It’s no secret that Sean Murphy’s Batman: White Knight was a massive hit with readers. Gorgeous art by the same guy writing it? A cured Joker? TWO HARLEYS?! Not to mention the loads of other fantastic plot points and interesting character twists that really make this book stand out.
If you’re unfamiliar, here’s the description:
“In a world where Batman has gone too far, The Joker must save Gotham City.
He’s been called a maniac, a killer and the “Clown Prince of Crime” but “white knight”? Never. Until now…
Set in a world where the Joker is cured of his insanity and homicidal tendencies, The Joker, now known as “Jack,” sets about trying to right his wrongs. First he plans to reconcile with Harley Quinn, and then he’ll try to save the city from the one person who he thinks is truly Gotham City’s greatest villain: Batman!
Superstar writer and artist Sean Murphy (PUNK ROCK JESUS, THE WAKE) presents a eight-issue miniseries of a twisted Gotham City with a massive cast of heroes and villains that, at its heart, is a tragic story of a hero and a villain: Batman and The Joker. But which is the hero-and which the villain?“
There may be some spoilers ahead (who am I kidding. I will likely accidentally spoil things), so proceed with caution.
Alright, let’s get down to discussing all the beautiful things about this series.
One of the immediate things readers notice about White Knight from the start: this is a blend of worlds, combining a feel of the Burtonverse established in the Tim Burton films, and most significantly to me – it feels like a continuation of Batman: The Animated Series. The art is very distinct and different feeling from the norm. It’s absolutely stunning, and presents a very cinematic and detailed universe for readers to enjoy.
And holy shit, this man can draw some cars.
Beyond just how beautiful this book is, there’s the writing itself. What makes White Knight so strong is this full vision we get from the combination of writing and visual storytelling. Sean Murphy has to be one of the best, if not THE best, example of an artist acting as his own writer. You can tell that he took time to make this story really live up to it’s potential in every way by learning the craft.
A brilliant move was made to tactfully incorporate political themes, without making them too much, so readers of whatever background could get the messages needed without losing interest if they didn’t necessarily agree with a point. Both sides are represented in their own ways, and very well done.
How well characters are handled is also a massive part of the success of this book. I’ll get to Harley in a moment and discuss some others, first. There are a TON of characters in these books, but it never feels like a clustered mess. Villains and heroes and the lines that blur between the two, are all well woven into the overall story.
The interactions with various members of the Bat Family are so well done, and there’s so many emotions all around from different characters – tension Bruce has with Dick and Barbara, sorrow over Jason, and then Alfred… Man.
A big favorite for many readers was the excellent use of Mr. Freeze.
I’d rank this up there with Heart of Ice from Batman: the Animated Series as one of my favorite uses of Victor Fries. I love his character. I loved his story. I loved his connection to Bruce in this. I don’t want to spoil TOO much. But if you’ve read, I’m sure you understand.
Two Harley Quinns:
Probably more talked about than curing the Joker: the establishment of two Harleys in this universe – Dr. Harleen Quinzel, and Marian Drews.
One of the first things Jack wants to do is be the man Harley deserves, and asks her to
marry him. Surprisingly, she reacts very oddly. She wants Joker back. She doesn’t want his proposal. She attacks Jack, demanding he snap back to normal.
But wait… That isn’t the real Harley.
Harleen rescues Jack from Marian, and later explains at her home what happened, and how he replaced her with this new Harley without even realizing it.
Something I loved about this book was the respect given to Harley and her fans. Harley and Joker got the romance they deserved as Harleen and Jack. Harley’s intelligence and capability to be one of the most formidable people in Gotham was beautifully shown. Fans of the original Quinn praised this writing for Harley.
And while Marian is technically the “bad guy”, respect was given to fans of that newer version of Harley, by taking the heartbroken Marian knock-off Harley, and turning her into Neo Joker – a scorned lover willing to destroy Gotham to bring the Joker back.
Everyone knows I am a HUGE Harley Quinn fan. My collection is a little ridiculous. I’ll be the first person to complain about how Harley is being written or portrayed. That being said:
This is my absolute favorite Harley Quinn universe. This version is my favorite writing and treatment of her character. My favorite portrayal of her relationship with the Joker – the good AND the bad. I adored how significant she was to the entire story, and how much her intellect was highlighted. And while Harleen is obviously my favorite, I appreciated how Marian was treated, as well: her backstory, her rise after losing the Joker, etc.
Above all else, Harley is what made this book for me.
Batman: White Knight is a love letter to Batman fans. It brings Harley Quinn back to Gotham and back to glory. It gives us a story packed with action and emotion and nostalgia. Hands down, this is one of my absolute favorite Batman stories ever written.
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