I’ve read a lot of Batman stories in my day, but I’ve never experienced anything quite like Batman: White Knight.
Published under the DC: Black Label imprint aimed at more mature audiences, Batman: White Knight is a stand-alone collection that exists outside of regular Batman continuity. Because of this, anything can happen. Even so, for a book that is disconnected to the monthly Batman stories, it is oddly beholden to them as well as to the cartoons, video games, and movies. More on that in a moment …
White Knight embraces a simple premise — What if Joker became good and Batman turned evil? Now, the story is not quite that simple, but that’s the central concept. Sean Murphy dives deeply into that idea while also exploring familial bonds, corrupt politics, abusive relationships, and mental health. Like I said, this book distinctively examines content in a way that is unrivaled.
However, even though the story kept me guessing, certain aspects struck me as obviously recognizable. For example, White Knight pays homage to the classic animated series, all of the Batman movies, the old live-action TV show, the comic books, and even the various Batman video games. It’s as though parts of all of that happened in this Batman’s past, but in a way that we can’t fully understand.
Make no mistake, however, Murphy’s depiction of Batman and Joker, as well as their supporting cast, is what makes this book so enticing. This is a Batman even more unhinged than in Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns. This is a Joker unusually sane. This is a Harley Quinn gloriously empowered. This is a Commissioner Gordon realistically compromised. This is a Gotham City genuinely broken by its atypical combination of criminals and vigilantes. And though the book is gritty, it’s also not afraid to be bombastic. Murphy offers an ending that seems like something out of The Fast and the Furious — and I mean that as a compliment.
Finally, Murphy is the writer and artist on this title, so I wanted to address his line work. His Batman is feral, intimidating, and a force of nature. Murphy tweaked the costume just a bit, but it’s his use of shadows and shading that really makes his panels pop. Speaking of costumes, I love the slight alterations Murphy made to everyone’s look in this book. You’ll know who’s who, don’t worry about that. The changes he made were simultaneously appropriate and dynamic.
If you’re a Batman fan but feel like you’ve seen it all, give White Knight a chance. It will strike you as extraordinary.