WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Batman: Gotham Knights #6 by Mark Russell, Viktor Bogdanovic, Jonathan Glapion and Ivan Plascencia, on sale now.
Batman‘s arch-nemesis Joker is nothing if not creative. Joker weaponizes people’s alienation, desperation, and violence against Batman and the citizens of Gotham — and he always finds new ways to torture the Bat. His favorite method of torture involves existential dread and introspection, which occur in spades with his most diabolical plan to date, revealed in Batman: Gotham Knights #6.
Batman has a new method of crime-fighting. He has always caught crime bosses and put them in prison — but they always escape and the cycle begins anew. Batman has decided that the method of “cutting off the head” hasn’t worked for him. Instead, he’s going to redirect his time and energy to going after every small-time criminal who works for these bosses. Tis method has imprisoned thousands of people, but while Batman is praised for his crime-fighting, the city of Gotham has a problem: There isn’t enough room for the detainees. When Gotham announces a policy for prison expansion, the city reveals that the money will come from cuts to medical funding. The Joker interrupts a broadcast and brings a proposal to his fellow Gotham citizens: Every week, the Joker will pay five deserving people’s medical bills. He calls this program Jokeraid. All citizens have to do is film a video of them saying the word “Balyushka” — but the catch is, they have to entertain the depraved villain.
Joker’s prompts send the city into a viral rampage. Citizens commit acts of violence and self-degradation, all while shouting the word “Balyushka.” Joker keeps his promise and pays the five most outlandish contestant’s medical bills. Batman desperately tries to decipher the meaning of the word “Balyushka,” but Joker reveals the word means nothing.
He knew Batman would spend time and resources trying to find the meaning to the word. While Batman is on this wild goose chase, the people of Gotham continue to damage themselves in a desperate attempt to pay for their medical bills. Batman is unable to keep the people of Gotham from making the videos. Every time he stops one video, there is another taking place. Meanwhile, Gotham is in shambles.
Batman confronts Joker and tells him, “It’s over.” The Joker tells Batman he hasn’t broken any laws and that the videos can continue without him. Joker tells Batman that viral videos generate enough ad revenue to be self-sufficient. Joker just gave people the prompt and they ran with it. The Joker tells Batman that while he has been cleaning the streets, he missed the festering sewer beneath his feet.
Batman decides this isn’t a job for Batman, but for Bruce Wayne. Bruce gathers the wealthiest people of Gotham and proposes a solution. The Gotham billionaires have enough to pay for everybody’s medical bills and still maintain their wealth. The group rejects this idea, instead opting to move some money they have in a Gotham college fund into paying for people’s healthcare. Bruce isn’t satisfied with this solution, but has no choice but to go along with it.
Some time passes and the Joker interrupts another broadcast to announce yet another new program: Any person having trouble paying off student debt can also make a video to receive Jokeraid. This puts Bruce back in the same position he was before, with a different group of people struggling under the weight of incredible debt.
Joker’s not wrong. He hasn’t broken any laws. Joker’s plan does have a solution if Bruce and the other billionaires of Gotham provide the necessities the citizens desperately need. Still, as long as they keep moving money from one fund to another, people will continue to make videos. Joker has yet again created an existential and moral problem, but this time it’s about Bruce Wayne and his incredible wealth.
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In Batman: Gotham Knights #6, Joker unleashes a diabolical plan that sends the city spiraling into chaos — and only Bruce Wayne can stop it.