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Comic Book / Batman: Curse of the White Knight

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The sequel to Batman: White Knight from writer/artist Sean Murphy, wherein The Joker, now fully "recovered" from his stint as Jack Napier, resolves to ruin everything Batman and Jack started in cleaning up Gotham city's corruption. To this end, he collaborates with the "Elites", a group of Gotham's upper crust that seeks to maintain the profits they gained from Batman's previous war on crime, and together they recruit Azrael to take Batman's place as Gotham's new destructive crime fighter.

Batman is meanwhile still reeling from the events of White Knight, grappling with the prospect of a Gotham that's better off without him and clashing with his allies' insistence that he integrates into the Gotham PD as they have. His doubts only get worse when, in the process of laying waste to Gotham, Joker and Azrael reveal a secret about his lineage that throws into question everything he believed about his family's legacy and his place in it.

Be warned that while the story is not the last White Knight continuity comic, it does serve as a finale to many of the elements that are ubiquitous to the Batman mythos, and as such many of the tropes it contains are major spoilers.

A sequel, Batman: Beyond the White Knight began publication starting March 2022. Inbetween, Batman: White Knight Presents: Harley Quinn was published in 2020-2021, and Batman: White Knight Presents: Red Hood in 2022, both illustrated by artists other than Murphy.

Batman: Curse of the White Knight contains examples of:

  • Adaptational Villainy: Azrael is an Anti-Hero in the mainstream continuity, while here he serves as the secondary and later main villain of the story.
  • Age Lift:
    • Azrael was a college student when he first appeared in the original comics. Here, he's a graying Vietnam veteran with decades of combat experience under his belt.
    • Jason Todd shows up at the very end of the series with a distinctly more rugged and mature appearance (complete with wrinkles) than his youthful twenty-something mainstream counterpart. This is coupled with the revelation in the previous comic that he was Robin before Dick Grayson, rather than after.
  • Anyone Can Die: This series doesn't pull any punches; Azrael kills Gordon at the end of Issue #3, then in Issue #5, he decapitates Bane before going on to murder just about the rest of the Rogues Gallery minus Joker. Then Harley shoots Joker at the end of Issue #6, killing both him and Jack at Jack's request. Although he slits his throat at his urging, Bruce doesn't allow Azrael to die by tending to the throat wound.
  • Awesomeness by Analysis: The moment the Joker sees that Harley was pregnant, he correctly guesses that she is having twins.
  • Biblical Motifs: Azrael's spec ops team the Blood Angels runs on this, each of them having code names based on different angels (Azrael, Gabriel, Michael, etc).
  • Big Bad: The Joker with Azrael acting as The Dragon. After Harley kills Joker, Azrael takes over as the Big Bad for the rest of the story.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Bruce ultimately defeats Azrael, ending his reign of terror and saving Gotham, then surrenders himself to the GCPD for all of his actions and donates all of his money to the city. Bullock gets promoted to Sergeant and the GCPD starts to recruit vigilantes into their force. As Bruce prepares for his trial, he seeks to talk to a certain someone who's been assigned to guard his cell — Jason Todd.
  • The Cameo: Jason Blood was the one who gave Alfred the journal that revealed the truth behind the Wayne family fortune to give to Bruce.
  • Covers Always Lie: The cover of issue #6 shows Bruce Wayne fighting Bane. Bane got decapitated at the end of issue #5.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Azrael kills Bane in three whole pages.
  • Deconstruction: Bruce admits to Harley in Issue #7 that being a one-man army of a vigilante is not as awesome or glamourous as comic books typically make it out to be and that being Batman has all but ruined his chances of having a normal life.
    Bruce: I spend each night on patrol. I spend each day reading crime reports, repairing vehicles, and cleaning the blood off my boots. There's no time to heal and no time to rest because shutting my eyes means letting people die. Batman's completely taken over my life— I can't even shake someone's hand without imagining three different ways of breaking their elbow. I don't know how to be Bruce Wayne anymore— I don't even really know who he is.
  • Death by Adaptation: While traditional Batman villains have been shown dying in other adaptations, Curse of the White Knight gives us a first-time adaptational death for Baby Doll, a Canon Foreigner who originated from Batman: The Animated Series when Azrael murders her in her cell.
  • Dramatic Irony: Gordon chews Batman out for getting Barbara involved in his war on crime when her identity is revealed. Later, after having some time to cool off, he admits that it isn't Batman's fault, he's sorry for blowing his lid, and that he just wants to have a relationship built on trust between them. Unfortunately, the person he thinks is Batman is actually Azrael, who kills him shortly after. So Batman never hears his apology and continues to think Gordon died blaming him.
  • End of an Age: Serves as this to the Batman mythos and many of the iconic elements and characters associated with him, with Wayne Manor and the Batcave being destroyed, Gordon being murdered, and many of Batman's rogues being killed off, with Joker dying last. After all that, Batman's secret identity is exposed and he's soon to be put on trial.
  • Failed a Spot Check: Lampshaded by Gordon after he finds out Barbara is Batgirl. It never occurred to him that he was working alongside his daughter for years just because of a dinky little Domino Mask that did nothing to hide her identity.
  • Foreshadowing: While fighting Azrael in Issue #4, Batman states that the Waynes are the rightful protectors of Gotham and always will be, which prompts Azrael to respond "I agree". This foreshadows the reveal that Bakkar is Bruce's ancestor and that Azrael is really a Wayne.
  • Flaming Sword: The Joker gives Azrael a sword lined with napalm that ignites instantly with the push of a button.
  • Fighting from the Inside: Even when suppressed by the Joker, Jack does not make life any easier for the Clown Prince Of Crime whenever he threatens to go too far, with one particular moment showing Jack partially taking back control to smash a rock into his own face, to stop himself from attacking Harley and their children.
  • Go Mad from the Revelation: It is revealed that the defining moment where Jack Napier became the Joker was when he discovered the "joke" that Laffy wrote on the walls in his dying moments. When Jack Napier has a Moment of Lucidity and tells Harley about it, he makes her promise not to tell Batman for fear that the same thing would happen to him.
  • History Repeats: It is revealed that the Joker was inspired by Lafayette "Laffy" Arkham (to who the Joker actually bears a resemblance to), who has a long-standing conflict and was killed by Bruce's ancestor Edmond Wayne who wielded a whip made from bat-leather.
  • I Cannot Self-Terminate: In Issue #6, Jack gains control long enough to try and kill himself, on the grounds that Joker will never leave Harley and their children alone. When the Joker won't let Jack do it, he begs Harley to instead, and she does.
  • If Jesus, Then Aliens: Barbara thinks that Laffy actually could have been a vampire, arguing that all sorts of weird things prowl the streets of Gotham City and that vampires wouldn't be the weirdest.
  • Joker Immunity: Averted. Harley kills the Joker.
  • Kill and Replace: Ruth and the Elites' plan was for Azrael to quietly kill Bruce Wayne and take his place as Batman. She's quite miffed when he instead goes rogue and causes a major scene by killing Gordon.
  • Looks Like Orlok: Lafayette "Laffy" Arkham was a noble that ran Fort Arkham in the 17th century who suffered from consumption and a spinal hump caused by arthritic inflammation. He would eventually be given a Historical Villain Upgrade over the years, with rumors saying that he was a vampire that hunted children.
  • Moment of Lucidity: Two in the case of Joker and Jack Napier.
    • Harley reveals that she created the pills that temporarily cured Jack after she was received a three of diamonds card (representing Harley herself) with a note written on it that said "Don't give up on me. -J".
    • Batman and Harley try and appeal to Jack Napier's personality, buried deep in the Joker, and fail every time. It is not until she brings her newborn children for him to see in Issue #5 that Jack is able to surface long enough to tell her where the Blood Angels are hiding and the dying message Laffy wrote in his crypt.
  • Mugging the Monster: After failing to blackmail Bruce into going along with the Elites' plan, Ruth simply tries hiring Jean-Paul Valley to replace him. When that doesn't work out due to Valley's tremendous zealotry, she instead hires Bane to dispose of him. Unfortunately, Azrael manages to kill Bane, and tremendously pissed with Ruth, he simply trusses her up and threatens to light her up with his Flaming Sword unless she gives him the names of her clients.
  • Mythology Gag:
  • Papa Wolf: When Joker turns his violent behaviour towards his family and kidnaps his kids to punish Harley, Jack forcibly begins Fighting from the Inside to stop himself from hurting his children. Eventually, Jack tries to kill himself to protect his family from his evil alter ego, but is unable to stay in control long enough to see it through, and resorts to begging Harley for death. She grants him his wish.
  • Shout-Out: Long ago, Edmond Wayne killed Lafayette Arkham with a whip of bat leather. In the present, it's speculated that Laffy was a vampire. If the latter winds up being true, then we have a vampire who was killed with a whip.
  • Sudden Sequel Death Syndrome: In this sequel, Commissioner Gordon and many of Batman's Arkham rogues are abruptly and brutally killed off by Azrael. Joker also dies at the hands of Harley.
  • We Hardly Knew Ye: The White Knight incarnation of Bane shows up to manhandle Azrael, only for him to die in the span of three pages.
  • Wham Episode:
    • Issue #2, Joker crashes Jim Gordon's mayoral campaign and outs his daughter as Batgirl to the public, Batman discovers that Harley is pregnant, and Azrael has the Mad Hatter hack the Batcave, completely destroying it and Wayne Manor.
    • Issue #3 is where Azrael kills Gordon and Harley goes into labor.
    • Issue #5, Azrael (now in his own Batsuit) walks into Arkham and slaughters all of the inmates.
    • Issue #6, The truth is that Bakkar is actually Bruce‚Äôs ancestor, and that he killed Edmond Wayne and stole his identity to rebuild Gotham Valley into Gotham City. Harley also shoots Joker, killing both him and Jack.
    • Issue #7, Bruce unmasks himself and announces that he's dissolving his company and giving away his entire fortune to help Gotham. Then he goes after Azrael, apparently prepared to kill him.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: After Joker reveals that his own daughter was Batgirl, Jim gives her and Batman a serious dressing down for not telling him and for Bruce backing out on his promise to unmask himself to the public.
  • The Worf Effect: How badass is this version of Azrael? He can curb-stomp Bane within three pages.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Played with. Baby Doll is actually an adult in a child's body due to her condition but there was no indication that Azrael knew or cared about this before he plunges a sword into her during his massacre of the Arkham inmates.