Batman White Knight #5 continues Sean Murphy's absolutely compelling deconstruction of the Batman mythos. In the last issue, the newly reformed Jack Napier, formerly the Joker, brought forth the idea to combine the vigilantes of Gotham with the police force to create a task force to handle Gotham's super criminals. With this issue, this plan played out with Nightwing and Batgirl defecting from the Bat-Family. While this goes on, Neo-Joker (Marian Drews, former Harley Quinn) tries to return Jack Napier to his old ways by taking over Gotham on her own.
Murphy has created an intriguing Gotham City embroiled in a conflict that's socially relevant and doesn't hold back on its criticisms of Batman's tactics. Bruce seems to be losing everything that made him Batman, his family, his allies, and his city. With each issue, he's broken down more and more, to the point where the reader may start to agree with the Joker and look at Batman in a more unflattering light. Murphy's world seems to be heavily based in the Batman the Animated Series world, this is evident in a story told by Harley (original Harley Quinn) in which she recalls when Batman gave her a dress when she messed up her parole, a reference to the episode "Harley's Holiday". One other similarity is, in the animated series, Dick Grayson and Batman often butted heads towards the end of the show, leading to Grayson striking out on his own as Nightwing. This tension is echoed here in a heated argument between the two about Batman unwillingness to adapt, ultimately pushing Dick further away.
In the previous issue, there was a focus more on Backport, the slums of Gotham that even the police won't operate in, which offered interesting commentary on minorities and disenfranchised people's relationship with the police and the city as a whole. Unfortunately, that isn't continued here, but that's not to say there aren't other issues brought up. Gotham is changing and the heroes have to change with it. Nightwing and Batgirl have accepted this, but Batman seems to be holding on to the past and is expecting things to snap back to "normal". The citizens and the police can't tolerate him any longer. Napier brings up legitimately good ideas that offer a compromise that seem to be effective, until Batman comes into the picture and puts everything into jeopardy. In the end, maybe Batman is right and Napier is still the Joker at heart, but that doesn't change the fact that Batman needs to learn to adapt to the times.
Gotham and its inhabitants are brilliantly realized in Murphy's pencils and Matt Hollingsworth colors. The backgrounds are incredibly detailed making each page a feast for the eyes. The art evokes tones of film noir along with political thriller. The action is fluid, you can certainly feel the speed and intensity. This is comic that will be cool to have as an Artist Edition just for Murphy's pencils alone.
White Knight continues to be one of the most engaging and thrilling Batman tales we've had in recent years that will go down as a classic if it can manage to stick the landing. Its social awareness and engrossing characters are only rivaled by its gorgeous art. If you haven't been following this series and you're looking for a superhero comic drenched in well written social commentary, you owe it to yourself to give this a try.