The eighth and final issue of Curse of the White Knight is out today. Can Sean Murphy wrap up his story that spans centuries, has set Batman on a crazy course to kill, and somehow end things so the “Murphyverse” can continue? The short answer is, sure, but with a lot of reservations.
This series has been a treat as far as visuals go. Murphy and color artist Matt Hollingsworth can put out killer car chases, fight scenes, and blowing us away with costume designs. Azrael may have the coolest costume of all time now that Murphy and Hollingsworth have put their spin on it. This issue delivers on a car chase — with the Michael Keaton Batmobile, no less! — and a good final fight scene too. Even if you read none of the words, the book somehow stands up thanks to the dynamic art.
The story, however, has become a bit of a mess. I’ve mentioned this in previous reviews of the series, but the series has been plotted poorly at times, dumping information, character interactions, and reveals on the reader in an unbalanced way. Leading up to this issue, I doubted the biggest reveal at all — that Bruce Wayne was never a Wayne at all — and that’s in part because Azrael and Batman never actually faced off long enough to solidify this truth. Batman has gone on blind faith based on a few clues that this is true. It blows up the concept of the character in a negative way. This issue is no different rushing into a car chase, a few forced interactions with Batman barely revealing any truth of himself, and then rushing again into more action.
This issue hammers home the idea that Gotham needs a Batman, whether or not it’s Bruce Wayne. This is a theme we’ve seen in Christopher Nolan’s movies, but as a character study the series has failed the character. The unbalanced plotting has also made the Harley and Bruce relationship weaker than it should be, giving it some attention in this finale but nothing that rings true. Toss in the fact that Joker was just sort of there and then plucked away, or how Batman has gone solo leaving his family sort of dangling out there and you’ll find yourself a bit lost in the muck of what this all means. Not enough time has been spent inside Bruce’s head to understand him nor believe in any action he takes. By the end of this issue, I’d even question if Gotham even needs Batman at all.
Having recently rewatched The Dark Knight it’s uncanny to see the similarities of this world and its ideas. Unfortunately, focusing so heavily on the symbol of Batman rather than the man himself has made the narrative boring, losing touch with the connective tissue we can relate to.