The great thing about Elseworlds tales like Sean Murphy’s Curse of the White Knight is how it can do whatever it likes to serve the story. There are no limits so if Batman’s identity needs to come out for the world to see so be it. The genie does not need to be put back in the bottle. Case in point, issue #3 does that and more to change Batman and key characters in his story. This third issue progresses a lot and moves ever closer to the Azrael and Batman showdown.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
Batman salvages a groundbreaking clue from the wreckage of Wayne Manor and recruits Harley Quinn to confront The Joker for answers about the mystery of Gotham City’s foundations! Their investigation takes a dire turn in the darkest corners of Arkham, and Gordon’s life is in peril after a new commissioner is named.
Why does this matter?
Murphy and Matt Hollingsworth’s first run on Batman was fabulous and this sequel seems to be even more complex and layered than the first. It’s a mystery wrapped in intense storytelling decisions.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
It’s beginning to become clear this is more Harley and Batman’s story than anyone else. Sure, Joker, Commissioner Gordon, and Azrael are part of it, but the best scenes involve Harley and Bruce bonding and conversing. In this issue alone we see Batman ask a favor of Harley, the two attempt to interrogate Joker together, and they even do a little detective work on a crime scene. One might suspect Batman knows Harley’s value especially since his enemies likely have no idea he’s getting help from her. She’s very pregnant, but always resourceful and it’s fun to see how Murphy utilizes the character.
This is a table setting issue to be sure with much of the plot focusing on getting characters from point A to point B. Characters get new roles, move along in their investigations, and some even get mortally wounded. There are fewer clues to the past than there were in previous issues, but it’s clear the “now” is getting a heavy helping of plot development to move things along.
The art continues to be moody and dark. There aren’t many vehicles–Sean Murphy’s specialty–but the preview images in the back show off a new Bat-motorcycle and other delights in that regard. The interrogation scene is well-paced and the voice of Joker is so spot on. Murphy has a lot of fun with Joker in this sequence and based on the flow of it and the visuals I’d put this up there with the top Joker/Batman scenes.
It can’t be perfect, can it?
As I said above this is a table setting issue so exposition is delivered, but there is little action or intrigue. Character dynamics develop, but not much else. I’m also surprised Azrael gets little development here and serves as a boogieman more than anything else.
Is it good?
An enjoyable third chapter that sets the stage for a confrontation for the ages. The secret weapon is the Harley/Batman relationship which is well worth the price of admission.