Picking up from where we left off, Harley has a vicious confrontation with Bruce, where we get some of the backstory revealed. It seems that Bruce and Harley were married so that Harley could prevent Bruce’s sentence from being extended via “spousal privilege.” Bruce agreed to this under pressure, but then threw Harley under the bus, not wanting to take advantage of her, hence Harley’s current anger. I’m honestly not sure what Murphy is trying to say with this relationship. Is he going to argue, in the end, that Bruce has been the right person for Harley all along? That would be absurd, at this point, since their relationship is at a whole new level of toxic. Harley obviously loves Bruce in a romantic sense, but Bruce has consistently insisted that they are just friends, to the point of hurting Harley. Don’t tell me these two are the endgame of White Knight. But otherwise, what purpose does this relationship serve to the greater story? It’s ironic how Jack seems the healthiest choice for Harley, since he seems to have her best interests at heart even in ghost form.
Besides the Bruce/Harley stuff, I like Bruce a bit better in this series compared to how he’s been written by Murphy in previous installments. I know part of the point of this series is to deconstruct Batman, but he often times would come across as a parody of himself. A bitter, emotional, slightly insane brute who enjoys inflicting pain because his parents are dead. He reminded me much more of the Batman from the Lego Batman movie than anything. I like seeing Bruce act a bit more like himself in this series. Simply giving him some sort good thing to fight, which is going after Jackie for Bryce’s sake, helped him feel like his normal, heroic self. I still have the feeling that most of Murphy’s renditions of these characters are so far away from their traditional portrayal that they come off as original characters, however.
The banter between Bruce and Jack is another aspect that feels somewhat true to the dynamic of Batman and Joker, but also somewhat like I’m reading completely different characters. I mean, it’s fun banter to read, to be sure. But Bruce and Jack had reconciled by the end of the first White Knight, so I’m not entirely sure why Bruce is so vitriolic towards Jack, besides the fact that old Bruce is supposed to be stubborn and he doesn’t seem to appreciate someone living in his head. But this is *Jack* after all, not Joker. This entire else worlds series began focusing on the conflict between Bruce and Jack/Joker, and how they needed to reconcile in order to prevent the city from ripping apart. I’m wondering if putting Jack in Bruce’s mind is supposed to revisit that theme and that another reconciliation between the two is where we’re headed, making the series come full circle.
I do like how Jack is drawn her. As a projection in Bruce’s mind, there’s a sprite-like quality to how he’s drawn. One minute he might be crossed-legged on a roof, the next he might be reclining while providing commentary to Bruce. That said, when it comes to Murphy’s art in this book, there are certain moments that stood out to me because of how comically exaggerated they were. Jack looks like a Looney Toon‘s character when he freaks out over Jackie being missing. Another crazy page was when Harley comes back to yell at Bruce some more. She looks like an angry, red-faced owl. I still think Murphy is a great artist, but the facial expressions really do need to be toned down.
Moving away from Bruce/Jack/Harley, we get some more developments on Terry’s story during this issue. He continues to work for Mr. Powers, who has truly become his mentor in this story, though Terry still struggles with keeping his own moral code. We get a brief cameo from Terry’s girlfriend and family, and it honestly filled me with nostalgia. Murphy does a great job of capturing the dialogue and character dynamics of the original Batman Beyond series. I felt like I could hear the original voice performances of Terry (played by Will Friedle) and his younger brother (Ryan O’Donohue) as they exchanged insults.
Comparatively, it made me see how far the other characters have fallen from their original characterizations. The Batman Beyond characters are very close to the way they were in the DCAU where they originated, but everyone else is so far out of orbit. Harley is now a serious, stressed-out old lady with an axe to grind against Bruce. Bruce is an emotionally confused, tormented old man (almost a parody of Batman). Joker is his alter ego “Jack,” who lives as a ghost in Bruce’s head. There are some concepts from the original characters that are still there, but Murphy uses so much of his own independent ideas with them, they almost feel like completely different characters. And that’s not to say that they are “bad characters” in their own right, but I can’t say I feel like I’m reading Batman at all times when I’m reading this comic.
The biggest development in this issue occurs when Mr. Powers tells Terry that Bruce is the one who killed his father. A fight ensues with Luke Fox, now serving as a new Robin, joining in to help Bruce. Luke looks pretty awesome in his Robin suit: definitely more buff and commanding than you’d normally expect a Robin outfit to look. I kind of wish Terry’s Batsuit was designed to be a bit more slender, since that’s how I usually see his character, but I suppose this is supposed to be an outfit stolen from Bruce.
We don’t get a whole lot more beyond this, except revealing that Mr. Powers is, surprise, not really a good guy. But as Jack tries to encourage Bruce that the people of Gotham still idolize him as Batman, I’m really hoping that this series winds up giving Bruce a really good redemption arc as a hero after he’s been viewed through such a cynical lens throughout pretty much all of the White Knight books.
- Sean Gordon Murphy’s art is enough.
- You want more Batman Beyond.
- The Jack/Bruce Banter is enjoyable to you.
- You’re not bothered by Bruce X Harley.
This chapter is a mixed bag for me. There’s definitely stuff to like about Sean Gordon Murphy’s universe, and I love how he writes Terry and the rest of the Batman Beyond cast. Often times, the massive changes to the main Batman cast make this feel like an original action/drama book, rather than a Batman book.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News a free copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.