This second issue reveals Terry McGinnis’ backstory, and I’m glad to say Murphy does a good job of making him fit into this universe. Like the cartoon, Terry is on a mission to track down his father’s killer, but while Terry ended up teaming up with Batman/Bruce Wayne and becoming his protégé and successor, in this world, Terry is taken in and hired by Derek Powers. Here he hires Terry to steal the Batsuit and make modifications to it, all the while Terry is shown to have a moral dilemma over the theft and the harm he’s caused on his way to get it.
It’s a plot line that ties into how Terry McGinnis has been characterized since his inception, along with original plot points from the show, but it also twists the story on its side and puts Terry at odds with our regular heroes. It might rely a bit too much on a person’s familiarity with the original show, but I find myself instantly invested in what’s happening with this version of Terry, and I’m glad glad Murphy was able to find a natural way to incorporate him into this universe. It makes me anticipate if any kind of betrayal will happen between Terry and Powers, and how Terry’s batman might be used to undo the GTO and Neo-Gotham.
We do get to catch up with Dick Grayson and Barbara Gordon in this issue. Murphy has long-portrayed Barbara as the diplomat of the Batfamily in his stories, so it makes since that she would be the police commissioner, concerned over the kind of city Neo-Gotham has become, while Dick Grayson is still very much a part of the GTO. I’m not sure I’ve ever liked Murphy’s Dick Grayson. He seems to be more immature and irrational than I’m used to for his character, but perhaps that’s fitting since White Knight Bruce is very irrational and immature, much of the time. Thank goodness Barbara and Dick are implied to have had a romance in this universe, as opposed to Barbara and Bruce in the original Batman Beyond…
Meanwhile, we get a follow up from the hook given at the end of the last issue, where Jack/Joker appears to Bruce Wayne as he escapes custody. It’s explained that Jack implanted a memory chip inside Bruce during their fight in the first White Knight series, and is now a projection in Bruce’s head to guide him at this point in time. I’m not sure why Jack, at that point in time, thought to do that to Bruce, since they were clearly enemies at that point, but I’ll roll with it for now. It is pretty entertaining to see “fanboy” Jack return in Bruce’s head and they have some pretty good banter. I also really appreciate that Jack/Joker is fully back in the picture now, after Murphy rather suddenly killed him off during Curse of the White Knight (more on that later).
What I really like about this though, is that it’s a clear callback to what Joker did to Tim Drake in Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker (Sean Gordon Murphy definitely knows his DCAU lore). This plot thread also shows some expertise by Murphy in his ability to hook readers: he ends the first issue with the reveal of Joker, making one question if he is really still alive or not, and then progresses the next issue with answers. It’s a very logical technique to keep readers engaged and interested in each chapter. For another example, I’ll discuss this issue’s ending (behind spoiler tags)
I’m sorry, what?
This has been a problem for me ever since it was introduced during Curse of the White Knight: the romance between Bruce Wayne and Harleen Quinzel. I’m with most people who love the White Knight rendition of Harley Quinn. However, the burgeoning romance between Bruce and Harley never sat well with me. First, there’s the fact that I just cannot buy these two characters together in any universe, even in a topsy-turvy Elseworlds tale like this. The other issue is that I feel this romance has really invalidated Harley’s relationship with Jack, which this series was built on in the first place. It’s like I was reading a series that largely dealt with Jack battling his Joker persona with Harley’s help, then Murphy very suddenly killed him off in the middle of Curse, and it feels like it was largely done just so he could switch gears and push the Harley and Bruce thing.
It feels like Sean Gordon Murphy saw the moments at the end of the Batman: the Animated Series episode “Harley’s Holiday” where Harley kisses Bruce and created an entire fan fiction over it, when that was supposed to be a cute, playful moment rather than the beginning of a love affair. Of course, even a star-crossed romance between these two is one thing. To say that now Bruce Wayne is Harley’s husband, now? Bruce Wayne, who can scarcely marry Selina Kyle or any woman in any universe has now been married to Harley Quinn? Or is calling Bruce her husband just meant to rile readers up until the next issue? Because, I’m also not sure when there’s been anytime in this universe for these two to have been married. (This reminds me a lot of the Batman X Batgirl ship in The New Batman Adventures and Batman Beyond that Bruce Timm pushed). Sorry for the rant.
I’ve praised Sean Gordon Murphy enough for his work on the book, but I’ve often felt in the past that Murphy is a good writer who doesn’t understand the comic book lore as much as he’d want you to believe, and that’s what leads to gaffs like this. I mean, he understands the DCAU, to be sure, but he’s admitted elsewhere on his twitter that he barely reads Batman comics, and in fact, making Jason Todd the first Robin in this series was the result of him thinking Jason Todd WAS the first Robin, and not doing even a Wikipedia search to find out he was wrong.
And that’s really my problem with Sean Gordon Murphy, he’s got some really good writing talent and ideas for his series that really appeal to me as a big fan of the DCAU, but I’ve seen his lack of Batman knowledge can be a real hinderance to that. Sometimes it feels like I’m reading original characters rather than alternate versions of Batman’s cast. While I did enjoy the issue, I’m worried that that problem is going to grow and persist again as I feel it has in Murphy’s other installments, but I’ll see where this goes.
Artwork: If I can’t always agree with Sean Gordon Murphy’s writing choices, I can agree with his artwork. He’s a true master when it comes to the scale and depictions of every city scape and every character. He’s also really great with the expressions of each character though I wonder if they look a little too exaggerated when they are laughing or yelling. He also makes some interesting choices, like when he portrays Bruce swinging between buildings, he displays him across a black background, with the city in a rectangular view to the left. It makes the image of Bruce stand out more, and adds a simple atmosphere to him traveling across the shadows of the city. These are choices I rarely see other DC artist’s make, and it really makes Murphy stand out as a creative artist first.
Murphy’s art is really amazing, even in the quieter, more emotional moments. The page that really stood out to me in the issue was the scene of Bruce standing stoically in front of his old Batsuit, with Jack fanboying over the very idea of him putting it on.
It’s subtle, but the fact that Murphy dedicates an entire page to this moment tells us a lot of what it really means to Bruce to be standing below his original Batsuit, an identity he wants to leave behind but that always looms above him, even if we don’t get all that through the dialogue or even Bruce’s expression. I also want to praise Dave Stewart for his colors here, I actually confused him with Matt Hollingsworth, who’s often worked side by side with Murphy before. Stewart keeps up with Murphy’s style adding a lot of shadows and a lot of orange tinted colors as a contrast, and it keeps the entire presentation very distinct.
- Sean Gordon Murphy’s art appeals to you.
- More DCAU related content and more White Knight Bruce/Joker appeal to you
- You ship Harley Quinn X Bruce Wayne (shrug).
This issue is an entertaining installment to Sean Gordon Murphy’s White Knight universe, and is sure to please fans of the Batman Beyond cartoon, even if I’m a bit concerned as to where certain elements of the story are going.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News a free copy of this comic for the propose of this review.