Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Batman: Curse of the White Knight #1 Review

Writing & Art: Sean Murphy
Colors & Letters: Matt Hollingsworth, AndWorldDesign
DC Comics
Release Date: July 24, 2019
Cover Price: $4.99

The White Knight Returns

Sean Murphy's mini series Batman: the White Knight was a runaway hit that garnered many different printings and was retroactively made the 'first' Black Label title due to its popularity.  I myself found it to be a refreshing take on the character in which I was immediately immersed into the world via great storytelling and art ... hell the fact it came out on a relatively tight schedule didn't hurt matters either.  It was really a breath of fresh air in the midst of a lot of Batman staleness going on at DC Comics in the recent past and present, with that said the sequel is here, and i couldn't be more excited. Let discuss Curse of the White Knight.

The issue begins with a flashback to Arkham Manor in 1685 as we see a Zorro-esque scene, no doubt a reference or callback to the movie Bruce and his parents went to see on that fateful night, between a Wayne and Arkham begin to unfold.  The scene sets up the mystery at hand here and the connection between the two families that runs all the way back to the first days of Gotham City.  Right off the jump Sean Murphy, without even a lot of words of context, gives the reader a bunch to chew on and reference back right at the start.  He does an excellent job of building on the mystery at play here within the same issue, in which a lot of writers now, would drag a lot of these reveals out over a least another issue.

From there it's off to present day Gotham, in this world anyway, in which we see the Warden of Arkham Asylum being coerced by the Joker, with no Jack left in him at this point, to be taken to his old cell.   We see Joker get his hands on what he calls "the city's biggest darkest secret" once taken near his old cell, stab the Warden, and 'skip to his lou' out of the asylum as if he has a monthly membership at Plant Fitness.  At this point were roughly at the half way point of the title which I find to be an appropriate time to stop for a minute and celebrate how beautiful the art in this series has been in the past and remains to be here.  I love the costumes, the look of the city, and especially how fluid the book flows between scenes where I as a reader never seem to get lost in the story or how its told.  Its really some good examples of comic booking done right throughout the issue and really makes me wish I saw Murphy's name pop up more on some titles coming out.

As we finally catch-up with our 'hero' Batman we see him quickly get down to some detective work, another highlight found in this book, also something routinely brushed over in many other Batman books on the shelf lately ... and that's if he's not down right portrayed as a dumb ass. Anyway Batman puts some clues together regarding a secret room located in the asylum, gathers some information and clues about a body, and heads out to calculate his next move.

It's at this point in the book we jump around a little bit, to visit the whole cast, while closing things out to setup a few threads, that will inevitably intertwine, before all is said and done here. The first bit scene is the beginnings of what Joker has planned, before we move on to see Batman start to make some connections to the flashback established at the beginning of this story from the clues gathered from his investigation. Finally, we're introduced to this universes Azrael, which I wont consider a spoiler outright since he's all over the covers to this issue, as his story adds to the mystery developed throughout. To be honest I really really look forward to seeing how this all comes together as this story moves along and where it will leave this version of Gotham at the end of it all. 

While I enjoyed everything wholeheartedly here to give the title a recommendation for the first issue I don't necessarily think that means everything was perfect inside.  I was a little let down Joker is such a huge player again, at least at the start of things here, in the series sequel.  I thought we had a good character arc with him last series, and would have appreciated the villain spotlight maybe on a different character, possibly capitalizing on some of the new holes in the 'fixed system' of Jack's.  Other than that I like the connections to the beginnings of Gotham and am intrigued most by that moving forward.

Overall, Curse of the White Knight is another very strong start to the White Knight mythos, and something you should get your hands on if you are a fan of the first series. Sean Gordon again tackles both writing/art duties and neither area suffers as a result of the man taking on a double work load here.  From great character designs, to a unique feeling and setting, with a creative story expanding on a great Batman elseworld tale its all here. $4.99 can be spent in much much worse ways.


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