WARNING: This article contains spoilers for Batman: White Knight #7, written and illustrated by Sean Gordon Murphy, in stores now.
At its core, Sean Gordon Murphy's Batman: White Knight has been a unique analysis of the relationship between the Batman and the Joker, the alter egos of Bruce Wayne and Jack Napier. From the onset, the series placed the two characters in a slightly different Gotham than the one readers are familiar with, a more realistic city where the bat and clown were locked in a push-and-pull relationship akin to an unhealthy romance. In this take, the Joker took an experimental drug in order to push his maniacal, homicidal side back, and allow his original personality of Jack Napier take control once more, As a result, he became a legitimate savior for Gotham City and its citizens.
The table has now turned on Batman, and the vigilante finds himself on the opposite side of his life-long crusade. No longer is he the hunter; now, he's the hunted.
All of these elements come to a head in Batman: White Knight #7, where the two different (but also quite similar) characters are forced to put their differences aside and work together to defeat the Neo Joker, a villain of Napier's own making. As they do so, we come to see that there is more to the Joker persona than we ever believed.
Batman: White Knight #6 ended with a shocking turn, as the Joker reared his white face once again. However, as soon as this issue begins, we learn it isn't simply a matter of one or the other. Somehow, Napier is able to push back against the Joker, and take control of his body once again. He informs his allies that the effects of his drugs are starting to wear off, and that the Joker is starting to take hold of him again.
Over the course of the issue, we see more instances of the Joker taking control of Napier, only for the man to push the clown back, again and again. Throughout the series, Napier constantly referred to the Joker as a separate entity, but it always seemed to be more of a metaphorical take than anything else. Now however, we see that it's quite the contrary -- the Joker is, literally, another entity within Napier. These transformations, and this new schism between the two personas, gives this new Joker a lot in common with Marvel's Incredible Hulk.
In Marvel's comics, Bruce Banner is a character who has a monster living inside of him, one he constantly fights for control -- and one he doesn't want to see get out. When it comes to Napier, it's very much the same. Napier may no longer wish to be a villain, and he has to constantly fight to keep his other, dangerous half at bay. Batman never once bought Napier's reform into a good guy, but it was truly genuine. Like Batman, Napier used his knowledge and his resources to save Gotham, but with a different kind of mask -- that of a politician. But there is truly goodness in him, a drive to right his wrongs and to save the city he loves. He strives to be, by all accounts, a good guy.
Napier is terrified of the Joker, and he doesn't want to see him freed once again. And yet, even he knows that the only way to give Neo Joker what she wants is to let the monster inside of him out once again. To save Gotham, Napier must sacrifice everything.
Only by becoming a villain can Napier prove himself to be a true hero.