Welcome Nuance Enriches Batman: White Knight 5

by Spencer Irwin

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

This is the first installment of Batman: White Knight where Batman has really felt like Batman to me. Sean Murphy digs into the character’s nuances in a way that he hasn’t in previous issues. This is the Batman who will buy Harley Quinn a dress and support her sincere, if bungled, efforts to reform, because under his gruff exterior he truly does care about people, even villains. This is the brilliant detective who has managed to piece together a good 95% of Neo-Harley’s plan when most of the other heroes barely even realize she has a scheme at all. Even Batman’s failed attack on Neo-Harley that closes the issue — which results in the destruction of one of Gotham’s bridges and Batman becoming a fugitive — is motivated by Neo-Harley’s personal attack on him and a desire to protect his family, not wild, unreasonable vengeance. This isn’t the gruff madman of previous issues — this is a complex Batman who still wants what is best for Gotham City. He’s just blinded by his hatred of the Joker.

That hatred certainly isn’t unfounded, either; Murphy explicitly references Jason Todd’s death at Joker’s hands this month to remind us of that. Moreover, Jack Napier is shown to be just as obsessed with Batman as Batman is he.

If previous issues were looking to portray Napier as a hero and Batman as a villain, Batman: White Knight 5 claims that both men are more similar than they’d like to admit. In fact, they may be drifting back to their former roles, or at least something close to it; Batman may need to evolve some and open up, but he’s rather unambiguously a hero in this issue, while Napier’s good deeds are clouded by dark motives.

Does Napier really care about fixing Gotham City, as he’s been preaching? Maybe. Perhaps he thinks he does. But it’s clearer than ever that his true motive, just as it’s always been, is to show up, defeat, and humiliate Batman. I think Napier, as he is now, truly isn’t the Joker anymore (at least as long as he’s on his meds/his meds work), but that doesn’t exactly make him a hero either. There’s some welcome nuance added to both of Batman: White Knight‘s leads this month, and it’s already making this series feel much richer and more complex.

The conversation doesn’t stop there. What do you wanna talk about from this issue?

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