The Batman series has always been somewhat of a deconstruction of the superhero. As the series progressed we’ve seen Batman as a noble father figure, a guardian of justice and as a vengeful, bitter and violent man. All of these are reflexive of the writer at the time as while Superman is always good and always on the right side of things, Batman is a little more of a malleable character. It’s possible to get away with writing a story where Batman is enraged and even outright dangerous and because of his character, we can believe it.
Right now, I’m seeing a few different iterations of Batman in my pull list. One is the absent-yet-caring father of Damian, the brilliant and defiant Robin; the other is a distant, angry figure who will stop at nothing to take down the Joker. The latter is the focus of Batman: White Knight, an eight-part series which puts Batman in the spotlight in an entirely different way.
After shoving a bottle of unknown medication down the throat of the Joker at the end of a violent and destructive pursuit, Batman has finally gone too far. Only, instead of the Joker’s subsequent overdose killing him, it instead has cured him of his madness. He vows to atone for his crimes by becoming an upstanding citizen activist to take down the corrupt government of Gotham and the GCPD in the process. He also promises to rid the city of the vigilante forces of Batman and his allies while preserving the wellbeing of those caught in the middle. White Knight #2 centers on the Joker returning home to Harley and things take a surprising turn. As he sees his world flipped upside down he resorts to drastic measures to set things right in Gotham city… or, at the very least, his version of “right”.
Unlike a many typical superhero comics, White Knight is not a black-and-white story. White Knight #2 has no real action, there’s no epic battles or sweeping action set pieces, either. The story is captivating enough on its own, though. It is infused with a sort of gray-area approach to modern themes of individualism, justice, fairness, corruption in government, and just trying to put one’s life back together.
The art is solid, taking the rougher edge of modern Batman art and blending it with the style of the legendary Animated Series. This is, in fact, a sort of spiritual successor to that version of the world. It is a love letter to what is arguably the greatest animated TV series of all time. It is a story that showcases the niorish style of Batman with a serious edge and contrasts page to page to reflect the tone of each scene.
White Knight #2 is a good chapter that succeeds in keeping me excited about this limited series. As it stands, it holds up quite well to thought as it is more politically-ambiguous than you might think, and the issues that are raised can be seen any number of ways. This way it feels more like real life, where things are as simple as A or B. There is thought and effort in this story that is a real credit to writer Sean Murphy. It is taut, suspenseful and has a few surprises for long-time fans and lovers of the animated classic. This is a comic that is written for the older reader, those of us who grew up on comics in the 80’s and 90’s and features a mood and tone that is sort of a deconstruction of that period. I recommend giving Batman White Knight a read if you’re looking for something a little different, but good luck finding a physical copy as these books are flying off the shelves at a record pace with fans getting truly excited about new comics with well-executed stories.