Warning! Spoilers for Batman: Beyond the White Knight #5 ahead!DC’s Dark Nights: Metal event introduced “The Batman Who Laughs,” a Bruce Wayne who had been taken over by The Joker‘s madness; in other words, Batman‘s greatest nightmare. Now, in the far future of Batman Beyond, the Joker has once again taken over Bruce Wayne’s body. This time, however, it’s one of the most touching scenes possible, wholesome and heartwarming in a way that The Dark Knight’s relationship with his nemesis is rarely depicted.
This event happens in the White Knight universe, where the Joker was temporarily cured of his insanity. During his period of lucidity, the Joker took on Batman’s vigilantism and brutality as politician “Jack Napier” in an attempt to stop the violence each of them had perpetrated upon Gotham. By the time of Beyond: the White Knight, it is revealed that although the Joker is dead, he took advantage of a fight with Batman to implant a microchip with the “Jack Napier” persona into Bruce’s head. Now this AI “Jack” is Bruce’s closest ally as he tries to free Gotham from the machinations of Derek Powers and the Gotham Terrorist Oppression Unit (GTO).
Batman: Beyond the White Knight #5, by Sean Murphy and Dave Stewart, sees Batman caught in the middle of a heist on Derek Powers’ facility. When Batman is incapacitated by a panic attack during his escape, Jack takes over as the dominant personality, shunting Bruce aside. Now fully in control of Batman’s body, Jack escapes Powers and the GTO and is granted a tearful, posthumous reunion with Harley (who had killed the Joker years ago).
Everybody Wants to be Batman
While “The Joker as Batman” is usually played for horror, it’s impossible to not fall in love with Jack Napier’s childlike glee at becoming the Dark Knight. From providing his own sound effects mid-combat to narrating himself in comic book style, Jack’s delight in being Batman emphasizes an often-overlooked aspect of the Dark Knight’s relationship to his rogues’ gallery: namely, that everyone is at least a little jealous of Batman. While part of it is a power fantasy, there’s something so wholesome in watching Jack realize the freedom and strength he has in Bruce’s body, finally letting the Joker experience life on the other side of the cowl: free from madness and infinitely capable, it’s the ultimate reward for the White Knight‘s Joker’s attempts at atonement.
The “Joker returning via microchip” storyline seems to be a staple of Gotham’s future: the animated feature Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker (2000) featured the very same plot. This time around, however, instead of one last attempt to destroy Gotham, Joker/Jack’s return serves as a redemption for both him and Bruce: together, they force each other to come to terms with the consequences of their actions, allowing each of them to finally make amends with the woman they love (Harleen). The Batman Who Laughs may have been created to be Batman‘s worst nightmare, but this iteration of The Joker beneath the cowl proves to be a wholesome, healing presence.
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Batman Beyond the White Knight #5 is now available from DC Comics.