Despite Bruce Wayne’s best efforts to save Gotham following his conviction, the city has gone to hell. Every attempt to pour his fortune back into outreach programs, funding for education, and offsetting people’s taxes has been foiled by Wayne Motors CEO Derek Powers. After usurping the Wayne family fortune, Powers plunged Gotham City into a police state by funneling millions of dollars to the GTO. Now an army of beefed-up Batmen, the Gotham Terrorist Oppression Unit has essentially ended crime in the city at a cost. Adding fuel to this dumpster fire is the emergence of a new Batman using dangerous technology. Will the original Batman be able to extinguish the flames, or will his actions fan the flames?
SPOILERS AHEAD for Batman: Beyond the White Knight #1!
Cue the ’90s techno theme music
Batman: Beyond the White Knight #1 is visual storytelling at its finest. Panels and sequences blend seamlessly together to create a gritty narrative tapestry that grabs you by the throat and never lets you go. Additionally, all of the trappings of a traditional Batman Beyond story are present in this issue. Sean Murphy and Dave Stewart’s Neo-Gotham is appropriately bathed in darkness with neon-red highlights, and Terry’s Batsuit has never looked better. However, the series’ writer and artist has plenty left up his sleeve to keep even the most die-hard Beyond fans guessing.
One of my favorite aspects of the White Knight series is seeing how Sean Murphy twists bat-mythos into something new yet wholly recognizable. This trend continues with Batman: Beyond the White Knight #1. With this issue, Murphy reveals that Jason Todd was the first Robin. Jason Todd was captured and tortured by the Joker in this continuity but never murdered. The narrative gets a lot of mileage out of these subtle changes as they allow the creator to explore new emotional beats for the characters.
Bruce Wayne’s rescue of Captain Todd during a prisoner riot affords the former dynamic duo with the opportunity to reconnect. Creators have gone to great lengths to explore the effects of Jason Todd’s death. This moment, and Jason’s subsequent turn to the dark side, are frequently considered Batman’s greatest failures. In Batman: Beyond the White Knight #1, Sean Murphy explores this notion without the convoluted continuity of Todd’s death and return.
During their exchange, Bruce states that it was never a mistake to give Jason a home, train him to harness his rage or allow him to become Robin. Instead, Bruce says, “I love you like a brother, and that was my biggest mistake. Because what you really needed… was a father.” Murphy’s character exploration is top-notch, as Wayne recognizes his need to be more of a father and less of an unyielding sensei or brother-in-arms. It is a beautiful moment of character growth, especially for someone who has had a lot of time to think over the consequences of their actions. Hopefully, these are the first steps to seeing Bruce reconcile with the rest of the bat family.
One of the elements that I love the most about Batman: Beyond the White Knight #1 is Murphy’s ability to let the visuals tell the story. For example, in nearly every panel, Bruce is accompanied by Batman’s shadow. I think this visual serves two related purposes throughout the story. The first is to illustrate that despite hanging up the cowl, Bruce, through his actions, is still Batman. During one sequence, the cops yield their weapons to Bruce during the prison riots so that he can stop the other inmates with less collateral damage. It is clear that many cops still hold high regard for his abilities.
However, I find the second interpretation of this visual more intriguing. In Batman: Beyond the White Knight #1, Batman’s shadows haunt Bruce like a specter throughout each sequence. As a result, Murphy’s stunning visual suggests that Bruce is haunted by his actions as the Dark Knight. It doesn’t matter what Bruce does; he cannot escape his past as Batman. As a result, he will always search for a means to make up for past mistakes. Again, Murphy’s use of visuals to convey the emotional story is absolute perfection.
In addition to Murphy’s perfect use of visuals to tell the story, the creator also crafts dynamic and exciting action sequences. As every panel is a work of art, picking any moment that stands out above the rest is difficult. However, the two-page spread with Terry’s Batsuit flying across the skyline is one of my favorites among thirty-five pages of favorites. During this moment, Terry’s Batman has never looked so good. Of course, none of this would be possible without Dave Stewart’s colors to convey the tone of each sequence and give life to Neo-Gotham.
Despite playing off the title and trappings of the early 2000s series, Batman: Beyond the White Knight #1 features very little of Terry McGinnis. The lack of Terry is not necessarily a bad thing, as many moving parts need to be set up during this issue. Moreover, I do like that Sean Murphy subverts our expectations by having Terry be subordinate to Derek Powers, as it has me curious how things will play out in later issues. Additionally, I do not doubt that we will be seeing Terry again very soon, if Bruce has anything to say about it. However, at the end of the issue, Sean’s surprise reveal promises to throw a wrench into the elderly Dark Knight’s plans.
If you’re a fan of Batman, Batman Beyond, Sean Murphy, or good comics with amazing visuals and storytelling, fire up your jet boots, extend those bat wings, and fly to your nearest comic shop immediately! But, seriously, do yourself a favor and pick up this Batman: Beyond the White Knight #1 if you haven’t already. Sean Murphy’s work here is visual storytelling at its finest. His panels and sequences blend seamlessly together to create a gritty narrative tapestry that grabs you by the throat and never lets you go. Additionally, Dave Stewart’s colors do an excellent job conveying the tone of each sequence and give life to Neo-Gotham.
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