I recently had the pleasure of reading DC’s graphic novel, Batman: White Knight, the story of the Joker becoming sane and showing Gotham the villain that Batman truly is, thus becoming the city’s white knight. This is a non-canon graphic novel that shows the Joker, now going by Jack Napier, in a very different light. We see him as a real man who loves his city driven to madness by Gotham’s corruption and by Batman himself.
Unlike a number of other non canon stories that have been told, we get real well developed characters that are very distinct from the ones we know from the traditional Batman stories. The novel opens with a very familiar scene, Batman chasing the Joker around the city with Nightwing and Batgirl in tow. The destructive nature of these chases is emphasized and it all culminates in Batman force feeding the Joker the drugs he was trying to steal anyway.
This violent and nearly deadly act by Batman is filmed and goes viral causing many to call out Gordon and Gotham PD in general for standing by and letting Batman get away with violent acts like these. On top of that, the drugs the Joker has taken seems to have cured him and the Jack Napier that remains in his place sues Gotham PD and the city as a whole because they allowed Batman to do this.
He calls out the rich and powerful in the city for treating crime and Batman’s crime fighting as a business. He embraces the poor, minority-filled neighborhood of Backport and uses them to get elected city councillor. He funds an elite crime fighting force that brings together vigilantes like Nightwing and Batgirl and police officers, all under the supervision of Gordon.
This story also stars not one, but two Harley Quinns. One is the over the top, violent, and crazy Harley Quinn we’ve seen in more recent iterations of the character. The other is a much more reasonable version that is closer to being the Psychiatrist she started out as. This latter Quinn becomes Jack’s confidant and helps in his quest to take back the city by legitimate means. The former believes her Mr. J is still inside Napier somewhere and takes on the name of Neo-Joker in an attempt to draw the real Joker back out. Both character have well developed back stories and in their own ways are sympathetic.
This novel’s Dick Grayson is not the first Robin, but instead took on the mantle after Jason Todd’s death at the hands of the Joker. He never quite feels like he can connect to Bruce or Batman, like he’s kept at arm’s length because of the traumatic death of Jason. This makes it easier for him to turn his back on Bruce when Jack and the GCPD come calling.
Alfred has a small, but pivotal role in this story that only helps accentuate Bruce’s guilt over the collateral damage his war on crime has caused. Alfred’s story also links Bruce to Victor von Friese A.K.A. Mr. Freeze and we learn about his family’s Nazi past and the connection his family had with the Wayne family.
All in all this is an interesting fresh take on Batman. It uses a lot of themes that we’ve seen in many Batman stories, but weaves them into a world of interesting characters. While these characters are different from the ones we know, they somehow seem very familiar still and it’s easy to see the characters we know in them. It’s refreshing to see a take on Batman, that doesn’t rely on the audiences existing knowledge of Batman and his world. In this we’ve got well rounded, well developed characters that can exist on their own separate from the mythology we’re so familiar with.
4 out of 5 Couch Cushions and a throw pillow!!!