|Batman: White Knight|
|Publication date||October 2017 – May 2018|
|No. of issues||8|
|Written by||Sean Murphy|
|Batman: White Knight||ISBN 978-1401279592|
Batman: White Knight is a comic book limited series created by Sean Murphy. The series spans eight issues and was published monthly in 2017 and 2018 by DC Comics. In White Knight, the roles of Batman and the Joker are reversed with Batman being depicted as the villain of the story and the Joker as the hero.
Batman: White Knight is an eight-issue comic book limited series written and illustrated by Sean Murphy with color from Matt Hollingsworth and lettering by Todd Klein, published by DC Comics. The series was announced on July 7, 2017 and the first issue was released on October 4 that year. White Knight was initially intended to be seven-issue story, but was extended to eight issues after the release of the first issue. A trade paperback collecting all eight issues was released on October 9, 2018. It is the first graphic novel published under the DC Black Label imprint.
Murphy's core premise for White Knight was to reverse the roles of Batman and the Joker by portraying the Joker as the hero and Batman as the villain. His goal was to depict a more realistic take on Gotham City, where crime could not be stopped with a fist; i.e., Batman's methods. This led him to turn the Joker into a politician, using the character's intelligence and charisma to win the people of Gotham over. DC Comics had no problems with the ideas that Murphy had for the series, such as changing the timeline in Batman's history. However, the adult content like nudity and profanity that Murphy had intended to include were not permitted.
Murphy revealed that the Joker's real name in White Knight is Jack Napier, a reference to Tim Burton's 1989 Batman film, in which the Joker (played by Jack Nicholson) also shares that name. The 1989 movie, along with Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight Trilogy, also inspired Murphy's design of the Batmobile in White Knight. One of White Knight's subplots involves one of the story's antagonists using a freeze ray to encase a portion of Gotham City in ice, a reference to the 1997 film Batman & Robin.
Batman: White Knight is set in a different continuity to the prime DC Universe/The New 52, though several common arcs are still present; most notably, Jason Todd is believed to be dead at the Joker's hands. The story follows Jack Napier, a reformed Joker, who has been cured of his insanity and now views Batman as the greatest villain of Gotham City and the source of the city's endless crime cycle. Additionally, the series reworks Harley Quinn as two individuals: her initial jester design is the original Harleen Quinzel, whereas her Suicide Squad design is an equally obsessed doppelgänger named Marian Drews who took her place in her absence.
After a long and dangerous pursuit, Batman corners the Joker in a pharmaceutical warehouse, beating him excessively as Nightwing, Batgirl, and the GCPD look on in horror. The Joker boasts that medication would let him do more good than Batman, prompting Batman to force a bottle of pills down the Joker's throat. With a recording of the beating leaking and the preceding vehicular pursuit causing huge collateral damage, debate is sparked over whether Batman is doing more harm than good in Gotham. Barbara and Dick learn Bruce's violence stems from Alfred being near death, kept alive only by Freeze Tech. The Joker, now stable and using his real name, Jack Napier, wins a case against the GCPD for insufficient evidence and for non-intervention in his beating.
Freed, Napier visits Harley Quinn, who attacks him and insists he is not himself. Saved by a second Harley, Napier learns she is the original but was replaced: with the Joker's obsession culminating in Jason Todd's torture, Quinzel left to try and help Batman save Todd, and was replaced when the Joker unwittingly adopted an obsessed hostage named Marian Drews. Bruce and Victor Fries develop a treatment for cryogenic illnesses. Despite not being fully tested, Fries attempts to resuscitate Nora; anticipating this, Wayne hooks the system up to Fries' suit, curing him but aging him to his natural elderly state. Running for councilman, Napier funds construction of a library in the poor district of Backport and befriends Duke Thomas, an ex-GCPD officer who runs a local youth group. Meanwhile, Bruce discovers that many of his fellow billionaires have been profiting off of Batman by purchasing properties destroyed by Batman's battles and then flipping them after the city repairs them; Bruce is left shaken by this discovery. Using the Mad Hatter's tools to control Clayface, Napier gives Gotham's Rogues Gallery drinks secretly laced with his dust to control them by proxy.
Making the villains rampage across the city, Napier uses the distraction to access restricted documents and discovers a tax fund for Batman's collateral damage. In an attempt to move the villains to a less-populated area, Batman baits them into attacking Backport and Napier's library, thinking that they would not attack a property owned by the Joker; the villains proceed to damage Backport and raze the library. Injured when Napier's library crumbles, Bruce later collapses at Alfred's bedside; waking to find himself stabilized on Alfred's life-support, Bruce finds Alfred dead in the bedside chair. Dick and Barbara discuss whether to intervene in Bruce's developing obsession in convicting Napier. Drews, now the Neo Joker, recovers Clayface's remains, taking the Rogues Gallery into her control. When Batman intervenes in his protest, Napier goes willingly to the GCPD. Warning he knows of the collateral fund, he offers to reallocate it to the GCPD as councilman, giving Gotham a culpable Batman equivalent known as the GTO - the Gotham Terrorism Oppression unit.
The Neo Joker attacks the GCPD, prompting Gordon to side with Napier and place an APB on Batman. Batman asks Quinzel for help taking down Napier, convinced he is pulling a long con; Quinzel refuses, certain Napier is legitimate. Bested by the GTO, which has recruited Duke, Nightwing and Batgirl and have modified civilian cars into their own makeshift Batmobiles. Batman is arrested by Napier. The Neo Joker uses a revealed superweapon to freeze Gotham harbor, demanding she be given the Joker. Earlier, Bruce discovered Thomas Wayne funded Fries Sr. to create Freeze-Tech, circumventing U.S. laws by tunneling under Gotham's German embassy; Fries Sr. later cut ties with Thomas to build the superweapon against his wishes.
Napier develops a tolerance to his medication, making him periodically revert into the Joker. Napier frees Batman, asking for help stopping the Neo Joker in exchange for a confession (provided Quinzel is not arrested). Napier, Batman and the GTO organize an assault on the Neo Joker's freeze ray, piloting a fleet of Batmobiles.taken from Wayne Manor. During the assault, Napier attempts to focus on the Joker's memories and recalls that Todd is alive: the Joker drove Robin to hate Batman and reveal his identity. Napier explains he already knew Batman's identity as all collateral taxes indirectly come from Wayne Enterprises. Making peace with Dick, Barbara and Gordon, Batman races through Gotham tunnels with Napier, who has reverted to the Joker. The GTO bests the Neo Joker's forces and reverses the freeze ray, flooding the tunnels. Overpowering the Neo Joker, the Joker releases Clayface and undoes the mind control. With Batman protecting him from Clayface, the Joker and Quinzel pursue the Neo Joker in the Batmobile; Napier returns and professes his love for Quinzel. Approaching a closing floodgate, Napier launches Quinzel through the gap in the Batcycle, causing him to crash. Quinzel beats and apprehends the Neo Joker, and Batman saves Napier.
Confessing to his crimes, Napier surrenders and is granted a nicer Arkham cell and a wedding to Quinzel; as he finishes his vows, Napier permanently reverts to the Joker. Using Napier's remaining funds, Quinzel begins restoring Backport. Confronting Quinzel, Batman reveals she manufactured the Joker's medication and orchestrated events so the chase would end in the factory and be recorded. Explaining he only learned the truth from the Joker, Quinzel explains she did it to break their stalemate before they destroyed Gotham.
Meeting with Gordon, Batman gives him the keys to the original Batmobiles for the GTO and confesses that Napier was right about him. Revealing that he has realized that he has been taking pleasure in harming criminals and that he has allowed himself to go too far in his war against crime, Batman unmasks himself in front of Gordon to earn back his trust.
Batman: White Knight has been received favorably by critics. Sales of the series were well above expectations, with #1 receiving a fourth printing, #2 receiving a third printing, and #3 and #4 each receiving a second printing. It frequently appeared as one of the top 10 best-selling comics during its months of publication, according to ComicChron.
In January 2018, Sean Murphy confirmed he had plans for a second and third volume. In September of that year, a sequel series Batman: Curse of the White Knight was revealed. The first issue was released July 24, 2019 under the Black Label imprint.
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