DC’s Black Label line of comics has caught a bit of flack lately for a recent installment that brought Batman’s genitalia to light (or in the case of said panel, in shadowy highlight that somehow slipped past the censors at DC and has ensured that issues with the panel in tact will go for a high dollar value on the collector’s market). This isn’t exactly what I had in mind when I heard that DC was publishing a line of comics that were intended for adult audiences.
So, it was refreshing to find that the eight issues making up Batman: White Knight did what I wanted a comic book aimed at adult to do — namely, not just rely on flashes of nudity and swearing in order to be “adult.”
The premise is a fairly intriguing one. What if Batman and the Joker switched places in how the citizens of Gotham viewed them? Both are vigilantes who operate outside the law, but Batman has always done so with the tacit endorsement of Jim Gordon and the police while the Joker hasn’t. As this series so intriguingly points out, it’s Batman who causes just as much destruction in his wake taking down the various villains who show up to take on the Caped Crusader. Exactly where the millions of dollars needed each year to rebuild Gotham and how those funds are allocated is just one of the intriguing questions delved into over the course of these eight issues.
The early issue finds Batman and Joker’s battle of wills reaching a new height. After nearly beating the Joker to death with his fists, Gordon and some members of the police force begin to question their loyalty to and endorsement of Batman. When the Joker starts taking a medication that slowly reduces his more manic side and he decides to run for city government, public sentiment begins to turn from the Caped Crusader to the Crowned Prince of Crime. Seems all he needed was the love of a good woman in the first Harley Quinn (the series gives us two women who play Harley to the Joker, thus ticking off a few continuity boxes from how we saw Harley in the animated series and how she was in the big-screen Suicide Squad and the right medication.
But how effective is the medication really? And is the Joker playing some sort of long game to slowly undermine the Batman’s support mechanisms and destroy him once and for all? Could it be that the Joker would rather see his adversary in ruins rather than dead?
It makes for a fascinating story and one that it feels like Batman comics could or should have delved into before now.
If there’s one complaint I have about this collection, it’s that the final issue feels like it’s too quick to wrap things up. I understand there is a follow-up coming our way in the near future and I suppose they had to leave room for more stories to tell, but I couldn’t help but feel that the final installment didn’t stick the landing as effectively as it could or should have.