Welcome to the Comic Bastards group review for Batman: White Knight #1. For those unfamiliar with the site’s group review format, each of the participating writers will give their thoughts and an individual score for the issue. We don’t do averages; each person’s thoughts and score are their own. Now get your butt ready for DC and Sean Phillips’ Batman: White Knight #1.
Jonathan: Score 4/5
In general, I'm not a big fan of the of the overly aggressive and hyperviolent Batman that, whether intentionally or not, ends up being the villain of his book. I just never really found it to be an interesting take on the character, probably because that is what would happen to the majority of people if they lived Batman's life. That is what Batman: White Knight does. However, here Sean Murphy does at least find some humanity at the core of that. And of course, juxtaposing it with a now sane Joker that calls him on his bullshit is a pretty damn good hook.
I have to say, one thing that surprised me about this book was how much it reminded me of the Burton/Schumacher Batman film series. That's not to say there are a bunch of connections, but being reminded a little bit of those movies was still way more than I was expecting. For example, the Joker's name is given as "Jack Napier." And while this is by no means the first book to reuse that name as a cute reference (one I did enjoy), it feels distinct in that this is the first time that I'm aware of since the film that that's been his actual name rather than a pseudonym. At least, I think it's supposed to be his real name given how frequently most characters call him Napier rather than Joker. Additionally, the stuff with Alfred immediately called to mind a similar premise from the fourth and final film, Batman and Robin.
That all being said, it doesn't make Batman: White Knight #1 any less enjoyable. The tone, world-building, and art are all great, allowing for a fairly substantial read. I was honestly surprised when I got to the end and realized that the issue was only 20-some pages long. Furthermore, Murphy pretty deftly walks the line between the possibilities of the Joker being some kind of right about Batman, or this simply being the latest and greatest of his supervillain schemes. And either way, I'm super eager to keep reading.
Justin: Score 5/5
Batman White Knight has tons of style. Colors; lettering; pencils; all working together to create a book infused with grit and urban aesthetic. Batman is menacing and rendered wildly. The Joker is slick, downright suave at moments. A lot of comics say they are noir, but not really. This book actually fits the bill. The shadows in this book give it a true noir feeling. The noir elements are continued with graphic exaggerated poses. This book goes on the shelf right next to The Long Halloween and Dark Victory. When I look at this comic that's the books, I think of.
Batman White Knight flips the Joker - Batman paradigm. Batman is, on the surface, a vigilante. In a social and political climate that humanizes and seeks to understand even the worst of humanity, there may be no tolerance for cold justice. If Bruce finally loses control, will his friends stand by him? The darkly crafted characters complete the noir feel. I have been looking forward to this since the first few teases of it on Twitter. It didn’t let me down.
Daniel: Score 5/5
This is a book I have been anticipating for a while now. I've been watching Sean Murphy put it together through his posts on Twitter, and I was super pumped to check it out. But I also had my reservations. I knew a bit about the synopsis going into the book, and I was afraid that it was maybe going to be a bit too gimmicky. And that did scare me a bit. But I have long been a fan of Sean Murphy's.
The writing and the story are decent. I feel like Murphy has a good grasp on all of these characters, still managing to make them sound familiar but also his own. Although I did feel like the book dragged at parts and that it was bogged down by an overabundance of dialogue. But I understand it. This is a different spin on a Batman story and with that comes a lot of set-ups. A lot of pieces to put into place. And I have faith that Murphy is going to be able to carry this story for its seven-issue run.
The art, though, that's the main thing. The art's the thing I love most about Sean Murphy. And here I feel like it might be some of his best yet. His distinct style fits this story well. And, yes, I'm already aware that people are already talking about his Batmobile and Nightwing on a motorcycle. And those things are great. They are. But what got me more in terms of the art is just the whole atmosphere of the book. (And, of course, Matt Hollingworth is also partly to thank for this because of his amazing colors). This book just looks dark. It looks noir. It looks fucking great.
I'm generally kind of soft on the idea of a mini-series. But not here. I'm all in for this one.
Dustin: Score 4/5
If you’ve listened to my podcast this week then you may already know where I’m going with this… have you seen The Lego Batman Movie? Because the relationship between Joker and Batman in that film is eerily similar to the relationship presented in Batman: White Knight.
But it works.
In a lot of ways, this feels like Sean Murphy’s commentary on Batman since Dark Knight Returns. Hell, it even comments on the current version of Batman that you can find in DC’s big event book Metal: Dark Nights. A reckless Batman that abuses his relationships to the point of breaking all for his own selfish needs. Batman is pushed to the edge in this universe, and it should be scary that the Joker is the only one that sees it and is willing to do something about it.
Murphy’s Joker is brilliant, and I mean that in both the way he’s portrayed and the way Murphy wrote him. I am dying to know what the Joker’s real angle is because there is one. His motivations, for now, are very clear and laid out with style. This is the Joker’s book, but it isn’t the Joker you’ve come to know in the DC Universe, he’s different and scary in a different way. Bottom-line, pick up this book, it’s damn good, and it’ll make you wish that this was the Batverse that DC was currently blasting with tie-ins instead of that Metal bullshit.
Batman: White Knight #1
Writer/Artist: Sean Murphy
Colorist: Matt Hollingsworth
Letterer: Todd Klein
Publisher: DC Comics