COMIC DISCUSSION: Batman: Curse Of The White Knight #1

This week, writer and illustrator Sean Gordon Murphy returns for Batman: Curse Of The White Knight #1, the sequel series to last year’s widely popular Batman: White Knight. There are a lot of questions that we have about this world, which flipped the script on the classic dynamic between The Joker and Batman, and very little of those have been answered.

Let’s take a look back on the world of the White Knight and see how these comics have changed the way fans may see Batman.


Batman: White Knight

Summary:

Batman: White Knight inverted the typical roles of Gotham and its biggest players: Batman and The Joker. Batman was angry. Angrier than ever before. And when he caught up to The Joker, as he always does, he lost control. He beat The Joker nearly to death, and forced a medication down The Joker’s throat that he believed would make The Joker sane.

And it did.

Suddenly, Jack Napier was more sane than ever. More intelligent than anyone expected! And soon, Jack Napier uncovered and abolished more political corruption and injustice than Bruce Wayne ever did. With a succinct and calculated plan, Napier tackled crime in Gotham with greater success than Batman ever had. He even formed the Gotham Terrorist Oppression Unit, led by Dick Greyson himself.

But Batman didn’t trust Napier. He fought to discover some secret plan, and return The Joker to his cell. But Napier only wanted one thing: to help. And in the process, he questioned whether Batman helped Gotham at all. It didn’t help that during the awful events of the series, Alfred died. Eventually, Batman was forced to work together with Napier and his alternative personality The Joker to save Gotham. The series closes with Harleen Quinzel and Jack Napier getting married, as Napier slips from sanity back into The Joker persona. He’s locked away inside a new and improved Arkham Asylum cell to spend the rest of his days.

Discussion:

This comic flips the roles of hero and villain, as everything we know about Batman and The Joker is brought into question. What makes a hero? Is it simply their drive to do good? Or do they have to be successful? Batman’s consistent inability to manage the crime in Gotham could be to his decision to work independent of the law.

Yes, he’s worked alongside Commissioner Gordon many times in the past, but even Gordon doesn’t trust the Bat. Ultimately, Batman reveals his secret identity to Commissioner Gordon. But does that change years of mistrust? Is Bruce Wayne suddenly redeemed? Or does it only shine a light on how easy an option honesty would have been?

And then the villain. Is The Joker still a villain if he’s simply not sane? Is Batman a villain for enabling an abusive elite class with the Batman Fund? Has Batman has endangered Gotham worse simply by presenting a challenge for the criminally insane? Is lying and donning a mask evil? How can The Joker be evil when he lives only for truth? And what makes Batman go too far? Fear? Anger? Loss? And how long will Alfred’s death leave him feeling all three?


Batman: Curse of the White Knight

Summary:

Batman: Curse of the White Knight #1 opens on the Arkham Manor in the 1685. Edward Wayne and what appears to be a member of the Dumas family face off against Lafayette Arkham. “Laffy” tells Wayne that Gotham Valley is cursed. Wayne retorts, “I don’t believe in curses,” and quickly kills his foe. Laffy’s body plummets deep into a well.

When we return to present-day Gotham, we pick up where we left off last time: in Arkham Asylum. The Joker has used the very system Jack Napier warned against to bribe the Warden of Arkham Asylum to let him free. But The Joker got more than just freedom. He got to visit his very first cell. And deep inside, we are led to believe he grabbed some secret and some power.

Then we see Bruce at home, reading a letter that Alfred left him before he died. And inside the letter, there are instructions to check under a floorboard in Alfred’s room. There, Bruce finds a box with the journal of Edward Wayne. We don’t see what’s inside the journal just yet, as Batman is whisked away by duty.

Back at Arkham Asylum, Batman uses some quick detective work to find out how The Joker got out of Arkham. He even finds the hidden area in his original cell. He finds the bones that are presumably Lafayette Arkham’s. However, he concludes that the bones must be Edward Wayne’s, since they are about the age of the book he just received.

We also get to see Jean-Paul Valley, usually known as the vigilante Azrael. We know that in this story, he was a soldier, and he seems to be struggling with PTSD. In other stories, Azrael is being controlled by a secret religious group called The Order of St. Dumas. Jean-Paul Valley also looks shockingly similar to the Dumas in the beginning of the comic. Valley has a breakdown in a church, and causes quite a mess. He takes it upon himself to clean up after the fact, but while he’s cleaning, a voice calls to him.

“Jean-Paul. You’re not a janitor. You’re a king!” The silhouetted figure hands him the flaming Sword of Azrael, and tells him to kill the man who has oppressed his family for years… Bruce Wayne. From the darkness, we see The Joker. And in the light, Azrael’s flame burns bright.

Discussion:

Curse of the White Knight #1 returns the hero and the villain to their rightful places. In fact, it goes further, and insists upon something mystical and mysteries: fate. Is Gotham Valley truly cursed? Are the Waynes cursed by the vampiric villainous Lafayette, and all of his incarnates? Is Gotham trapped in a vicious cycle? A cycle of some mad grab for control. To control power. To control a city. To control a narrative. The cycle has clearly continued, and while The Joker has returned to his life of violence, he has a much larger plan.

So what of the hero? Batman is still furious that Jack Napier was able to help Gotham so much, when Batman can change so little. He wants to tell the public that he is Batman, but Gordon, Barbara, and Dick all say that he shouldn’t. However, while the city of Gotham seems to trust him again, Bruce doesn’t trust himself.

And of the villain? The Joker is digging deep into the roots of Gotham. He wants to control more than just the criminal underworld of Gotham. He wants to control the story of Gotham. He wants to dethrone Bruce Wayne, and decapitate the Bat. Somehow, The Joker seems to know the secret history of Gotham’s founders. And it appears that he is a part of this ancient cycle.


What do you think of the Murphy’s sequel so far? Who will ultimately be the hero in this tale? Talk to us in the comments, and don’t forget to Let Your Geek Sideshow!

No need for detective work. Sideshow has all your favorite DC Comics collectibles available, including The Joker and Batman statues inspired by Sean Gordon Murphy‘s White Knight artwork.