Batman: White Knight #8 – Sean Gordon Murphy, Writer/Artist; Matt Hollingsworth, Colorist
Ray – 8.5/10
Corrina: Very Good
WARNING: SPOILERS BELOW
Ray: After eight issues, there’s a sense of inevitability to this final issue of Sean Murphy‘s alternate Gotham, Batman: White Knight #8, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Murphy’s question was always if Joker can truly reform, and anyone who’s read the character’s history knows the magic eight-ball is cloudy at best. However, that doesn’t mean his story arc is pointless here. The three key players – Joker, Batman, and Harley Quinn – all come out of this story changed, in some ways for the better. As the issue kicks off, Neo Joker is threatening to destroy Gotham, and Jack Napier has begun to revert back to the Joker as his pulls wear off. The opening segment, as Joker and Batman are in the Batmobile, is one of the issue’s best. The GCPD and much of its criminal element have united to fight Neo Joker’s forces, even forging a temporary alliance between Harvey Bullock and Duke Thomas. But ultimately, the only person who can stop one Joker is another, and soon Joker and his former partner are facing off.
I never thought Neo Joker was a particularly compelling villain – while the concept of there being multiple Harleys to explain her characterization is clever, she never rose above “Crazy lady” – the plot she’s assembled is impressive, and Murphy’s take on the Joker as he teeters between sanity and insanity is great. However, I thought Harley and Batman stole the show. Harley, as she takes the fight to her insane doppelganger, pulls off some of the most dramatic stunts of the issue. Batman, meanwhile, has come off as an unstable antagonist for much of the series, but Murphy finally brings that full circle with Alfred’s final letter and Batman’s dramatic decision in his meeting with Jim Gordon. This is ultimately a story of both Harley and Batman letting go of the past – Harley, of her love for Joker; and Batman, coming to terms with the death of his adoptive father. While the world this comic takes place in is strong, it wouldn’t be half as effective without the excellent character work.
Corrina: Everyone who reads these reviews knows I loathe Joker stories, even well-executed. And Batman: White Knight is a well-executed Joker story. Mostly, that meant I had to get my reading enjoyment from the characters and situations surrounding the Joker. It’s a tribute to Murphy’s strong writing of all the Gotham-supporting characters that I was able to enjoy the miniseries in spite of the Joker focus.
But what kept it from being a perfect Joker story, however, is that there’s a curious lack of the Batman/Joker relationship. They’re separate for the entire series and this final team-up isn’t enough to overcome that lack of interaction.
However, Harley Quinn has never been written quite like this, still with her trademark off-kilter sense of reality but also with her intelligence fully intact and not in the service of her impulsiveness. This is Harley as she might have been without ever encountering the Joker and you get a hint that she hoped that by curing Jack Napier, she might also be curing herself. And while the conclusion is that the Joker is a lost cause, Harley most certainly is not.
The supporting characters also find good moments in this finale, with this Duke Thomas and Harvey Bullock making an expectedly excellent pairing. Nightwing and Babs are here as well, the voices of reason, as always, as is Jim Gordon. The only character who’s been a mystery is Batman himself and while he’s still somewhat of a cipher at the end of the series, Bruce revealing his identity to Jim Gordon is a nice touch. (And makes me wish there would be a sequel set in this world, though without the Joker plot.)
Murphy’s other self, his artistic self, is also in full force this issue with the dramatic attack on the Neo Joker’s base, especially with how the action cuts back and forth between the various teams and the scenes inside the Batmobile with Batman and the Joker. About the only other complaint I have is that the ending felt inevitable but Harley’s role this did much to overcome that.
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Disclaimer: GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.