SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for Batman: White Knight, by Sean Gordon Murphy and Matt Hollingsworth, on sale now.
What is it that makes Batman tick? What motivates him to wage what’s oftentimes a one-man war on the dark, criminal underbelly of Gotham City?
In the main DC Universe, it’s his determination to ensure what happened to him as a child – witnessing his parents’ murder – never happens to anyone else, which means vanquishing the city of crime. However, that’s in the main DCU, and in Batman: White Knight #8, writer/artist Sean Gordon Murphy reveals the Dark Knight’s equally dark motivations for donning the cape and cowl in this gritty, alternate continuity.
After saving Gotham from the Neo Joker, Batman meets with Commissioner Gordon to relinquish the keys to his Batmobiles, as he believes they can do more good for the city if they’re in the hands of the GTO. “You were right,” Batman says. “I should have shared my technology long ago. It might have saved a lot of lives.”
Batman quickly changes the subject, though, and – perhaps for the first time in his career – shares the brutally honest truth about why he fights crime. Bringing up the time he nearly killed The Joker, he concedes that it was hardly the first time he almost crossed the line – it was just the first time Gordon knew about.
“I enjoy hurting criminals, Jim,” Batman says. “I don’t use a gun and I don’t take lives – but that doesn’t always make me the good guy. Sometimes it’s vindication to be as brutal as I want. And that made criminals like The Joker even worse.”
This, of course, mirrors the longstanding debate from the main DCU about whether Gotham’s criminals are responsible for Batman, or, conversely, if Batman is responsible for them. After all, it wasn’t until Bruce Wayne first emerged as the Caped Crusader that criminals in the city began to evolve from mobsters and thugs to full-fledged super-villains.
Unlike the Batman of the main DCU, though, this iteration of the character is more willing to accept that, perhaps he’s to blame for why criminals such as The Joker became so extreme in the first place. Well, at least he’s more willing to do something about it, as the issue ends with Batman realizing he needs to share his identity with Gotham to truly gain the city’s trust.
Should Murphy’s “secret Batman project” turn out to be a continuation of White Knight (which the writer/artist is on record as wanting to work on), it will be interesting to see how the city that’s long lived in fear of the Dark Knight reacts to the discovery that he’s none other than Bruce Wayne.