batmobile tires. His characters maintain the same iconic look that readers will be familiar with, but with an added hard-edged alternative style. Think Joker swapping the three-piece suit for a Bat t-shirt and combat boots, or Batman with a popped collar addition to his cape for a real Christopher Lee vibe.
The tone is somehow darker than the original White Knight, steering us into what feels more like a horror story than the Gothic political thriller of the first arc. The visuals are more black and red, which works just as well with Sean’s hard-edged style.
This is a comic that sets you down one way of thinking while still leaving you acutely aware that it could end up going absolutely anywhere. And that’s one of the many reasons it seems poised to become every bit as awesome as its predecessor.
The writer of this piece was: Indiana “Indy” Marlow
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