Vote For The Joker? Not The Mad Idea You’d Think In Batman: White Knight #4

by Olly MacNamee

No doubt you’ll come for the art, but stay for Sean Murphy’s intriguing, fresh take on Batman’s most nefariously known enemy, The Joker. Or rather, Jack Napier; seemingly sane and coming up with a plan of action for Gotham City that sounds saner than anything the Batman has ever attempted to do. This is one example of the artist showing he can be equally as good at storytelling as he is at illustrating this story. But, surely Napier’s newfound clean bill of health can’t last, can it? It’s certainly a question that is posed by the reader (especially as the last issue implied cracks in the veneer) and many of the cast of Batman: White Knight too in this fourth issue. Although, by the end, most people are of the same mind on that point.

The are the usual faces we’ve got to know over the year in the regular Batman comics, but with a twist. Duke Thomas, for example, is an older, wiser fellow and an ex-cop who rightfully quit a bent police force to better serve his people. Backport, as a community leader, endorsing Napier in his plans to become Gotham City councilman and thereby take control over a city he once wanted to plunge into chaos. How times have changed.

And, alongside Napier, his Harley. The one in love with the man and not the monster. She remains mostly stoic and silent throughout, but in one beautifully filled page, we have a very touching montage of scenes across one night. A night in which she shows her beau the love and life they could have. It’s touching, because I have the horrid feeling, just like Batman, that this won’t last, and tragedy will be the ultimate ending to this great series. But, it would seem that myself and Batman are the only few who still think the worst of Napier as he continues to grow in popularity by promising to drain the swamp, so to speak, and take on corruption at all levels. Hmmm, sound familiar?

In all the ups and downs of this issue, with all sorts of different people commenting on whether Napier’s newly minted conscience will stick, the title ‘white knight’ certainly takes on a rather cynical meaning at one point, too. Just as we, the reader, may well be considering it too, but for different reasons. But, when even the likes of Commissioner Gordon can be seemingly brought around by Napier’s logical plans for a better future for Gotham City, what hopes is there for Batman? The Joker may defeat him yet. Not through madcap mayhem and murder, but through good old fashion planning and public funding. Who would have thought a politician would be the hero of the hour, right?

Oh, and the return of Neo-Joker, the Harley Quinn who’ll do anything to get her puddin’ back, and unhinged.

It’s a HUGE read, and when you’re the writer and the artist, that helps since overly heavy dialogue never encroaches on the art, and thereby creates a synergy between art and dialogue that can be a hard act to pull off, given how much ground is covered in this issue. I imagine letterer, Todd Klein has a great deal to do with the success of this balancing act between words and pictures, and that must be noted. It pays to work with the best.

Whatever the final outcome for Napier, or for Batman for that matter, it’s a corner of the DC Multiverse I do hope Murphy returns to in time. It’s been that good thus far. I can’t imagine I’ll be disappointed come the finale.

Of course, the stellar work of Matt Hollingsworth on colours must be mentioned too, as he gives us a washed-out Gotham, but not one drenched in shadows. Murphy’s own ink work gives us that. Hollingsworth adds the muted tones that keep Gotham grim.

It’s an issue of growing intrigue–will Napier’s plan work, as most people begin to believe?  And it’s one that sees Batman sidelined more and more, to the point where even Gordon is ready to give up on the Dark Knight’s crusade. Or at least his methods. Batman, he says, was always meant to be a temporary measure, but in not sharing his wonderful toys with the police, has he simply stalled the process? Is Batman the true villain here? Jack Napier is a great foil to this world’s Batman, and could even give Lex Luthor a run for his money, from the evidence found within just this issue.

It’s just a shame that there’s only two more issues of the series to go.

Batman: White Knight #4 is currently available in shops from DC Comics.

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