Batman: White Knight #1 (of ) (DC Comics)
There have been countless classic Batman tales: The Dark Knight Returns, The Long Halloween, the entirety of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s run. Hell, even The Dark Knight counts as an incredible Batman story, despite being a movie and not a comic. With Sean Murphy’s Batman: White Knight, the hype was building that this story could be just as good as those other classics. And now that it’s out I can tell you this: the hype is real.
Set in an “Elseworlds” universe, White Knight finds the Joker being cured of his madness and deciding to become a public servant, with his main goal being bringing the Batman to justice. With this being the first issue of a eight issue series, we don’t get too much of this aspect of the story, but that doesn’t mean this opening issue isn’t without its strengths, many of which come from Sean Murphy’s stellar take on Batman, his allies, and of course, The Joker himself.
More people are aware of Murphy’s art style than his writing, but those who have read the awesome Punk Rock Jesus know that he’s one of the very few creators in comics who’s writing is just as good as his artwork, and with White Knight, he delivers a Batman universe that takes a little bit from all aspects of the character’s long history and uses it to create a Batman that is unique to him. There’s nods to the Tim Burton Batman (especially in regards to the Joker referring to himself as “Jack Napier”), the animated series, and even a little bit of Batman & Robin in regards to Alfred’s current state.
What makes White Knight work best though is that this is a universe that feels very much like our world. After being captured on camera brutally attacking the Joker as Commissioner Gordon and the GCPD look on, the media fallout against the police is swift and brutal. Plus, once the Joker is cured and begins building a case against the Batman and the GCPD, a large amount of his reasoning is pretty sound. It also doesn’t hurt that the questions posed about Batman’s actions in this issue are ones that would be brought up in the real world. We always look at the Batman as a hero, but very rarely do we think about the people on the street who have to deal with his actions every night (or the people sleeping under the roofs that his batmobile is driving on).
Of course, Sean Murphy isn’t just writing this miniseries, he’s also drawing it too. As one of my favorite artists working today, I knew I would like the art in this book, but I was still surprised at how much I loved Murphy’s take on Gotham here. Sure, we’ve seen it before in special Batman issues he’s drawn and covers, but White Knight allows Murphy to truly make HIS version of Batman and his world, and it fits right into the wheelhouse of Batman stuff I love: equal parts the 89 film, Nolan’s movies, the animated series, and a splash of the Arkham games. His designs for Batman, Batgirl, and Nightwing are all really cool and unique, but aren’t so far from the characters that you’d mistake them for someone else. Here’s hoping DC makes a designer series of statues and action figures for this story.
While it may be too early to call White Knight a new Batman classic (I typically wait and read the whole story before making that claim), I will say that this opening issue is damn good, and one of the best comics of the year. It’s accessible for both casual Batman fans who only know the movies and long time fans that’ve read every comic and know every version of the character. More importantly, it’s another awesome addition to Sean Murphy’s body of work.