WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Batman: Curse of the White Knight #3 by Sean Murphy, Matt Hollingsworth and AndWorld Design, on sale now.
Batman: Curse of the White Knight has cleverly continued to prop Joker up as the mastermind who's promised to bring Gotham to its knees. Batman: White Knight didn't have the Clown Prince of Crime as a terrorist as much because a cured Jack Napier kept him at bay for most of that story. But in this sequel, he's back and crazier than ever, clearly making up for lost time.
However, rather than press forward in full with Joker's antics and his quest to damage the Wayne legacy irreparably, creator Sean Gordon Murphy takes some time in Issue #3 to look back and reveal the true origin of the sadistic villain.
Joker's history has been muddled in main DC continuity, so much so we're waiting on Geoff Johns' 3 Jokers storyline to shed some light. Yet, Murphy doesn't follow a similarly obscure route or turn the character's backstory into a guessing game like Heath Ledger's Joker from Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight.
In his Elseworlds story, we were promised an origin when the book was announced and we're getting just that when it comes to Napier's history. Earlier on, we found out Napier discovered Laffy Arkham's corpse in the catacombs of Arkham Asylum when he tried to escape. And now, we discover the secrets he stumbled across there that drove him mad. They are, in fact, what catalyzed his transformation.
In this Joker origin, Napier, while digging out of Arkham, didn't just find Laffy's corpse, which was stabbed and thrown there by Edmond Wayne, Bruce's ancestor, he found Laffy's diary too. The secrets it held about the Wayne family and its tale of how, as the rich, they exploited the poor, drove him insane. More so, in that cell, a dying Laffy wrote a huge secret in blood before he passed and Napier found it. This changed him forever. However, he removed the message, which Jim Gordon and Bruce tried to ascertain in the previous issue.
When Batman interrogates Joker in Arkham after an assault by the soldier of war he created, Azrael, Joker provides this insight into his past, but warns the Bat that there are a lot more secrets he discovered from Laffy than he's letting on. In fact, as they all piled up in his mind, they broke Napier mentally and, driven insane by the rage he experienced, led to the rise of the clown. He saw Laffy as a victim, someone oppressed, and this triggered the birth of Joker. And then when the time was right, he found Azrael, a descendant of Bakkar (the man who helped Edmond take back Gotham).
We've been led to believe Bakkar was double-crossed by Edmond. So, as a descendant of Bakkar, Jean Paul Valley is merely attaining revenge as Joker's instrument of destruction and gaining the half of Gotham Edmond promised his family. It remains to be seen if Napier found out more about the betrayal of Bakkar, or perhaps something deeper that Murphy has kept us in the dark about so far. Either way, we finally know how this Joker arose and the circumstances that led him to his mission to make the Waynes and Gotham pay for the sins of the past. And as genuine as Joker may be, his vengeance could be what razes the city, as well as the Bat-family, for good.
Batman: Curse of the White Knight #4 goes on sale Sept. 30.