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Batman Curse of the White Knight #1

Review by Paul Bowler

Dark secrets and old scores wait to be settled in Batman Curse of the White Knight #1, the hotly anticipated sequel to the critically acclaimed Batman White Knight, when the Joker sets out to recruit Azrael to his cause to ruin the Wayne legacy and bring chaos to Gotham City once more!

Writer and artist Sean Murphy’s new eight-part mini-series continues to build on the foundations set up during Batman White Knight which established his unique spin on the Dark Knight’s world, one where Joker reclaimed his sanity to become the good guy, while Batman’s increasingly brutal methods effectively painted him as the bad guy. Now in the sequel Curse of the White Knight the Joker is back with an axe to grind, and determined to have the last laugh on Gotham as Batman contemplates his future as the Dark Knight.

From the foreboding flashback to Arkham, 1685, to the Clown Prince of Crimes ingenious escape in the present, right up to Batman and Gordon’s grim discovery, Sean Murphy’s script quickly sets up the premise of this new mini-series and runs with it for all its worth. The warped existential fallout of Joker’s and Jack Naper’s psyche in the aftermath of Batman White Knight allows Murphy to skilfully fuel the chilling narrative via the Joker’s character, and fan the flames of Jean Paul’s equally fractured psyche to bring Azrael to the fore.

Gordon knows Bruce is Batman now, but that doesn’t really seem to have changed the dynamic between them. If anything, their relationship now seems more assured and measured in Curse of the White Night. The mystery they uncover offers up some tantalizing clues early on. However, the big highlights this issue are the character driven Bat-Family moments: such as the powerful scenes between Bruce and Dick Grayson in the Bat-Cave, where Murphy’s blisteringly sharp dialogue shows just how much Bruce’s perceived failure has had on him, there’s some wry humour to defuse the darkness as Batman and Batgirl assess the case evidence so far, and the late Alfred Pennyworth’s deeply moving note is sure to melt even the coldest of hearts.

Sean Murphy’s art is on top form and brings everything to the page that you’ve probably come to expect from this series already. The dark, gritty rendition of this alternative slant on the Dark Knight’s world is swathed in deep shadows and a mesmerising gothic grandeur that seems to encompass even the smallest scene. Arkham is more sinister than ever, Murphy’s grizzled Batman seems even more intimidating this time around, fan boy cinematic flourishes such as the Joker’s gun are an added bonus to enjoy, and the Bat-Cave depicted here is a sweeping vista of Bat-paraphernalia the likes of which feels more like a frame in a movie than a panel in a comic book. Matt Hollingsworth’s colors complements Murphy’s artwork perfectly as you’d expect, with the opaque shades of the earlier scenes giving way to subtle greys and earthier tones as the issue progresses to a fiery denouement. The lettering by AndWorldDesign is crisp and clean – essential in a dialogue heavy issue like this – and together with the sumptuous art and colors you will soon find yourself immersed in the multiple twists and turns of the plot.

Batman Curse of the White Knight #1 gets this new series off a fantastic start. Sean Murphy and Matt Hollingsworth make a fantastic team, the Joker’s plot in Curse of the White Knight is sure to test Batman and his allies to the limit, the introduction of Azrael to their Dark Knight’s mythos is also an intriguing one, and I really like how this storyline follows on from the events of the previous mini-series in so many unexpected and surprising ways. One thing’s for sure, this new chapter in the White Knight saga looks set to shake Gotham to the core!

Publisher DC Comics (DC Black Label)

Writer, Art, & Covers by Sean Murphy

Colors & Cover Colors by Matt Hollingsworth

Letters by AndWorldDesign