Batman: White Knight
|Batman: White Knight|
|Publication date||October 2017 – May 2018|
|No. of issues||8|
|Written by||Sean Murphy|
|Batman: White Knight||ISBN 978-1401279592|
Batman: White Knight is a comic book limited series created by Sean Murphy. The series spans eight issues and was published monthly in 2017 and 2018 by DC Comics. In White Knight, the roles of Batman and the Joker are reversed with Batman being depicted as the villain of the story and Joker as the hero.
Batman: White Knight is an eight-issue comic book limited series written and illustrated by Sean Murphy with color from Matt Hollingsworth and lettering by Todd Klein, published by DC Comics. The series was announced on July 7, 2017 and the first issue was released on October 4 that year. White Knight was initially intended to be seven-issue story, but was extended to eight issues after the release of the first issue. A trade paperback collecting all eight issues was released on October 9, 2018. It is the first graphic novel published under the DC Black Label imprint.
Murphy's core premise for White Knight was to reverse the roles of Batman and the Joker by portraying Joker as the hero and Batman as the villain. His goal was to depict a more realistic take on Gotham City, where crime could not be stopped with a fist, i.e. Batman's methods. This led him to turn the Joker into a politician, using the character's intelligence and charisma to win the people of Gotham over. DC Comics had no problems with the ideas that Murphy had for the series such as changing the timeline in Batman's history. However, the adult content like nudity and profanity that Murphy had intended to include were not permitted.
Murphy revealed that the Joker's real name in White Knight is Jack Napier, a reference to Tim Burton's 1989 Batman film, in which the Joker (played by Jack Nicholson) also shares that name. The 1989 movie, along with Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight Trilogy, also inspired Murphy's design of the Batmobile in White Knight. One of White Knight's subplots involves one of the story's antagonists using a freeze ray to encase a portion of Gotham City in ice, a reference to the 1997 film Batman & Robin.
Batman: White Knight is set in a different continuity to the prime DC Universe/New 52, though several common arcs are still present; most notably, Jason Todd is believed to be dead by the Joker's hand. The story follows Jack Napier, a reformed Joker, who has been cured of his insanity and now views Batman as the greatest villain of Gotham City and the source of the city's endless crime cycle. Additionally, the series reworks Harley Quinn as two individuals: her initial jester design is the original Harleen Quinzel, whereas her Suicide Squad design is an equally obsessed doppelgänger named Marian Drews who took her place in her absence.
Batman corners Joker in a pharmaceutical warehouse, beating him excessively as Nightwing, Batgirl, and the GCPD look on in horror. Joker boasts that medication would let him do more good than Batman, prompting Batman to force a bottle of pills down Joker's throat. With a recording of the beating leaking and the Batmobile causing huge collateral damage, debate is sparked over whether Batman is doing more harm than good. Barbara and Dick learn Bruce's violence stems from Alfred being near death, kept alive only by Freeze Tech. Joker, now stable and using his real name Jack Napier, wins a case against GCPD for insufficient evidence and for non-intervention in his beating.
Freed, Napier visits Harley Quinn, who attacks him and insists he's not himself. Saved by a second Harley, Napier learns she is the original but was replaced: with Joker's obsession culminating in Jason Todd's torture, Quinzel left to try and help Batman save Todd, and was replaced when Joker unwittingly adopted an obsessed hostage named Marian Drews. Bruce and Victor Fries develop a treatment for cryogenic illnesses. Despite not being fully tested, Fries attempts to resuscitate Nora; anticipating this, Wayne hooks the system up to Fries' suit, curing him but aging him to his natural elderly state. Running for councilman, Napier funds construction of a library in poor district Backport. Using the Mad Hatter's tools to control Clayface, Napier gives Gotham's Rogues Gallery drinks laced with his dust to control them by proxy.
Making the villains rampage across Backport, Napier uses the distraction to access restricted documents and discovers a tax fund for Batman's collateral damage. Injured when Napier's library crumbles, Bruce later collapses at Alfred's bedside; waking to find himself stabilized on Alfred's life-support, Bruce finds Alfred dead in the bedside chair. Dick and Barbara discuss whether to intervene in Bruce's developing obsession in convicting Napier. Drews, now Neo Joker, recovers the Clayface's remains, taking the Rogues Gallery into her control. When Batman intervenes in his protest, Napier goes willingly to GCPD. Warning he knows of the collateral fund, he offers to reallocate it to GCPD as councilman, giving Gotham a culpable Batman equivalent.
Neo Joker attacks GCPD, prompting Gordon to side with Napier and place an APB on Batman. Batman asks Quinzel for help taking down Napier, convinced he's pulling a long con; Quinzel refuses, certain Napier is legitimate. Bested by an upgraded GCPD led by Nightwing and Batgirl, Batman is arrested by Napier. Neo Joker uses a revealed superweapon to freeze Gotham harbor, demanding she be given Joker. Earlier, Bruce discovered Thomas Wayne funded Fries Sr. to create Freeze-Tech, circumventing US laws by tunneling under Gotham's German embassy; Fries Sr. later cut ties with Thomas to build the superweapon against his wishes.
Napier's medication becomes ineffective, making him periodically revert into Joker. Napier frees Batman, asking for help stopping Neo Joker in exchange for a confession (provided Quinzel isn't arrested). Focusing on Joker's memories, Napier recalls that Todd is alive: Joker drove Robin to hate Batman and reveal his identity. Napier explains he already knew Batman's identity as all collateral taxes indirectly come from Wayne Enterprises. Making peace with Dick, Barbara and Gordon, Batman races through Gotham tunnels with Napier, who has reverted to Joker. GCPD bests Neo Joker's forces and reverses the freeze ray, flooding the tunnels. Overpowering Neo Joker, Joker releases Clayface and undoes the mind control. With Batman protecting him from Clayface, Joker and Quinzel pursue Neo Joker in the Batmobile; Napier returns and professes his love for Quinzel. Approaching a closing floodgate, Napier launches Quinzel through the gap in the Batcycle, causing him to crash. Quinzel beats and apprehends Neo Joker.
Confessing to his crimes, Napier surrenders and is granted a nicer Arkham cell and a wedding to Quinzel; finishing his vows, Napier permanently reverts to Joker. Using Napier's remaining funds, Quinzel begins restoring Backport. Confronting Quinzel, Batman reveals she manufactured Joker's medication and orchestrated events so the chase would end in the factory and be recorded. Explaining he only learned the truth from Joker, Quinzel explains she did it to break their stalemate before they destroyed Gotham. Meeting with Gordon, Batman gives him keys to Batmobiles for GCPD, before unmasking himself to earn Gordon's trust.
Batman: White Knight has been received favorably by critics. Sales of the series were well above expectations with #1 receiving a fourth printing, #2 receiving a third printing, and #3 and #4 receiving a second printing. It frequently appeared as one of the top ten best-selling comics during its months of publication, according to ComicChron.
In January 2018, Sean Murphy confirmed he had plans for a second and third volume. In September of that year, a sequel series Batman: Curse of the White Knight was revealed. It is scheduled to be released in 2019.
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