Batman: White Knight #3 – Sean Gordon Murphy, Writer/Artist; Matt Hollingsworth, Colorist
Ray – 7/10
Corrina: An Alternate Duke Thomas
Ray: The third issue of Batman: White Knight pulls back the curtain on this strange AU version of Gotham, but its nihilistic world lacks something to really elevate it to the level of DC’s great alternate universes. The issue begins with a big twist for the second Harley Quinn (based on the New 52 version) as she apparently becomes the new Joker. Meanwhile, mind-controlled villains are terrorizing Gotham, under the control of Joker and the original Harley. This apparently is nothing more than a feint to lure an increasingly unstable Batman out into the field of battle, where his technology causes more damage than the villains. Joker – or the respectable Jack Napier – then exposes a secret Gotham slush fund to cover up and pay off the victims of Batman’s actions, which turns the public even more in his favor.
The issue reveals a lot of details about this universe, which really make it a sort of sideways universe – Jason Todd was Robin before Dick Grayson, and Batman apparently doesn’t talk about him and was colder to Dick as a result. Duke Thomas, meanwhile, is a middle-aged special forces veteran who works as a community activist/benevolent gang leader in the poorest area of Gotham. There’s a lot of guest stars this issue, but the key is Batman’s declining mental state. Murphy views Alfred as the only thing keeping Batman from slipping off the deep end, so what happens midway through the issue (under slightly unclear circumstances) is clearly the beginning of the end. I do like the idea that Joker is a genius held back by his insanity, but it seems more in line with someone like Riddler. The issue looks absolutely gorgeous, especially in the action segments, but its take on Batman is lacking.
Corrina: The good part of this issue is that it provides some answers to why this Batman is so unhinged, such as Jason being the first Robin and probably dying. That means Batman lost someone else before he adopted Dick Grayson, which would make him a different man, emotionally.
The bad part, for me as a reader, is the continued focus on the Joker, as this remains a Joker (or Jack Napier)-centric tale. Perhaps Murphy is making a point with Napier’s popularity as a parallel to the current resident of the Oval Office, or perhaps it’s a general point about human nature being fickle. Whatever it is, the citizens of Gotham do not come off that well and neither do the police, including Jim Gordon.
The element that interested me most was Duke Thomas, reimagined as a protector of his specific neighborhood, who operates outside the lines (much like Batman in his way) to protect people as best he can. I might be more interested in this Duke but he’s overshadowed (as is everyone else) by Napier and his plan.
Disclaimer: GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.