Sean Murphy’s epic Elseworld’s Batman tale continues this week breaking rules and boundaries most creators aren’t allowed to cross thanks to continuity. The third issue directly bleeds from the last as Jim Gordon has been ruthlessly attacked and may not make it. Much of issue #3 is about the fallout from this, but there is also a key flashback involving Alfred that continues to change Batman’s relationship to Azrael.
This issue feels very organic with characters reacting realistically and the story following their path as they attempt to seek revenge. Both Batman and Barbara Gordon are deeply affected by Gordon’s demise which takes up the first few pages of the issue. Barbara immediately wants to seek revenge and we soon see at what lengths she is willing to go to get it. It’s an interesting thematic choice since Batman and his many supporting Bat-family characters tend to avoid killing. Here it appears Murphy is exploring the very natural reaction to seek revenge and come very close to getting it. Barbara, in particular, appears to pay as she hesitates to get revenge which is an interesting plot element. Is Murphy suggesting if we can pull the trigger and get the revenge we seek should we do it? Barbara pays for that dearly here.
So far the flashbacks to a Wayne ancestor and his relationship to the warrior priesthood are some of the most interesting elements of the series and the short one we get with Alfred here continues that trend. It’s a fascinating turn in the story as we learn around the time when Bruce became Batman information was given to Alfred that may have altered his approach or at the very least his understanding of Gotham’s history. The tether to Azrael and Batman continues to get ever more layered which further makes their eventual battle more interesting.
The last issue was a bit lacking with vehicles and Murphy makes up for that with Tumbler and Bat-bike scenes. Murphy’s sleek vehicle design is some of the best in the business.
The biggest failing of this issue is the last few pages which seem to gloss over the fact that Azrael should be captured, but isn’t. Between the panels, he somehow slinks away and it’s frustrating to not see how he does it. Cops are everywhere, Batman is within arms reach (even if he was slashed by Azrael) — so how did he slink away? It’s convenient for the plot certainly, but it takes the air out of the fight sequence.
This series continues to titillate with its intriguing flashback reveals and excellent art. This issue may suffer a bit though as it’s so hung up on the demise of Jim Gordon it seems to put the more interesting plots on hold like Joker and Bruce’s ancestor. That said, there is no denying this series continues Murphy’s fresh take on the character.