Batman: White Knight #4 – Sean Gordon Murphy, Writer/Artist; Matt Hollingsworth, Colorist
Ray – 8/10
Corrina: Sanity Has Not Turned the Joker Good
WARNING: SPOILERS BELOW
Ray: While so far, Batman: White Knight has been a combination of Joker getting his pieces in place and Batman slowly becoming unhinged, this issue works better because we’re finally starting to see what Joker’s master plan is. As time goes on and he becomes more and more popular in the district of Backport, Jack Napier makes his first move for power – running for city councilman with the backing of local community activist/reformed gang member Duke Thomas.
I’m still not sure about this portrayal of Duke – he’s got so little in common with canon Duke that he might as well be an original character- but he makes an intriguing ally to Joker, who may be just as dangerous. When police and Batman interfere in a Napier rally, Joker is able to play it perfectly, making the police and Batman look like the bad guys and getting exactly what he wants – a one-on-one meeting with Gordon.
I’m still not sure what Joker’s endgame is with the mind control, but when he’s playing the system, he’s almost scarily effective. His plan to put Batman under the control of the GCPD is exactly the kind of move that would push Batman over the edge, and his overtures to Gordon and Batman’s sidekicks are working to isolate Batman further and further.
The fake Harley, revealed two issues ago, gets fleshed out this issue into a tragic, deranged figure whose transformation into Neo Joker makes for some great action scenes. However, surprisingly, it’s the relationship between Joker and the real Harley this issue that really works. Far from the twisted depiction of Joker and Harley from most comics, this one almost makes you believe along with Harley that he’s changed. But we know there’s a lot more to this story. This is a very political comic and seems to have a lot to say. Does it always land? No, but it does some very interesting things while it tries.
Corrina: I suspect the parallels of the Joker’s pitch to Gotham citizens and the victor of the 2016 Presidential election are obvious. If that’s all the book was, it would be shallow. Instead, it digs deeper into why Joker’s pitch works–because Gothamites are tired of chaos and fighting. In essence, the Joker (in his more human persona) promises to make the trains run on time and the streets safe, which is always the appeal of fascism: protect me from that horrible other. It’s a neat trick that the Joker can turn Batman into the other and hide the Other that lives inside him.
Murphy may also be making the argument that even sane, the Joker’s chaos will beget more chaos and will ultimately fail: witness the fake Harley and the Neo Joker. But Napier is also making the argument that Batman is contributing to chaos as well.
This bleak view makes me long for a story where a super-powered (or highly competent) hero works from within the system to clean up a city and they succeed. (I guess Erik Larson has that covered with Savage Dragon, perhaps?) Poor Gotham, it’s never going to improve because it can’t, not if we want more gritty Batman stories.
All of which is to say that while his series is well-written and beautifully drawn, with themes and characters that resonate to our times, I appear not to be in the mood for an “everything falls apart, the heroes weren’t really helpful, and the villains rule in the end” book. But perhaps that won’t be the ending after all. Here’s hoping.
Disclaimer: GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.