Arcamax ran another crummy Captain Comics column where Andrew Smith describes Sean Gordon Murphy’s Batman: White Knight (and its sequel) as a case of turning Batman into a villain, while the Joker and Harley Quinn are depicted as the opposite:
“Batman: Curse of the White Knight” (DC Comics, $39.99): It’s not your Daddy’s Batman! Come to think of it, it’s not even your older brother’s Batman.
A couple of years ago, comics multi-hyphenate Sean Murphy wrote and drew a miniseries about … oh, let’s call it a parallel-universe Gotham City. In this world, Batman is so out of control that Bruce Wayne sets up a Batman clean-up fund to replace all the stuff the Batmaniac breaks. Another difference is that The Joker gets cured, and Jack Napier (as he called himself) gets himself elected to the city council. And there are two Harley Quinns, the one we saw in “Batman: The Animated Series” (who also gets cured) and a second one, the “Suicide Squad” version, who is a lot more lethal.
So, The Joker is a “white knight,” you see, trying to protect Gotham from its obsessive vigilante, with a calm and rational Harleen Quinzel at his side. Murphy turned the status quo upside down.
“Curse of the White Knight” is a sequel, where The Joker personality takes over Napier again, and he goes bad. And Batman reforms and goes good. And … wait a minute! It IS your Daddy’s Batman!
Nope, it ain’t.
The alternate world setting is no excuse either. What’s described here is just dismaying. If I hadn’t said so before, I’d better do so now: turning Batman into a villain is no better than turning Superman into one. And reformation doesn’t obscure that Bruce Wayne’s turned into a criminal in this rendition. But maybe the main problem is that we have here yet another in far too many Batman entries, coming out all the time at the expense of everything else in the DCU. I’d say this says Murphy’s hardly a scribe looking forward to, if the choices he makes for writing amount to what’s now such an easy choice as Batman, along with making him a villain, which is no better than overemphasizing. Another fishy looking item here is a Superman-related book that may be part of the young-adult genre:
“House of El Book One: The Shadow Threat” ($16.99, DC Comics): This is the first of a three-book series, so fair warning: It ends on a cliffhanger.
But that’s about my only complaint about this book. It’s set a couple of years before the destruction of Krypton, but unlike the TV show “Krypton,” takes its time connecting to Superman. It actually focuses on two teens with unfamiliar names — Zahn-Re and Sera-Ur — whose connection with the usual suspects (Jor-El, Lara, baby Kal-El, General Zod) isn’t immediately apparent.
And I like these kids. Oh, it’s obvious they’re going to have a teen romance, as they are polar opposites who always snipe at each other whenever they meet. But that’s almost required in a YA novel, and writer Claudia Gray gives us enough background on the pair to make ‘em likeable.
Gray is well known for her Star War novels, the Evernight series and other nerd favorites, and her expertise shows in other ways, too. For one thing, she does some impressive world-building, giving us a Krypton never seen before, while still coloring largely within the wider lines of the mythos. And it’s one that makes sense, gives us instant motivations and explains how and why this advanced civilization let apocalypse sneak up on them.
Eric Zawadzki’s art also has to do a lot of world-building, and does so without being obvious. It’s easy to fall into this world, which fits together seamlessly. And, weirdly, the rendering and faces occasionally remind me of an obscure artist named Pat Boyette. That’s not going to mean much to most people, but old comics fans out there are doubtless nodding their heads, recalling 1960s “Peacemaker” and “Blackhawk.” Fondly recalling, I should say.
It’s not easy to tell from this rather vague description, but it won’t be surprising if the two aforementioned teens turn out to be a homosexual couple in what appears to be another entry in DC’s young-adult installments, something they may actually be getting out of as they look to be halfway out the publication door, which’ll prove these aren’t really selling anything, and certainly not enough to support a whole company. (Update: it looks like, fortunately enough, this is a boy-girl couple.) If there’s political correctness in this book, what’s the point of fond recollection?