Story-Arc: Curse of the White Knight.
Series: The Murphyverse.
Writer(s): Sean Murphy.
Illustrator(s): Sean Murphy & Klaus Johnson.
Colourist(s): Matt Hollingsworth.
Letterer(s): Andworld Design.
Publisher: DC Black Label.
Release Date: September 15th, 2020.
Genre(s): Comics, Science-Fiction.
My Overall Rating: ★★★★☆.
Previously in The Murphyverse:
Batman: White Knight by Sean Murphy.
What happens when you lose your footing, when you’re unable to understand who you are and what you’re meant to be in the world, a world where you thought you were welcomed in with open arms? Sometimes, an identity crisis is all you need to walk down a path of enlightenment, a stairway towards purpose and commitment. However, when there’s one person out there who would do anything to see the walls around you crumble, the grounds break apart, and the ceiling fall upon you, you’re surely in for a surprise that could destroy you fundamentally. Collecting the eight issues composing this sequel to the phenomenal masterpiece, Batman: White Knight, written and drawn by Sean Murphy, as well as the one-shot story, Batman: White Knight Presents Von Freeze, written by Sean Murphy and illustrated by Klaus Janson, comes a stellar story exploring the past of Gotham City and its unbound justice, retribution, and execution, as Batman now goes up against Joker and his latest weapon of godly vengeance.
What is Batman: White Knight about? Picking up where things were left in the previous volume, the story presents the Joker’s latest plan to put an end to Bruce Wayne and Batman as Gotham City suffers from their war, with its inhabitants unable to pick sides, struggling to see through the masks of these heroes and villains. Unfortunately, Batman’s allies also have a tough time acknowledging the benefice of his existence as its city sees its foundations struggle to remain solid with the chaos that often comes from his Rogues Gallery. This time around, with Jack Napier repressed by the Joker, it is only a matter of time before the Dark Knight discovers the Clown Prince of Gotham’s plans and it is one that will inevitably unearth deeply-buried secrets from countless centuries ago. At the heart of these plans is a profoundly-deluded religious crusader far deadlier than any knight that Gotham has ever known before. He goes around under the name of Azrael, and he has come to unleash his own form of purification for the city, starting with Bruce Wayne.
“And if he was the good guy, what does that make me?” — Sean Murphy
The creative freedom that creator Sean Murphy is entitled to with these what-if stories set outside DC Comics canon is a blessing to his imagination as he shifts the focus of this latest story-arc from the Joker to another lunatic known as Azrael. How he ties all the narrative threads together to fully dive into some rich history newly-conceived uniquely with the purpose to offer Gotham City an intriguing yet slightly farfetched tale regarding its founding fathers is brilliant. The tone set by this world-building offers fantastic grounds on which to build the identity of the city and its heroes, while expanding on their plight through intergenerational conflicts that continuously seem to permeate through time. While the Joker doesn’t play as much of a role as before, the attention put on both Batman, Azrael, and the rest of the cast makes for an engrossing tale set in an alternate reality that screams with relentless potential.
As rare as they are, for very good reasons, it is also tremendous to see the writer draw his own ideas to life. In this case, creator Sean Murphy accomplishes this with near-perfection as he maintains artistic consistency and coherence throughout his entire story-arc. His character designs are fantastic as well, capturing every significant trait of these characters through his detailed artwork. The narrative flow is also perfect, allowing each page to build the proper tension until shocking reveals are presented, while also meticulously highlighting the little details in facial expressions and character movement. In fact, it’s important to note that this story does steer towards a heavier emotional tale where key characters are challenged into trusting one another as tragedies strike them back to back. Can colourist Matt Hollingsworth even be forgotten in the praise that this one should get? Absolutely not. The darker colours, occasionally washed out, and then suddenly vibrant, is perfectly controlled throughout the story-arc, immensely helping readers to get immersed in a story dripping with history and mythology.
“I am Vengeance. I am God’s Wrath. Here to break the curse, to rise up against you and deliver this land from evil.” — Sean Murphy
This volume also includes a special one-shot story centered around Mr. Freeze, which is apparently set between issues #6 and #7. Instead of being the artist on this project as well, creator Sean Murphy teams up with legendary artist Klaus Johnson to deliver a story set during the rise of Nazis in World War II. While I’m not a huge fan of his artwork at times, this little chapter offered an engrossing story that looked into the division in beliefs regarding the vision of Nazis and the role of parenthood in one’s upbringing. While this story isn’t quintessential to the main story-arcs, I could never say no to more content expanding this alternate universe.
With all that being said, you bet that I look forward to his next chapter in this Murphyverse titled Batman: Beyond the White Knight, which hints to a brand-new neo-futuristic take on Batman Beyond, as well as his Harley Quinn spin-off stories supposedly coming out this October 2020.
Batman: Curse of the White Knight is an excellent sequel exploring the dark secrets of Gotham City through the rise of a devout knight.