The end is in sight. With Neo Joker holding Gotham City in frozen captivity, Jack and Harley have no choice but to face the thorn in their side. But what of Batman? Will he sit in Arkham as the fate of his city is decided? Or will the Dark Knight find his way back into the action and ensure that Gotham is still standing when it’s all over? Batman: White Knight #7 brings us one step closer to the finish. SPOILERS AHEAD
A better read
Last issue felt like a bit of a dud to me. Much of it was consumed by an action sequence, and though there was some gold to be found afterwards, it was a fairly small measure. This time, though I can—and will—point out several prominent flaws, I found greater enjoyment in reading. So why is that?
Part of it, I think, is that some of the things that I’ve been assuming since the beginning finally come into the light. Batman is not the out-of-control, line-walking outlaw that Gordon thought he was; someone close to Jack finally acknowledges the contradicting natures of his intent for the city and his methods for realizing it; Dick and Babs show warmth—instead of judgment—toward their mentor. In short, a lot of things are set right.
Does Murphy bring about this consummation with elegance? A little yes, a little no. The Jack threads have been central to the story, so I feel like what we get in #7 is the natural outcome of the story that Murphy has told us all along. Harley, too, feels like the product of consistent character-building since the beginning. Batman and friends, on the other hand, take a bit of a leap. It took years and years for Gordon to decide that Batman was the wrong answer to Gotham’s problems, but he recants of his heresy without much persuasion. Barbara’s response to a tender word from Bruce makes some sense, because she’s still been sort-of on his side all along; but Dick responding with a similar warmth makes a bit less sense in context. He was at a greater distance from Bruce, and even provided the crucial components for the GTO’s plan to capture Batman in the last issue.
I’m not saying that I don’t want the family to get to this place; rather, it just feels like the changes in heart are rather abrupt, calling into question the headbutting we saw just an issue or two ago. This type of rushed resolution is certainly common enough in storytelling of all kinds, but it is still a fresh disappointment whenever it’s encountered—especially in a series that has done so many things patiently.
What ever happened to Robin?
We finally learn what happened to this universe’s Jason Todd, and I’ve got to say, I’m both surprised with and impressed by it. The standard, post-Red Hood Jason Todd narrative is always a riff on the same thing: Jason blames Bruce for not saving him and/or not exacting revenge on the Joker. But in the Murphyverse, Jason’s near-death at the hands of the Joker makes him consider just how nuts it is that Batman would bring children into his war in the first place. And his examination leads him to hate Bruce at a far more fundamental and—dare I say—understandable level than any prior interpretation of the character. I hope that Murphy lets this lie where he has it, and doesn’t bring Jason back as the Red Hood (or any other persona) in the final chapter.
The Jason stuff comes to light near the end of the book, as Batman and Jack ride off to confront Neo. Jack claims that Joker is keeping the knowledge of that fateful night away from him, but Batman presses on, and Jack gets it out. Shortly thereafter, the Joker appears to be back in full, and we adjourn until our next meeting. The science of the relapse is unquestionably of the comic book sort, but that’s okay—the idea of the Joker lurking close at hand, and now, returning for good, is an exciting place to be. The final installment may fail to make all of this drama worth it, but I very much want to read it and see how Murphy does, which is a testament to how well he already has done in getting us to this point.
A word about Murphy’s reveal that Jack and Harley will be getting married, with Batman looking on, smiling.
- You’ve been on board with White Knight all along. It has morphed into something (largely) more straightforward here near the end, but it’s still quite good.
- Sean Murphy is still the artist (he is). I don’t have much new to say about his work, but since everything I said before was good, I think we’re square.
- You want to see someone else take a stab at Jason Todd. Yes, stab—not crowbar.
It’s not a return to form, because the series is now something different, but Batman: White Knight #7 is largely a return to the level of quality that we’ve come to expect from Sean Murphy’s provocative take on the Dark Knight. The artwork shows a few cracks, but is still top-shelf, and the story offers some long-desired resolution. If you’ve been aboard from the start, this is a must-read; and if you haven’t, you’ve got another solid installment to look forward to when you get your trade in September.