Recently I was able to read the comic, Batman: White Knight, which is an Elseworlds tale and a very enjoyable read. This book looks at the Joker in a different light than we are used to seeing him and offers new iterations of some other classic Gotham characters as well. I will be examining some of the story points and characters to see what makes this such an interesting story. Spoilers for the book will follow obviously, so if you haven’t read it and don’t want to know, you have been warned.
While this story mostly is about the Joker gaining his sanity, it also gives us some different looks at other characters as well. Featuring heavily on Harley Quinn, Batman, and the new antagonist Neo Joker (which is not the Joker from Batman Beyond). In this, Batman is becoming violent and seems to lack care for the destruction that he leaves in his wake from his battles. This puts strain on his relationships with the GCPD and the Bat family, which leaves the opening for the now reformed Jack Napier to come in and clean up Gotham. Throughout, we also get to see some of Batman’s other iconic villains, although none really have any major ties to the story aside from Mad Hatter, Clayface, and Mr. Freeze. So let’s take a closer look at some of the main characters of this book.
His story begins with the Joker being his usual self and created mayhem across Gotham. This iteration of Joker is also one that is very obsessed with the Batman and does what he does to get his attention. During a battle with Batman, he is beaten and then has these pills forced down his through by the Dark Knight in front of the GCPD. This is also caught on film, which only raises the public’s wariness of the Batman and brings heat onto the GCPD also for working with him all these years. When the pills actually cure the Joker and he regains his sanity, he is able to start a new life. We then see the Joker take on the name of Jack Napier
Jack is very smart and studious, which he uses to free himself and eventually run for office. The brains of the Joker are not always something that you see highlighted in the madman, but it shows that deep down under all the crazy is a brilliant man and this is why he is one of the Batman’s greatest foes.
Now, being sain doesn’t make him a saint as he still continues to do morally questionable things. However, you can tell that Jack really wants to save Gotham and make it a better place despite the way he goes about it. Turning the public on Batman to help further his own gain. In the end, he is able to redeem himself to help Batman save Gotham, but is ultimately lost to his Joker persona once more.
This version really shows the Jack’s battle in his mind as the Joker continually fought to come out. With the Joker now being back in control, it will be interesting to see he takes advantage of Jack’s strengths to make him a more deadly foe.
Like I mentioned, this Batman is one who seems to be losing his moral compass as he becomes more brutal and disregarding of people’s safety. We get a glimpse into some of the things troubling the Dark Knight, mostly surrounding the Joker’s torturing of Jason Todd. Things are a little different in this universe however, with Jason being the first Robin and Dick Grayson, who is currently Nightwing, to be the second sidekick.
Throughout, you see Batman wrestling with the guilt of what happened as much of it remains a mystery to him. Eventually finding out that the Joker did it because he was jealous that Robin knew who Batman was. Jason gave up Bruce’s identity and left making him think he was dead.
Batman is villainized throughout by the doing of Jack and his own actions. This eventually forces his allies to go after him and put him in Arkham, turning the tables between him and the Joker. Soon enough they need his help let him go, but you can see that Bruce does lighten some near the end. He gives the GCPD access to his arsenal, as well as, revealing his identity to the commissioner.
One of the twists of the book was that there were two Harley Quinns which definitely confused me at first. Marian Drews was a nobody until the Joker took her in to be the new Harley Quinn after the first left during the Jason Todd incident. This Harley fell head over heals for the Joker same as the original, only she wasn’t too happy when Jack Napier took her Puddin’ away. This lead her to take on the new persona of Neo Joker.
He main goal was to get the Joker to come back out and by that measure, did succeed. However, the Joker, Batman, and Harley teamed up to stop her from destroying Gotham. She was definitely an interesting look at what Harley could have become if she had went more of the supervillain route without the Joker as opposed to how she is now, an antihero type character.
The original Harley played a big part of the story and actually turned out to be the person guiding things from behind the scenes the whole time. She being the one who wanted to keep Jack Napier. Harley filmed Batman beating the Joker and was also running things to the side for other parts of Jack’s plans as well.
This was kind of a what if Harley left the Joker and tried to have normal life scenario. I have often said, and even wrote about, how Harley is so much more of a compelling character when she goes all the way over to the good side as it were, granted that she was not completely good in this iteration the point is still the same. She was independent yet still cared about Jack and stood by him even as the Joker took control again. It was nice to see what their relationship could have been like in different circumstances.
Looking at this story, it was new perspective on the Joker and one that I enjoyed. It really showed some of the layers that are there on the character that we dont normally see under all of his craziness. I have always found Batman Elseworlds stories to be fascinating because you get to see all of the characters in a new light, while usually keeping the essence of Batman and his world the same.
Looking ahead, there is already a follow up in the works to continue off of White Knight and I am curious how it will do. Having Azrael added into the mix was unexpected, but we will see how it goes. My theory is perhaps, he is or has something to do with Jason Todd since they built up some of his story in the book and this would have him coming back to get revenge on Bruce for ruining his life.
Let me know what you think. Did you enjoy White Knight? And what are your thoughts on the upcoming Curse of the White Knight? Let me know in the comments and thanks for reading!