Published by DC Comics between 2017 and 2018, Batman: White Knight is an eight-issue story from writer/artist Sean Murphy. White Knight takes place in an alternate DC Universe and is heavily influenced by past versions of the Batman mythology (movies, TV shows etc).
White Knight is unlike the majority of Bat-tales, in that the Joker is positioned as the hero of the story, while Batman is the villain. It also re-imagines established lore, such as the death of the second Robin (Jason Todd) and the Joker/Harley Quinn relationship.
What happens in Batman: White Knight?
Batman purses the Joker through Gotham City. After a lengthy chase, including a rooftop drive across the city, Batman catches up with his foe in a medical supplies factory.
The Joker is apprehended, but when the Clown Prince of Crime intimidates Batman, the Caped Crusader lashes out. Nightwing, Batgirl, Commissioner Gordon and the Gotham City Police Department arrive to see Batman beating the Joker, but stand by and do nothing.
The situation finally comes to a head when Batman forces a handful of unknown pills down the Joker’s throat. The incident is caught on camera and leaked to the media, causing news outlets to question Batman’s methods.
The Joker is taken to Arkham to recover, but the tablets have an unpredictable side-effect. The Joker personality fades away, leaving his original persona in its place.
Now calling himself Jack Napier, the Joker is no longer insane and instead boasts a high I.Q. He also has a desire to see Batman punished for his crimes.
Napier accuses Batman of assault, and criminal damage and blames the Gotham City Police Department for allowing the Caped Crusader to operate in the city with free reign. Gotham’s citizens begin to agree and see a champion in Napier – a White Knight.
The change in Joker’s behaviour also attracts the attention of Harley Quinn, who seeks out Napier. This leads to the revelation that there are two Harleys – the real one and a fake Harley.
The real Harley left the Joker after he kidnapped Jason Todd. She realised the Joker’s obsession with Batman was too much for her to live with and she walked away, only to be replaced by a fake Harley.
After reconnecting with Napier, the pair put a plan into action to expose Batman as the route of Gotham’s problems. This plan involves using the Mad Hatter’s mind control technology to place all of Batman’s foes at their disposal.
Creating a co-ordinated attack, Napier and Harley unleash the rogues on the city, resulting in damage to the poorest area of Gotham. Napier uses this incident to expose details of a special fund used by the city to continually clean up after Batman.
Instead of using the money to facilitate Batman, Napier suggests redirecting the funds to improve the Gotham City Police Department. He also suggests adapting Batman’s technology to create better provisions for police officers.
With Napier busy establishing himself as Gotham’s saviour, the fake Harley – now calling herself Neo Joker – has taken control of the rogues. A showdown between Neo Joker and the newly enhanced police force takes place, but when Batman gets involved things go wrong and he becomes public enemy number one.
Batman is captured and put in Arkham Asylum. But with Batman out of the picture, Neo Joker uses Mr. Freeze’s technology to freeze Gotham City.
With Gotham in peril, and the effect of the drugs beginning to wear off, Napier makes a deal with Batman to help save the city. Working together, Batman, Napier, Harley and the GCPD bring down Neo Joker and with Mr. Freeze’s assistance they save the city.
Napier/Joker goes to jail, but not before confessing that he purposefully tried to discredit Batman. But realising that Napier gave him pause for thought, Batman shares his technology with Commissioner Gordon and prepares to reveal his identity to the city.
What makes Batman: White Knight such a good story?
Batman: White Knight is an intriguing and imaginative story, which puts a new spin on the Batman mythology. It takes the symbiotic relationship between Batman and Joker in a new direction, while offering an interesting insight into the Joker’s alter-ego.
Joker has always had the ability and resources to destroy Batman, but he finds more joy in toying with the Caped Crusader. Napier takes a different stance and prefers to use his intellect to discredit the Dark Knight.
But it’s not just the Batman/Joker dynamic that works so well in White Knight, this is also a story loaded with Easter eggs. From visual references to story beats, White Knight is a tale which rewards readers well-versed in Bat-lore.
Those familiar with Batman: The Animated Series will catch various nods and winks to the show, but there are also references to Batman ‘66, Batman ‘89 and the Christopher Nolan films. Joel Schumacher’s Batman & Robin is also included, with various plot points from the film peppered throughout the story (MacGregor’s Syndrome, frozen Gotham etc).
I hope this information on Batman: White Knight has proved useful. Should you want to read more posts about Batman, please take a look through I’ll Get Drive-Thru, or alternatively check out one of the recommended reads below.