By Ben Snyder
Batman: White Knight #5 continues the story of a seemingly reformed Joker and how the rest of Gotham copes and deals with it. Sean Murphy has been in fine form throughout this mini series and issue #5 is no exception. Murphy is able to straddle a fine line with showing the mental stability of the various characters in this series and his art offers a unique spin on an already well mapped out city. But perhaps the greatest asset to this series so far has nothing to do with Murphy’s writing or art, but with the legacy of a character like the Joker. Mainly, we still don’t know how this is going to all shake out.
One of my major initial hesitations with this story when it was first announced was that I was afraid that Murphy would make the Batman frothing at the mouth crazy in order to manipulate him into being viewed as the villain. I am glad to say that this is not the case. In fact Murphy has done an exceptional job in making all of the characters feel real and understandable. I don’t agree with the course of action Batman is choosing to take in this story and I am not supposed to. But most importantly, I understand why he is so reluctant to believe the Joker has changed.
Probably the best scene I this entire issue was when Batman and Harley had their rooftop conversation. It was a truly enlightening conversation and put a whole new dynamic on the Batman/ Harley/ Joker trifecta. Batman and Harley worked hand-in-hand to prevent the Joker from being who he really could have been, in an attempt to minimize the amount of damage. It was also nice to see that Harley always knew she was doing wrong, but was willing to do anything for the Joker out of love. This entire conversation added a lot of insight into a seemingly well-worn relationship between the three of them. I was a little disappointed that it ended with a very common theme of how similar the Batman and Joker actually are; but it is true so a minor gripe.
Perhaps the biggest disappointment with this entire series has been the other Harley Quinn a.k.a the Neo-Joker. The original reveal that there were two Harley Quinns all along left a bad taste in my mouth, but I was willing to bear with it. Unfortunately Murphy has yet to tie it all together yet, and it seems like a distraction as of now. Same thing goes with Bruce’s ancestors having ties to the Nazi’s. I get it and what they’re trying to do by undermining the Wayne brand, but as of now it seems superfluous to the plot.
Murphy’s art adds a unique spin to Gotham, one that we simply have not seen in a long time. Murphy’s architecture looms and adds a very gothic and stylized feel to the city. I also love how we rarely see the streets of the city, especially when Batman is swinging from building to building. It adds a great deal of verticality to Gotham, making it feel like a haunted metropolis. Murphy’s character designs are consistent if not amazing. I’m not a tremendous fan of how he’s drawing Batman, but it’s not outright offensive, just not entirely new. Some characters in scenes also look a little too much alike, especially Batman and Tim Drake who are drawn almost identically in a couple of scenes.
The things that work in Batman: White Knight #5 work really well. Murphy offers a highly personal and stylized spin on these popular characters. In fact they even balance out the aspects that don’t necessarily work as well such as Neo-Joker and Bruce’s connection to the Nazi’s. But all of this is contingent on the unknown; mainly will the old Joker resurface or is Jack Napier here to stay?
Batman: White Knight #5