After the last issue, things are really heating up in the Sean Murphy Batman Elseworlds tale. The first few issues were more of a slow boil and detective-style story, but the reveals are dropping like a proper cup of tea from Alfred, let me tell you (read: hot). Murphy is ever so slightly nudging the Batman story in ways that are clever, sometimes obvious, and also entirely shocking. You can see it in the preview alone as we see young Bruce contemplate the guilt he’s feeling. It’s obvious Murphy has put a lot of thought into Batman and taken him down a road that’s unique to his vision, which is exciting considering the work he’s putting into it to make every turn logical and earned. This issue begins to reveal the inevitable conclusion you may not have seen coming.
This issue opens with Bruce dealing with his guilt and revealing to Alfred it’s his fault his parents died because he wanted to play with swords on the wall and to compromise his dad took him to Zorro. It then leads to a very frank conversation with Harley about his true identity and ancestry which continues to play around with the intimacy between these two characters. I don’t think it’s romantic at all, but it’s a deep bond for sure. Murphy sets up the fact that Batman is at a place mentally where he can put it all on the line or even give it all up. Everything he believed in was wrong, or so he feels right now. All that weakness and doubt spills into a full-page splash of Azrael flying through the sky like a god. He’s winning and he knows it, but can his body which is riddled with cancer hold up long enough to see the true downfall of Batman?
That adds a timer to the proceedings and makes the issue a little more amped up as we anticipate a one-on-one showdown. Outside of this interesting set up this issue does two things very well. The first is to show how Batman does have a family around him. From Barbara to Nightwing there are folks that care about Batman and want him to succeed. He doesn’t have to sacrifice himself and probably shouldn’t because they truly care for him. The second is a ton of Batmobile car porn. We’re talking top-notch recreations of Murphy’s obvious favorite Batmobile (I’ll leave out which one it is for you to find out) and we even get bonus penciled pages teasing the next issue which features even more of the vehicle.
The art continues to be excellent. The cape and cowl Batman wears is unique and quite cool with a good flow to the costume and by extension each page. The Azrael suit is out of this world good too. Matt Hollingsworth continues to do great work on color too casting entire scenes in red to set a mood or getting into the details of the Azrael suit to capture the different color tones of specific pieces. It’s wild when you can linger on a page and catch little details in color or detail that add to a scene you would have otherwise missed if you didn’t hang on a little longer.
The plotting of this issue is a bit heavy-handed front-loading it with Bruce’s emotions, diving right into preparation for the obvious climactic conclusion, and ending the book in a place that’s expected. A little more of Azrael, or at least a b-plot to mix things up, would have let the Bruce/Batman emotionally-driven actions breathe a little.
I liked this 7th issue for what it’s doing with the Batman character. A lot of what he says and does makes sense and it’s clear Murphy has thought about this character quite a bit while crafting the decisions Batman and other characters make. This is a book that feels earned in its twists and turns, which is something you can’t say for a lot of comic books these days.