I really enjoyed Sean Murphy’s alternate take on Batman and the Joker in his Batman: White Knight mini-series, a story that took a more mature look into Batman’s psychology, the economic realities of being a rich man in Gotham, and what it would take to make the Joker the good guy in their eternal dance. It’s a good story that seemed to mix and match a lot of different Batman stories to create its own universe. The sequel series tried to do something with Azrael that didn’t work as well for me, but now there’s a third one, Beyond the White Knight, projecting Murphy’s story ideas into what looks like the Batman Beyond future.
Well, maybe this one will work better.
Issue: Batman: Beyond the White Knight #1, March 2022
Writer and Artist: Sean Murphy
The Plot: There’s a new Batman in town, and Bruce Wayne escapes prison to deal with him.
Commentary: OK, I like the direction here to start. It’s picking up maybe ten to fifteen or so years later, and Bruce Wayne has been in prison the entire time. He’s been a model of good behavior. He even single-handedly quells prison riots, something he seems to have to do a little too often since budget cuts forced a few layoffs to the guards. The previous mini-series ended with the revelation that Bruce’s colonial ancestor wasn’t really a Wayne but someone else who murdered Lord Wayne and took his place while Jean-Paul Valley, the unhinged Azrael, was the real descendant. In response, and seeing what his career in vigilantism had done, Bruce turned his entire fortune over to the city to do things like fight poverty and let himself be tried and convicted of whatever crimes he’d committed as Batman in an attempt to do the right thing. His only real request was he wanted a specific guard in the form of a long-absent Jason Todd. In this universe, Jason, not Dick, was the first Robin, and the Joker never killed him but let Batman think he did.
That’s another thing about this universe: the Joker wasn’t nearly as homicidal as he is usually depicted.
So, with parole coming up, why would Bruce ruin all of his chances by breaking out now?
To put it simply: no one told him what was happening outside the prison. Like, at all. His efforts to use his fortune to help the city were thwarted by Derek Powers, CEO of Wayne Motors, who used some legal methods to get the money for himself and funnel it only into the more militant GTO police force run by Dick Grayson. That led to severe budget cuts to everything else, including the prison staff. Barbara Gordon, now the commissioner of the regular police, is pretty much no longer speaking to Dick, and the feeling is mutual.
Oh, and there’s a new Batman who may have gotten a little too rough. That appears to be Terry McGinnis, hired by Powers to break into the Batcave and get this suit prototype. Terry did, but not knowing the power of the suit led to some bad injuries for the cops on duty and when Powers took the suit over remotely, it just got worse.
Bruce doesn’t know all that.
So, despite this potential set-up being a bit problematic–Bruce and Jason waited until this moment to talk?–I rather liked this. It does suggest Bruce may have a few mental issues of his own, catches up a bit with reformed single mom Harley, and goes from there. Can Bruce reform the city? Like, for real this time? Or does this one end up with Bruce dead? And will I still like this story when I get to the end? Only time will tell.