Gotham is in mourning. One of its noblest defenders has fallen on the field of battle, and things will never be the same for Batman or his city. So what’s the Dark Knight going to do about it? Find out in Batman: Curse of the White Knight #5SPOILERS AHEAD

Shock and awe

Sean Murphy couldn’t have plotted the death of Jim Gordon better. Azrael’s finishing strokes were the cliffhanger at the end of #3, but the actual stopping of the heartbeat came at the start of #4. And then most of the rest of that issue dealt with Batgirl’s foolhardy response. Here in #5, things slow down a bit, and the shock of Gordon’s death actually sinks in a bit more. Sure, this is comics, and sure, this is an Elseworlds story, so the sense of loss (or, depending on how you take these things, the cynicism about such a death sticking) isn’t there. But the shock still is, at least for me—not a “I can’t believe this happened,” sort of shock, mind you, but more of an empathetic shock born of my investment with the characters.

But there is some of the typical sort of shock this time around, too. Azrael and Ruth get into it, and when she plays her trump card—Bane, who she’s hired for protection—Azrael relieves him of his head off in short order. And before the issue has run its course, the Avenging Angel goes through a big chunk of the rest of the rogues gallery, as well. Joker is still in tact, and I believe Freeze is still at large, so there’s potential for more stories in this universe, but man—talk about taking a lot of opportunity off the table. I’m still not sure how I feel about it personally, but it was definitely a shock.

Perhaps the biggest non-shock is the revelation that Jack Napier is not completely lost. Harley gets through to him, and he does his best to help, but there’s also some terrible truth that he insists she not tell Batman—because it would destroy him. I guess we’ll have to wait and see what this bombshell is, but color me intrigued for now.

Artistically, Murphy is as good as he always is. He is one of my favorites, both aesthetically and among storytellers, and he remains in fine form with this installment. Hollingsworth and Bennett, too. It’s hard not to—at a minimum—enjoy the ride with this book, because there’s so much craftsmanship evident on every page.

Recommended if…

  • You’re committed to following Sean Murphy through the streets of Gotham.
  • You love delicious artwork, but especially when it’s one facet of high-quality visual storytelling.
  • You think you’d enjoy an interesting remix of the rivalry between Azrael and Bane. And, to a lesser extent, Killer Croc.

Overall

Curse of the White Knight #5 finally lets the closing page of #3 sink in, and things in Gotham look bleak. Murphy and company drop quite a few shocks along the way, delivered—as always—with believable dialogue, and gorgeous ink, color, and letters.

SCORE: 7.5/10