Cover Image: Batman: Curse of the White Knight

Batman: Curse of the White Knight

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Member Reviews

The second part of Sean Murphy’s reimaging of Batman finds the Dark Knight dealing with the fallout of Jack Napier’s attempted takeover of Gotham City.

Napier is back in the Joker’s subconscious and that leaves Joker in charge and that only leads to chaos.

And that chaos comes in the form of Azrael and Azrael brings the dark secrets of Gotham and the Wayne family to the fore.

Batman steps into the chaos to bring order to his city, no matter the cost.

The Cost of Heroism
Murphy has created an intriguing alternate version of Gotham City.

The Bat-Family has been fully deputized. Mr. Freeze is a secret ally. Harley Quinn is pregnant and that’s just the beginning.

The first volume of the series, set up things and this second chapter amps up the action and the consequences.

The action picks up with Joker back in Arkham and plotting his next move. That move includes unleashing Azrael, and his team of covert operatives, on the still recovering city.

The action is fast and furious. The secrets of the city and its families lead to casualties on both sides.

I’m not a fan of the Azrael character, but Murphy’s take on the character fixes many of my issues. Making Azrael a dying vet charged with righting historical wrongs before he dies adds a sense of depth that I’ve always found missing.

Bruce Wayne also has some new wrinkles. Sure, he’s still driven by his need for vengeance, but that takes a back seat to the need to save his city and his allies.

Batman’s unlikely alliance with Harley Quinn is the highlight of the collection. Watching her turn her analysis on both Batman and the Joker is fun to watch. Even more fun is watching her flirt with the clearly uncomfortable Batman along the way.

After two dazzling series, I’m anxious to see how Murphy brings it all home in the series’ third and final version.
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A sequel to White Knight, the Joker recruits Azrael to help him expose a Wayne family secret.

I love the colors by Matt Hollingsworth.  When Azrael gets his sword the colors really show how important that moment is.  A black background makes the red of the fire stand out.  Jean Paul's face is lit by the flaming sword so everything has a red glow and creates the most beautiful effect of the page.  The letters are well done.  I sometimes struggle with reading the font chosen by letterers to represent handwritten things, but that was not the case here.  The font is still similar to cursive, but it was by far easier to read.  I also loved the little touch of making the speech bubbles look like scraps of paper in these scenes.

There are some changes to Batman's personality.  I feel like he has just given up in some parts.  You see everything building up from White Knight and now Curse of the White Knight.  I do love that defeated Batman, but at times it does feel like a different character.

Overall it was a great read and I can't wait to see it in print.

Creative Team:
Script and Art by Sean Murphy
Colors by Matt Hollingsworth
Letters by AndWorld Designs
Published by DC Black Label
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The stakes couldn’t be higher for the caped crusader in this graphic novel. The Joker puts a risky plan into motion, one he hopes will bring Gotham to its knees. When Azrael makes their entrance, they prove to be tougher to take down than Batman hoped they would be. When Bruce learns the truth about an ancestor, it forces him to make a tough decision. Fans of Batman: White Knight will want to check this graphic novel out.
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Batman: Curse of the White Knight is a fascinating alternative history for Batman and Gotham City. Following right on the heels of White Knight, this book explores the aftermath of Joker's temporary turn to sanity and the wheels he set in motion during that time.

Curse of the White Knight is certainly less polemic than White Knight, but still deals with who Batman has become and how it has affected Gotham over the course of his vigilante career. The idea of the Gotham "Elites" are explored more, and an alternative Azrael is brought into the fold. In many ways, this book reads like a love letter from Sean Murphy to Batman. Azrael dawns the 1990s "Knightfall" batsuit, and rides into battle in his "favorite" batmobile: the Tim Burton batmobile.

Murphy really uses the Black Label brand to his advantage here. He's allowed to destroy the undestroyable, kill the unkillable, and make other narrative decisions that would never be allowed in canon Batman. These are the right decisions for his story, though.
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Thank you to Netgalley for the opportunity to read and review this graphic novel. There seems to be a whole industry dedicated to the genre of the origins of The Dark Knight. This is one of the better ones out there as it gives a tight timeline that keeps you interested without getting too detailed. Pick your own origin story and stay with it.
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Few artists in comics make seamless transitions to writing the comics they draw. If anyone wondered whether Sean Murphy belongs in that exclusive club, Batman: White Knight erased all doubts when it burst onto the scene in 2017. The self-contained alternate universe tale (or “Elseworlds” tale, as many DC fans still use the old DC imprint term to describe such stories years after it was officially last employed) was a major success both critically and commercially. DC was vindicated in showing great faith in the writer/artist by having Batman: White Knight launch its new mature readers’ DC Black Label imprint. 

Now, Murphy is back with the sequel to his runaway success. Where Batman: White Knight flipped Batman’s role with that of the Joker, positing that the Joker might just be more successful than Batman in making Gotham a better place if only he regained his sanity, Batman: Curse of the White Knight has Joker reverting to form and bringing in another villain to test Batman. That villain is none other than Azrael, a character introduced in the Batman mythos in the early 1990s, sometimes serving as an ally to Batman, other times serving as an enemy. His motivation in this iteration traces back centuries, as a damning secret comes to light about the Wayne family and Azrael’s descendants. Azrael challenges Batman’s identity and the Wayne family legacy like no enemy ever has before.

So does this tale live up to its predecessor? Well, almost. Let me first stress that this is an excellent book. The art is beautiful, and the story is well-done and thought-provoking. However, it is being measured against what many consider to be a modern masterpiece of comics storytelling. The first book told a completely original Batman tale that, while indulging in some of the over-the-top antics that most superhero comics are predisposed to, was presciently grounded in real-world issues like racism, classism, and police brutality. It also gave us what is probably the most nuanced version of Harley Quinn that we have ever seen. While this second book does continue with some of these themes, Batman’s self-centered focus on his identity combined with a somewhat lackluster villain just aren’t quite as compelling as what we were given in the first book. 

Should you still read it? Absolutely! I wouldn’t advise jumping into it without reading the first book, however. (And why would you want to miss out?!) There isn’t much handholding to clue the reader in to what came before; the tale directly follows and is dependent upon the events of the first book. Bottom line: Even if you think you have read every Batman story ever thought up, I highly encourage you to read these two. What some have dubbed the Murphyverse really is a treat for old and new Batman fans alike.

One final note: This book also contains the spin-off standalone story Batman: White Knight Presents Von Freeze. While it is also written by Sean Murphy, this time the art duties are handled by the legendary Klaus Janson. On the night of Bruce Wayne’s birth, Victor von Fries shares a touching tale about his father and World War II with Thomas, Bruce’s father. Not only does the tale tie in adroitly with the main story, it is easily the most poignant chapter/issue. The book is all that much richer for its inclusion.

*Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for providing this ARC in exchange for my honest review.
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Sean Murphy's "White Knight" Batman imprint continues with the "Curse of the White Knight", brining in Azrael's flaming sword of vengeance to right some previous wrongs from Gotham's past. Murphy's take on the sanity of the Joker combined with a reformed Harley Quinn, now working on the Bat's side and by the end of the comic, a mother of two, is refreshing in contrast to the ongoing Joker War of the primary DC continuity. The Quinn spinoffs (still presumably happening with recent DC editorial changes) should be a worthy read, as is this. A Victor Freeze tale involving Nazis and retribution rounds out the trade, along with bonus rough drafts.
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Like this origin story between Batman and Joker. Harley Quinn also has a solid and consistent presence in this book.
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A worthy successor to the previous story. Really appreciate Sean Murphy’s art. It adds quite a bit of ambience to the story.
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I absolutely loved Batman: White Knight. It had such an interesting premise and the execution was flawless. 
Unfortunately, Curse of the White Knight did not live up to the hype. There were some interesting elements, but I found the historical elements tired and uninteresting. It took me out of the story and didn't add enough for it to be important. The stuff that happens in the present is much more interesting and I wish the story had focused on those. This book has a lot of big batman moments, but there's so many that some of them almost feel like throw aways rather than actually addressing some of the big changes.
If Sean Murphy continues this series, I hope that they address some of these changes more fully.
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So this is volume 2 of Batman: White Knight, which was a solid 4 stars for me.  I liked the narrative structure of this story even more.  The only reason it wasn’t a complete home run for me is because there is a moment about 2/3 of the way through where two characters are fighting, a gun goes off… and we are left on a cliffhanger as the attention pans to another fight elsewhere.  A few pages later, the first two characters show up again with no reference to the cliffhanger.  Frustrating!  There is also a romantic choice in this that I think hasn’t been earned story-wise, even taking the first volume into account.  

But, then when it’s good it’s good.  This work is a compilation of Batman: Curse of the White Knight issues 1-8 and Batman: White Knight Presents Von Freeze #1.  Von Freeze #1 is a “deleted scene” that the author’s note says takes place between issues 6 and 7 (again with the jumping without explanation), but MAN it’s good.  I see why it’s tagged on at the end rather than where it should be chronologically in the story—it would have been a massive tonal shift to have this beautiful, thoughtful story in the middle of the height of the action of Curse of the White Knight.  

I’m still just dabbling in comics, but even I can tell that Von Freeze #1 is just beautiful.  The line art and coloring (and maybe even tone and subject matter) remind me a bit of George Takei’s “They Called Us Enemy,” but the line work is a bit more jagged and incomplete.  This bonus chapter tells the story of how Victor Freeze’s father and his Jewish business partner developed cryotech during Nazi Germany, and the various repercussions on Freeze’s family and Thomas and Martha Wayne.  Overall a beautiful little palate cleanser that has me very excited for more Murpheyverse oneshots.
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Sean Murphy was already one of the best artists of his generation when he began writing this series, which proved to be a rare truly original take on Batman, and showed just how able a writer he was as well.  The follow up here doesn’t quite stick the ending but is still a strong continuation of the story and has quite a few welcome surprises along the way.  The inclusion of a Mr Freeze one shot in collaboration with the legendary Krause Janson would make this volume worth a read all on its own.
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I was really impressed by the original White Knight series, but this iteration seems to be going off the rails. They kill quite a few main characters, both heroes and villains, and change major elements of the Batman canon  for no discernable reason. I like the storytelling, but it is almost turning into a parody of itself if you step back and look at what happened. Good characters and dialog, great art, but the story itself is just so far out there.
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Thanks to DC Comics and Netgalley for the digital ARC. 

This is the direct sequel to Batman: White Knight and will be followed by a final book to close this trilogy. If you have not read White Knight I cannot recommend it highly enough. This story follows the actions of that book after the Joker had sane and decided to close the Batman via the court system and public opinion. While at the end of that volume the Joker has once more returned to his nefarious persona the aftershocks of his revelations has left Bruce Wayne and Gotham reeling. We pick up the story where Bruce Wayne is debating on publicly announcing his secret as Batman and dealing with the consequences of his long running vigilante acts. Joker also breaks out of Arkham and sets an assassin on Batman, while Batman teams up with Harley Quinn to try to bring Joker's sane persona back. 
This series is awesome and is a very interesting take on the Batman mythos. I can not wait for book 3 to see Bruce Wayne on trial.
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While temporarily cured of his insanity, the Joker (acting as Jack Napier) exposed a system of exploitation and introduced systematic solutions to Gotham City. Not only did he eliminate the need for Batman, but he implicated Batman and his alter-ego Bruce Wayne in the corruption. So what happens next?

His last gambit upon returning to the Joker persona is to expose the secret history of the Wayne family and to put Bruce in the crosshairs of a mysterious character's revenge.

Batman: Curse of the White Knight by Sean Murphy is a beautiful book, published under the new DC Black Label imprint. Murphy's art has always been excellent, with a ton of design skill that really shines in clothing, equipment and vehicles. Fight sequences are broken down in ways that make sense and are easy to follow, and are frequently thrilling. It's a shame that those strengths don't show up in this volume until fifty pages in, as a casual reader may be bored beforehand.

Murphy also writes this story, and it shares some sensibilities with his other works like Punk Rock Jesus. The book is extremely critical of authority figures, especially Batman himself. The overarching idea here is that there is a "secret elite society" running Gotham, and in some ways that is connected to family history, colonization, and religion spanning back hundreds of years. Those are big subjects for a superhero book, and at times that scope seems beyond what the book is capable of. We are not shown the "secret society" in any real detail, and major revelations or plot points are sometimes handled with quick bits of dialog. 

The book is full of fan service. Since it's an alternate universe take on Batman it could have been a good standalone tale, but so many characters and asides are not explained and rely instead on the reader's outside knowledge. Characters like Jason Blood (Etrigan) and Duke Thomas (Batman and the Signal) appear with very little development of explanation. There are also nice moments referencing past works like the Tim Burton films or the television series from the 1960's.

DC Black Label is a publishing imprint intended for adult audiences. Here that manifests as some mild swearing and occasional bursts of bloody violence shown on panel. If the swearing was modified this would be on par with mainstream Batman books from the modern era, and that's who it will appeal to the most. Long-time superhero fans looking for an anti-authoritarian take will enjoy this, but there are better books for a  general audience. Additionally, this volume does not stand on its own. It is a sequel to Batman: White Knight, which is a superior book. If you're considering purchasing this one, the other should definitely be in your collection.

I would like to make special mention of the standalone Mr. Freeze story collected at the end of this volume. It takes place at some earlier point in the story, and is mostly separate from the main plot. It delves into how the modern Wayne family gets their money along with their medical laboratories. It involves giving refuge to a Nazi scientist, and depicts violence against Jewish people. It is easily the most affecting work collected here and is an excellent story, but readers should be aware of the content ahead of time.

This review was written from an advanced reader copy obtained from NetGalley.
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Sean Murphy continues his revisionist take on the Batman mythos, this time bringing Azrael into the story. Murphy's art throughout is great. He talks in a note near the end of the book about how he was influenced by Klaus Janson and there's a one-shot about Mr. Freeze that is illustrated by Janson himself, and I didn't even realize that it wasn't Murphy's work until after. I'm really not sure why this is part of the Black Label line, since other than a couple of swear words and just a touch more violence, this isn't all that more extreme than the stories Scott Snyder was writing during his run. Also interesting is the presence of Harley Quinn, who seems to almost be taking on the role of Catwoman (love interest) in this. I liked the interplay between the ancient history of Gotham City and how it tied to events in the current day, as Bruce Wayne discovers a massive secret that throws everything he though he knew about himself and his family for a loop. I'm still not entirely sure that the story lives up to the artwork, but this was certainly worth a read and it will be interesting to see where things go next.
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