Things don’t look so good for Jim Gordon. Stabbed by Azrael, dropped from a building, and left for dead, his prognosis appears negative by all accounts. Did someone finally wax the top mustache in Gotham? Find out, in Batman: Curse of the White Knight #4. SPOILERS AHEAD.
Curse #4 is probably the most emotionally resonant Batman comic that Sean Murphy has yet produced. Gordon is, indeed, as dead as he seemed at the end of #3, and Murphy knows just how to make it hurt. Whether it’s Gordon in flashback saying goodbye to his “Pumpkin” in the present…
…or Batman cradling the lifeless head of his best friend…
…it moves me to my core. Would these moments matter to the uninitiated? Do we Batfans import our histories with these characters, and is it those histories—not Murphy—that bring the weight?
If you say “yes” to that question, I would find it hard to argue. There is no denying that the established Batman impacts our experience of a story like this one. But I would suggest that Murphy still does an excellent job of making Gordon’s death—and the way it affects those in his orbit—count.
The foundation was laid
We’ve already seen the tumultuous relationship shared by Bruce and Jim in the original White Knight. But we also saw it survive the events of that book, and come back stronger in Curse. Whether or not Murphy has provided enough to justify Bruce’s grief at Gordon’s passing is not crucial to the emotional impact of the moment; whether it functions as the natural result of something established, or a revelation of just how much Gordon meant to Bruce, it works.
Barbara’s relationship with her father didn’t get much airtime in White Knight, but they had a confrontation a few issues ago. And Murphy deftly lures us in with the parallel past/present sequence at the beginning of #4. It’s an effective “emotional shortcut” toward making us empathize with Babs, but also a poetic springboard into the rest of the issue’s plot. Consider her father’s words in flashback:
Hurt them back. Harder.
Vengeance isn’t just the natural response here. In her grief, Babs no doubt tells herself that hurting Azrael back is precisely what her father taught her. She will twist words meant to protect her into a call to play recklessly with her own life. And she will pay. To his credit, Murphy never explicitly states any of these things; rather, they are quite obvious in context, and that makes the emotional impact so much more effective.
A brief, delightful interlude
The raw response to Gordon’s death rightly occupies most of the pages in Curse of the White Knight #4, but the mystery of the Waynes and Bakkars nevertheless gets a bit of airtime. Bruce has entrusted Harley and her babies’ (not those babies—her new babies) care to Leslie Thompkins, who recounts the night that she and Alfred procured the journal from a mysterious member of the Order of St. Dumas. It’s a short scene, but it lets us see Alfred again, and he gets to be a sword-wielding badass. I wholeheartedly approve.
The priest is a bit of a conundrum. He claims to be a peaceful man, not of the sort we’ve seen in Bakkar and Jean-Paul Valley. He tells Alfred and Leslie that he’s giving them the journal so that, in Bruce’s care, the proof of the war between the Waynes and Bakkars might be allowed to fade into history. But whether or not we can trust this priest has yet to be seen. It’s a nice wrinkle to the mystery we’ve been following since issue #1.
- You like having your heart broken.
- You think Batgirl is at her best when she’s on the offensive.
- Alfred with a sword.
Batman: Curse of the White Knight #4 is without a doubt the most emotional installment in Sean Murphy’s Batman tale to date. It also happens to feature strong dialogue, a solid plot, delectable artwork, and excellent lettering. If you haven’t been keeping up, see if you can track down the first three, then read this one—it’s worth it.