Part of the fun of DC Black Label is watching some of the brightest talents in comics dream up ways to remix the characters we all know and love outside of the main DC Comics continuity, and sometimes that means a talented creator is willing to just go for broke and rework a mythology in surprising and thrilling ways. That's definitely been the case with Sean Murphy's Batman: White Knight and its follow-up, Curse of the White Knight, and in the most recent issue, Murphy's new take on Gotham and its many heroes and villains produced an unforgettable moment in the story of Harley Quinn and The Joker.
**Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers for Batman: Curse of the White Knight #6 below.**
In Murphy's White Knight universe, The Joker's real name is the same as it is in the 1989 Batman movie — Jack Napier — and early in Batman: White Knight Joker actually reverts back to his Jack Napier persona thanks to some pills Batman forced down his throat. It was Napier — the more clearheaded, reasonable, even principled — who Harleen Quinzel really loved, not The Joker, and by the end of the White Knight miniseries the two were married. Curse of the White Knight continues to explore the duality of Jack/Joker, so much so that the two warring personalities can actually shift the face of the body of they share as they fight over control.
Curse of the White Knight finds Joker regaining the upper hand over Jack Napier, while Batman and Harley search for a way to cure Jack and bring him forward yet again. In the fifth issue of Curse of the White Knight, Batman suggested using Harley and Jack's infant twins as a way to bring him forward with the power of love, and while it may have worked briefly, it also created an opportunity for Joker. In issue #6, Joker kidnaps the twins and nearly kills Harley in the process. Harley orders Batman to take her to Arkham to get her babies back, and it's there that Harley and Joker finally have it out.
When Harley reaches a secluded wing of Arkham Asylum, Joker unloads verbal abuse on her until Jack comes forward and assures her that she's stronger than Joker. Jack tries to fight his other personality, but comes to the conclusion that the only way to be truly free of The Joker is to kill himself. Jack tries to pull the trigger, but of course Joker won't let him. After a struggle over the Joker's trademark long-barreled revolver, Harley finally gets hold of it, and shoots The Joker in the head.
In the aftermath of Joker's apparent death, Harley gets to see the face of Jack Napier one last time as Batman comforts her, and it's there that the issue ends. There's more to the Curse of the White Knight story, and the issue also deals with a major upheaval in Bruce Wayne's own knowledge about his family issue that will no doubt be followed up on, but this is perhaps the most powerful moment in the miniseries so far. Harley and Joker could reach this kind of end in the main DC Comics continuity, perhaps, but the layers of twisted backstory Murphy was allowed to build under the Black Label umbrella add complexity and weight to what could otherwise have simply been a brutal shock moment. This is a powerful re-imagining of one of the most famous and famously toxic relationships in DC Comics, and it won't soon be forgotten.
Batman: Curse of the White Knight continues with issue #7 on February 26.