The GTO is on the hunt for Batman! The Dark Knight’s friends have left one-by-one, and with Gordon joining Jack Napier’s task-force, the pressure is on Gotham’s king vigilante like never before. Can Batman evade capture? Can Jack keep the Joker at bay? Find out in Batman: White Knight #6. SPOILERS AHEAD
What are you?
Last month, White Knight began a shift that continues here in its sixth issue: the social issues that had been a series constant all but disappeared. The absence of such concerns doesn’t pose a problem in the abstract; however, after getting four issues of a Gotham City metaphor for the general unrest of modern America, I confess a bit of confusion now that it’s gone. We’re left with the image, but not the reality to which it points, and it feels odd. Murphy’s Batman story is certainly interesting enough on its own; but whereas now we see it through a window, then we saw it from the ground. I have no insight into why Murphy decided to take things in this direction, and I don’t watch him closely on Twitter. And, really, it’s not the purpose of this review to speculate about such things. As a reader, I feel more distant from these two most recent installments than I did from the first four, and that’s a shame.
One thing I did read from Murphy is that this issue would contain far more raw action than situational drama, and he’s not wrong. The action is gorgeously rendered and colored, couched within the sort of skillfully-crafted layouts we’ve come to expect. Murphy’s inks are as gorgeous as ever with a few pages almost entirely flooded but for a few shocks of color from Hollingsworth. In spite of its visual beauty, however, I’m not connecting with this opening scene. It’s cool—especially Nightwing’s choice of automobile—but it’s not speaking to me. Maybe it’s the complexity of the GTO’s plan and the fact that it depends on a predictable Batman entering the exact warehouse that they need him to; maybe it’s Gordon saying he’s not doing his job if he doesn’t arrest Batman, even though he technically hasn’t been doing his actual job in the entirety of their acquaintance; maybe it’s that Napier beating Batman in a fist fight seems more far-fetched than the Rube Goldberg-lite that Murphy puts them all through to get to this point. The opening scene of this series showed us Batman chained up in Arkham, and Napier in a position of power. It raised questions: how did Batman get here? how did Napier become a solid citizen? Now that Murphy’s giving us answers, I’m not satisfied.
Napier to the rescue
The aftermath of the opening action is where the book starts to shine. Napier’s reverence for Batman—and his self-doubt upon finally achieving victory—deepen the mystery of his reformation. These are Joker tropes, but seemingly devoid of the whack-job lunacy that we usually find beneath them. Unfortunately, the scene quickly shifts to Neo and the gang hitting Gotham with an enormous freeze cannon and the moment is gone, but it’s still a poignant one before it passes.
From there, we move to Batgirl confronting Mr. Freeze about the cannon and the Nazi ties in his past. It’s a largely informational scene, and—for me, at least—it isn’t very interesting. Maybe some folks believed that the Waynes were sympathizers of the Third Reich, but I never bought it, and these two pages of story pretty much tell me that I was right.
The strongest page in the book comes next, with Harley and Jack going back and forth about the merits (or lack thereof) to their plan to clean up Gotham. Harley is easily the most sympathetic character in this series, and her conflicted allegiances make her the personification of the social complexity that the book used to examine. I would have gladly seen more of this and given up all or most of the takedown that kicked things off.
The next page—the final page—hints at the inevitable—the thing that we’ve all been waiting for since this series began. Whether or not it’s exactly what we expected, or something else, we’ll have to find out in the last two issues.
- You’re capable of being hypnotized by Murphy’s artwork, even when his story falters.
- You’ve been anxiously awaiting the return of an old friend.
- You didn’t like all of that social commentary in the beginning of White Knight, and you’re glad it’s gone.
White Knight #6 is the first issue of the series that leaves me cold. It has a few strong beats, and it’s never awful, but I miss what this book was. The artwork is excellent, as usual, but overall, I’m disappointed.
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