Batman’s been attacked! At home! In his cave! Can the Dark Knight escape the wrath of the Avenging Angel? Things are about to get real, in Batman: Curse of the White Knight #3! MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD

Out in the open

As you no doubt surmised by the end of last issue, Bruce’s big secret is now in jeopardy. Without a massive coverup—one that would involve keeping the cops and other emergency personnel from investigating the destruction of stately Wayne Manor—there’s no way he keeps that identity under wraps for much longer. Granted, he has previously expressed his own intent to reveal it, but the impact still hits hard here. This is one of those Batman staples that, surprisingly, hasn’t been monkeyed with as much as you might expect in 80 years. “His identity remains unknown”—the last line of Batman’s introductory paragraph in Detective #27—has, for the most part, been a constant truth.

Credit: Sean Murphy, Matt Hollingsworth, and Deron Bennett

This is hardly the biggest blow, however. Jim Gordon has also been a constant since ‘Tec #27, but Azrael topples that particular pillar of Batman’s identity, as well (actually, it’s more of a stabbing than a toppling, but let’s see you try to stab a pillar!). This should resonate with any Batfan generally, but if you’ve been reading Murphy’s White Knight saga from the start, then you’ve seen a number of ups and downs in the relationship between Bats and the commish. Much to his credit, Murphy’s done the work of building up this important connection, rather than relying on established canon to prepare the reader for this moment. The impact is far stronger for it, and even the completely uninitiated should feel the sting.

He’s not joking

Azrael may be doing the more flamboyant damage here, but I get the sense that the Joker is still the big bad. Jack Napier is, after all, the “white knight” in the original series, and Curse picks up in the wake of Napier’s impact on the city. Certainly, “white knight” could refer to Bakkar, the knight of The Order of St. Dumas who was, presumably, duped by Edmund Wayne. But even if so, Joker is a major player in these events, having discovered the necessary catalyst to turn Jean-Paul Valley into a Gordon-murdering holy warrior.

Bruce recruits Harley’s help before interrogating his old nemesis, and I really enjoyed their exchange. The relationship between these two always felt very authentic and heart-felt in the original White Knight, and Murphy captures the same tone here. Their confrontation with Joker himself is equal parts hilarious and horrifying, with a gag about self-control giving way to some genuinely cruel barbs from Mr. J. He’s sure acting like the #1 villain.

Never better

Credit: Sean Murphy, Matt Hollingsworth, and Deron Bennett

The visuals are, predictably, breathtaking. Murphy’s aesthetic might be my favorite in the business, whether it’s the inky destruction of Wayne Manor above, or the emotional authenticity he creates in his characters’ faces and posture. This Harley Quinn is one of the most beautiful people in all of comics, because Murphy manages to recreate emotions, both great and tiny, with an economy of line work that distills those emotions to their essence.

Murphy is once again colored beautifully by Hollingsworth, whose textured fills and super-subtle rendering are exactly what this style needs. Just look at Harley’s face above: if you really focus in on it, you can see so much going on with the color, but it’s never garish or otherwise unpleasant.

Bennett’s letters are solid, and except for the THUCK of Azrael’s sword penetrating Gordon’s chest, I like what he’s doing with the SFX a lot better here than last issue. I particularly enjoyed some of his color choices:

Credit: Sean Murphy, Matt Hollingsworth, and Deron Bennett

Note the red border around the BRATTA TATATA. It’s a subtle thing, but it makes the letters feel more “set in” to the scene. Viewed in the context of the whole page, I perceive the illusion that the glow of the gun barrels is reflected in the white of the letters. Very good stuff.

Recommended if…

  • You’re a fan of Sean Murphy’s artwork.
  • You’re a fan of Sean Murphy’s take on the world of Batman.

Overall

With high-stakes reveals, entertaining dialogue, and plenty of gorgeous artwork from Murphy and Hollingsworth, Batman: Curse of the White Knight #3 is a sure-fire entertainer that reads very quickly. If you’ve enjoyed the story so far, you’re sure to be a fan of this one.

SCORE: 8.5/10


DISCLAIMER: Batman News received an advance review copy of this book from DC.