It all comes down to this: an epic showdown between Batman and Azrael—and one of them’s going to get wrecked! Maybe both of them are going to get wrecked! Read the book! SPOILERS AHEAD
Who is Batman?
In my review of last month’s penultimate issue of Curse of the White Knight (or maybe it was #6), I suggested that some fans would likely have a problem with Bruce revealing himself to the world. I said that, given the Elseworlds context, I was okay with it. So what do I mean by “I’m okay with it?”
What I mean is this: not only am I okay with Murphy’s decision to reveal Bruce’s identity because of its lack of impact on central continuity; but also, I’m okay within the story. I think it’s an interesting direction—one that I hadn’t yet read in my time with comics. I also think that, while it would disrupt things in a “normal” Batman comic, I would still be interested to see how such a thing would play out, and—most importantly—I think that Bruce doing this is consistent with who he is. If Bruce genuinely believed that he could do more good by hanging up the cowl and coming clean, and if his allies had already willingly exposed themselves (as they did back in the original White Knight), then I could totally see him doing it.
This final issue of Curse pushes the envelope a bit more, however. We see Batman holding what looks like an M-16 machine gun (gun enthusiasts: apologies if I got that wrong—it’s my closest reference point). We see him firing said machine gun at Azrael. And, most critically, we see him slash the Avenging Angel’s throat with a sword. Yes, he moves in to save him afterwards (somehow already aware that his blood would be a match, and thus be useful in a transfusion, but I’ll let it slide…maybe he’s O-). But he went into this encounter intent on killing Jean-Paul—he made that clear to Dick before driving off on his own.
Does Murphy have the right to make Batman do this? Sure he does. And I’m even the lesser version of “okay” with him doing so, in that the breach (as I see it, at least) is contained in the Murphyverse. But as a reader, I found these moments unsatisfying. Part of what makes Batman appeal to me, personally, is his ability to bend impossibly far without breaking. And breaches like this always surface other questions: why kill Azrael, but not the Joker—especially when, until Napier told him otherwise, Bruce thought he had killed Jason Todd? Yes, that question has been beaten to death with a crowbar (and blown up in an Ethiopian warehouse), but it’s completely appropriate in this circumstance.
Putting myself aside
I can’t ignore that Murphy’s Batman intentionally crosses lines that I think Batman never should, but I also can’t ignore that, as a finale for this eight-issue tale, this book is a fairly effective one. Murphy’s artwork is as delicious as usual, and while there are a few visual yada-yada-yadas (when the plane goes BOOM above, for one), the storytelling is still pretty darned strong.
The narrative arc of the issue is well-done, too. We have everything on the line, Bruce sort-of says goodbye, then drives off on his own to face his foe. Dick refuses to be kept out of the fight and intervenes at a critical moment. Inspired by memories of Alfred, Freeze, and Gordon, it seems that Bruce turns back from his initial plan to kill Azrael, but then in a shocking moment, loses his cool and slashes his throat anyway. I don’t like Batman doing that, but I can’t deny that it’s an effective moment in the narrative.
Then, of course, we have Bruce delivering on his promise to turn himself in, a sweet moment with Harley, and a city without Batman wondering how it will move forward. And that’s to say nothing of the visitor on the last few pages. Murphy’s ability to construct a narrative is undeniably strong, and his ability to close has improved markedly since the first White Knight. Even though I don’t like some of his choices, I can’t help but appreciate the job he’s done.
- You read the first seven. Duh.
Batman: Curse of the White Knight concludes by taking Batman places I would rather he not go; however, I can’t help but be impressed by the strength of narrative and sustained visual storytelling that Murphy brought to this book. I will be buying the next series whenever it, Lord-willing, comes out, and that tells me all I need to know.
DISCLAIMER: Batman News received an advance copy of this book for the purpose of review.