God of Comics – Batman: White Knight #4

God of Comics – Batman: White Knight #4

Batman: White Knight #4 (DC Comics)

There are a lot of Batman stories out there. Why not start the new year off with one of the most original takes on a familiar franchise?

Writer and artist Sean Murphy has a new sort of Batman story for you, the sort of thing that would have worked with the best ideas of the nu52 – a story in which Batman is losing his mind and the Joker has gone sane. This is a Joker that was never convicted of killing anyone and, during his last big dust-up with Batman, a battle we got to see happen, Bruce shoved a bunch of pills in his mouth because Bruce is having a rough go.

See, Alfred is dying. It’s cancer, it doesn’t look good, it can’t be treated. Bruce is throwing himself into being Batman to cope with the loss and it’s not going especially well as he racks up the property damage and acts with a brutality that no one is comfortable with. And then there’s a chase with the Joker that ends in the aforementioned dust up and then there are those pills…

The Joker is cured, by which I mean the mania is gone. Jack Napier has been declared sane and inculpable for the crimes the Joker committed because he barely remembers them. It’s not a trick, it’s not a ploy, this is a man who walked into the worst kind of madness and came out the other side. He picked up law and defended himself in court because he knew no one else would, and now he’s been exonerated and he’s running for city council.

His campaign is based on giving cops what they need to defend people and stopping crime in Gotham… all crime. Including vigilantes. Including Batman.

Jack knows that stopping Batman is going to be the harder of the two, and it might seem weird to think that Batman even needs to be stopped given how much crime he prevents. Thing is, though, that the Batman’s methods are messy and cost taxpayers millions of dollars in repair every time he comes out and he has zero accountability to those taxpayers. This is a Batman who has the tumbler from the Nolan trilogy, but if he takes that thing on a rooftop chase how much damage does he do?

The answer is lots. Lots of damage. Which he’s not going to pay for.

Jack wants to give the police better equipment and training, but doing that means eroding support for the Batman and getting rid of the super criminals that plague the city. The latter is easier than the former, and should lead to the former happening on its own. Jack’s plan to make that happen? He’s going to use Jervis Tetch, the Mad Hatter, to take control of Clayface, and then feed Clayface to the various criminals so that he can take control of them. Simple plan, and it worked. It’s morally terrible, but it’s smart.

One problem: Harley misses Jack being the Joker.

Well, one of her does.

This comic posits that there were two Harley’s – the original, the genius, the one who left when the abuse got worse and Joker got out of control. She moved on with her life. The other Harley came after and she loved the abuse, the mania, the anarchy. The second Harley tried to make Jack crazy again, and Harley Original saved him and they had a long talk and are on the rocky road to recovery. New Harley, on the other hand, has taken to calling herself the Joker and she’ll do whatever she has to to bring her puddin’ back.

And now things build to a head: Jack used his pet supervillains to make Batman wreck the politically abandoned district of Backport, and now he’s running for mayor there with some strong ideas on how to clean things up on a municipal level. Mayor Hill, the mayor of Gotham as a whole, would really like that not to happen, but the GCPD and Batman himself are going to make his efforts harder as Jack leads a showstopping campaign and the new Joker does everything she can to ruin everything.

Want some backstory on second Harley? This is the issue you’ll get it.

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