WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Batman: Curse of the White Knight #2 by Sean Murphy, Matt Hollingsworth and AndWorld Design, on sale now.
When the first volume of Sean Gordon Murphy's Batman: White Knight concluded, readers were stunned to see Batman unmask as Bruce Wayne to Commissioner Jim Gordon. Gordon had been through the wringer with Batman after Jack Napier (a cured Joker) convinced them the Caped Crusader was damaging Gotham more than healing it.
Eventually, they got back on the same page, and united against the Neo Joker. By the time the story wrapped, fans were expecting the second volume, Curse of the White Knight, to immediately deal with Bruce outing himself. However, thanks to the Clown Prince of Crime, back in full swing, Bruce's plan and future just became dented in a major way.
In the first issue, Joker met a mysterious woman named Ruth, an aristocrat and, as we learn now, someone who controls the Elites, a group philanthropists that pulls the strings in Gotham, similar to the Court of Owls from the mainstream DC Universe. Joker struck a seedy bargain, and, in Issue 2, we find out a bit more into what they're up to.
Ruth visits Bruce and reveals she knows who he is, and his plan to unmask. However, she can't allow it to happen, and there's nothing he can do about it. Bruce is taken aback, but Ruth quickly lays down the law -- if he does unmask, he'll go to jail for a long time as a terrorist. Then there are economic factors that will have a negative economic impact, not just in Gotham, but around the globe: His business empire will crumble.
Not to mention that his loved ones will become targets, and the Gotham police will be charged for aiding and abetting him. Ruth makes it clear this isn't about Batman alone; he'll ruin other people's lives too, with Nightwing and Batgirl first on the list.
Most of all, Bruce has to continue playing the role the one percent wants, fighting low-level crime as a distraction so white collar crime can proceed. It's not often you see someone holding Bruce in checkmate. And as for the plans he and Gordon have for the Napier Initiative, i.e. exposing the Elites, those are to be scrapped. This is Joker's way of sticking it to Jack and the Dark Knight, ensuring Gotham's legacy remains blighted.
Clearly, the symbol of the Bat has spread in such a way that Ruth has turned it into a poison, and there's nothing Bruce can do. There's too much collateral damage, and what makes it worse is, Ruth needs a Batman, but not necessarily Bruce. That's why she and Joker have hired Azrael and his team, equipping them with firepower to take out Batman in his cave, eliminate his inner-circle and then replace them. It's a deft strategy, and one Bruce won't see coming, as he has no clue about Azrael.
This is Joker at his most sublime, and he's not holding back in this war. It's a slow, mental one, but right now, Bruce has no answers for what's being thrown at him. He's watching his future be destroyed because he'll either have to be someone's puppet or, if he wants true freedom from the burden of the cowl, a scapegoat who takes down thousands with him in his crusade on crime.
Batman: Curse of the White Knight #3 goes on sale Sept. 25.