They say that clothes make the man, but do they make the Batman? Sean Murphy’s White Knight saga continues with Batman: Beyond the White Knight, a DC Black Label limited series that will introduce a new version of Terry McGinnis to the world. The first chapter, which hit stores this week, finds Terry breaking into the abandoned Batcave, and stealing one of Bruce’s old batsuits. If you’re a fan of the classic Batman Beyond animated series, then you probably have a good idea what suit we’re talking about.
The suit is described as the most powerful suit Batman ever created, but legend has it that it was so dangerous, Bruce never wore it. This means that Terry is now wearing a lethal weapon that he has no clue how to use. The Terry we know from Batman Beyond was a fast learner, mastering the batsuit in no time, but as previous entries in the White Knight saga have demonstrated, we’re playing in a different version of canon now. In other words, there’s no telling who Terry might accidentally hurt or kill with the suit, or even if he’ll survive the experience.
As you can imagine, this gets Bruce Wayne’s attention. If you recall, Wayne turned himself in to the GCPD at the end of Batman: Curse of the White Knight. We catch up to him ten years later, and Bruce is only a few months away from a parole hearing. Despite this, he chooses to escape prison and become a fugitive so he could track down Terry. Bruce’s fears over the damage Terry’s new batsuit can cause are enough to make him sacrifice his chance at freedom. All this for a suit. It really makes you wonder what it could do.
Batman: Beyond the White Knight plays around with the concept of how we dress versus who we truly are. For example, Harleen is clearly trying to leave her life as Harley Quinn behind, but it isn’t easy. She’s trying her best to be a suburban mom, raising her son and daughter, but it’s clear that her old persona is bubbling under the surface. During a tense conversation with her son, we see the shadow of Harley Quinn symbolically looming behind her. That shadow grows during an argument with her daughter.
Has the past decade been like this for Harleen? Is she constantly struggling to keep her super-villain history from overtaking her, or is this being caused by recent events? Either way, it’s clear that it’s going to take more than ten years of retirement to completely bury Harley Quinn.
Over the years, a lot has been said about how Batman is Bruce’s true persona, and this comic doesn’t shy away from that hypothesis. Like Harleen, many of Bruce’s scenes are drawn with a large Batman shadow looming behind him. Bruce is in jail, without his costume, his gadgets, his fortune, and all the tools that helped his mission as Batman. Despite this, Bruce Wayne embodies Batman in everything he does. He stops a riot that his fellow prisoners have started and defuses a violent altercation before anyone could be killed.
A decade in prison hasn’t crushed Bruce’s spirit or dampened his skills. In fact, the time to reflect has helped him look inward and allowed him to finally make peace with his former partner, Jason Todd. I don’t want to give away too much, but the conversation between Bruce and Jason is a heartwarming one. By the way, I don’t think it’s an accident that this issue shows Bruce making peace with Jason before he meets Terry. If we’re going down a route similar to Batman Beyond (which isn’t guaranteed), then Bruce needs to learn how to become a better teacher.
As we’ve made clear, if ten years locked in a cell haven’t stopped him from embodying Batman, then I don’t know what will. And if being Batman is about more than the suit, than what does that mean for this version of Terry McGinnis? He has the suit, but does he have what it takes to actually be the Dark Knight? Perhaps Terry is still malleable and can go either way. Though, if chapter one has taught me anything, it’s that change isn’t as easy as we’d like and to pay careful attention to the shadows these characters cast. Bruce might be wearing a prison jumpsuit, but he casts the shadow of Batman. Harleen might be a suburban mother, but her shadow is still that of Harley Quinn. By the end of this limited series, what kind of shadow will Terry cast? Time will tell.
Batman: Beyond the White Knight #1 by Sean Murphy with Dave Stewart is now available in print and as a digital comic book. Get caught up on previous tales from the White Knight saga right now on DC UNIVERSE INFINITE.
Joshua Lapin-Bertone writes about TV, movies and comics for DCComics.com, is a regular contributor to the Couch Club and writes our monthly Batman column, "Gotham Gazette." Follow him on Twitter at @TBUJosh.
NOTE: The views and opinions expressed in this feature are solely those of Joshua Lapin-Bertone and do not necessarily reflect those of DC Entertainment or Warner Bros.