Joker is Back! And at the worst time too! With only a little time left to stop Neo Joker will Jack get it together, or will his alter ego finally make a return? Find out in Batman: White Knight!
Batman: White Knight #7
Author: Sean Murphy
Artist: Sean Murphy
Colors: Matt Hollingsworth
Letters: Todd Klein
Publisher: DC Comics
What You Need to Know:
Jack Napier has finally beaten Batman, or so he thinks. In the last year, ever since Batman forced experimental drugs down Jokers throat, a lot has been discovered about the Bat’s vigilantism. Jack Napier, the new identity of the lucid genius who used to go by The Joker, has helped bring these facts to light as he uncovers a multi-billion dollar budget exclusively for cleaning up Batman’s messes. These and other events such as the destruction of Jack’ s new library within the low-end part of Gotham (an event Jack actually coordinated using mind-controlled rogues) are used to demonstrate the destruction Batman causes. Jack has even had a Backgate citizen, known as Duke Thomas, help in his campaign to end vigilantism in Gotham.
When Jack first became lucid, he and Harley weren’t sure what to do, until Harleen Quinzel shows up to let Jack know that the Harley he has known for so long is nothing but an imposter that he had found during his growing obsession with Batman. Harleen forced the contemporary version of the same character out of Jokers life where she found her own identity as Neo Joker. Neo Joker finds the mind control that Jack used as Mad Hatter helps her take over Gotham and bring back the Joker she knows and loves. Together, Mad Hatter and Neo Joker discover an ice canon under Gotham constructed during World War II by Victor Fries’ father, but it was never used, until now! Right after a huge operation that finally put Batman in Arkham for good, Neo Joker flash freezes Gotham citizens and all. With Gotham’s finest hero locked in Arkham it will take the new GTO task force and every brain cell Jack has to beat Neo Joker and unfreeze Gotham.
What You’ll Find Out:
Issue #7 opens right after the close of #6 when Jack had finally transformed back into The Joker himself only to flip back to his lucid state a couple seconds later. With the entirety of GCPD’s guns pointed at him, Jack assures everyone that he is fine. In reality, he is actually becoming more and more vulnerable to his alter ego as his pills start to lose effect. Jack tells the unconvinced members of the GTO that either way Neo Joker will be brought down.
The next page shows a great panel of an unamused Batman locked up in his cell in Arkham. Batgirl and Nightwing pop in for a visit via the window outside his cell, and they question him about why he hasn’t decided to escape his cell and stop Neo Joker. Bruce assures them that he has no intention of breaking out because he and Harley have a plan. Batman lets the rest of his team know that Harley has actually been working close to Batman because she is scared of losing Jack to his more psychotic side again. Batman lets them know that sooner or later Jack will let him free willingly.
Meanwhile, Jack is face to face with Neo Joker to ask for a cease and desist, but that’s not exactly in Neo Jokers plan. She explains the only thing that will make her unfreeze Gotham is the one and only Joker.
Jack steps away as he decides it’s finally time to end this. Jack turns swiftly on the spot and Joker starts yelling at Neo Joker startling her at the very least. Afterward, Jack and Harley talk about what Jack has done to and for this city as Jack started to realize that no matter what he does, Gotham will always be held captive by villains. Jack starts to succumb to his alter ego, telling Harley it may be time to give Neo Joker what she wants. Instead, Harley convinces Jack to try something neither Joker or Neo Joker would ever expect. Finally, this brings us back to the opening pages of issue #1 when Jack finally decides to ask Batman for help.
As things start setting up for the finale we get to see Jack and Batman face to face once again as Jack decides to ask him for assistance dealing with Neo Joker. Batman has a few conditions though, such as Jack confessing his political corruption and how it helped build his campaign against Batman and how he even destroyed his own library just to prove a point. In the grand scheme of things Batman truly just wants him to admit he is and always will be The Joker. Jack argues that he is no longer the Joker and that while he may confess to his actions, he still has shown the city that they don’t need vigilantes.
When Jack and Bruce finally quit bickering Bruce asks a more personal question bringing up a loose end from a few issues ago, what happened to Jason Todd? Jack explains that Joker is repressing the memories so Batman won’t find what Joker was looking for. Batman talks Jack through the memories as he tells the story of what happened. Joker was torturing Jason for Batman’s true identity. It took a while, but finally, Jason broke and told Joker “I wish I never met Bruce Wayne”.
Jack went on to explain that Joker ended up letting Jason go, making Batman realize that it was Jason’s choice not to come back and the trauma of that fact is the whole reason Joker let him live. Batman and Jack then start to talk about if Jack thinks Joker is lying about the name when Jack assures Batman that he has known his identity since his research into the devastation fund. The remorse on Bruce’s face at this instance is some of the most human emotion I’ve seen from this version of the character yet and wouldn’t have been so gripping without Murphy’s intense art style.
When Jack and Batman arrive back at the hideout where Freeze is keeping Nora, Victor lets them know how the canon was moved and created without anyone knowing. Victory tells them of a huge channel of underground tunnels that Neo Joker must be using to hide out in. Jack lets the GTO team in on his new upgrade as Jim, Barb, and Dick walk in surprised to see Bruce standing with his plethora of different Batmobiles. Jack tries to be funny by joking about the team up of Joker and Batman when all of a sudden Joker appears and Batman instinctively puts him in a headlock until he transforms back into Jack. Batman assures everyone that he will be riding alongside Joker before him and the Batfamily have the most heartfelt conversation of the whole series. Batgirls face at the end says it all as Bruce explains that he hasn’t read the letter that Alfred left before he died. Batman tells them what he expects the letter to say in a conversation I’d just have to let you read in its entirety to fully feel its emotion.
After the heartfelt and warm moments, Murphy turns up the heat as the last few pages are nothing but every era of Batmobile driving across the panels as the team explains the plan to catch Neo Joker and save Gotham. Every Batmobile makes an appearance from the 1989 film version, to the animated series, and all the way back to the 1960’s Adam West car making this one of the most Bat-tastic car-shows ever seen in a comic book. On the last page, Bruce is explaining to Jack that he needs to stall Neo Joker by pretending to be Joker, before turning and realizing that there will be no pretending!
What Just Happened?
In an action-packed race to set up the finale, Sean Murphy finally delivers on the rest of the story that we saw way back in issue #1. Finally, we know all the loose ends of why Joker is a regular citizen and what drove Batman into Arkham. All of this just to see Joker and Batman team up and take on a version of a comic character that originated in a cartoon and has never been loved as much ever since she made the jump to the comic page (Did I confuse anyone with that?). Either way, this has been a huge amount of setup for what I hope to be an absolutely stunning finale. Every issue giving small details of what’s to come and connecting what’s already happened. The subtlety of this series has been the most fun part, and leaves me wanting to see more of what I now consider to be Sean Murphy’s personal “Batverse”. The subtle hint that Jason Todd is still alive makes me hope for another political take from Sean that encompasses the “Under the Red Hood” storyline in his own way.
As always, Sean’s art is some of the best in the industry, The Joker is the highlight of the art as he keeps sporting his Bat symbol pupil, signaling just how obsessed the character had become. Also not to mention his amazing work with the GCPD, Gordon and Bullock look amazing and just as scruffy as you’d assume after so many years of dealing with this hardened version of Batman. I’m not even sure I have to talk much more about the beauty of Sean’s Batmobiles, but the colors by Hollingsworth are definitely worth a mention. In this issue, his main color is blue due to the ice covering the streets of Gotham. Making Gotham seem like a magical Christmas town on the inside, as you only look closer to see the true devastation caused by the ice canon. The art in this series is just as risky and compelling as the story showing that Sean Murphy is a talented creator through and through.
Final Thoughts: the second to last issue sets up the fast-approaching finale as we finally tie up the loose ends that have kept readers scratching their head since issue one. Sean Murphy takes us on another wild ride through the character study of Batman and Joker that he has created with this series as we finally see them forced to work together, and even admit some dark secrets to one another. Overall, I’d recommend this issue to anyone that wants to experience this series, and to the people that wanted their questions about Jason Todd in this universe answered.
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