Sean Murphy (Script and Art), Matt Hollingsworth (Colours) and AndWorld Designs (Letters).
What do you get the man who has everything? Well, if the man in question is Bruce Wayne, and you're the Joker, it seems the answer is "a rampaging nutter with a flaming sword". Bonus points if you get said "nutjob to blow up his house", too.
Because that's where we find Bruce, as this issue begins, barely escaping Azrael's assault, from the end of Book Two, plunging into the cold water of Gotham Harbour, and generally feeling like things can't get much worse.
Then the GCPD find out his secret identity.
And this is only page 2. Things haven't even STARTED to get bad yet. Batman has yet to feel the true loss, that Azrael is going to bring down on him...
It seems that no one taught Murphy the meaning of the word "Pacing", as from page one of Curse of the White Knight, Book One, this series has just gotten bigger with every issue. The stakes are constantly getting higher, the pace is constantly increasing, the action is constantly getting more savage.
And then, all the while, intertwined with all of this, simmering gently and bubbling away under all the loss, the explosions and the violence, there lies a truly fascinating story. Only hinted at, alluded too, so far but with the potential to change the way we see the Black Label MurphyVerse forever. Already, we've been introduced to Edmund Wayne, first Wayne to settle Gotham. And we've met his nemesis, Lafayette Arkham, whose outlook on life seems so familiar to us all. But now, we have Joker teasing that there is more to this tale. That indeed, the story of these two bitter foes, may have ramifications that echo to this very day, and that just might include the Sacred Order of St Dumas...
I don't know what Murphy is planning, but if the execution is anywhere near as good as this build up, I think we could well be looking at a truly iconic tale of the Dark Knight.
Overall, Book Three has maintained the astounding level of quality I've come to expect from the MurphyVerse, the art and writing were excellent, as always. The interrogation scene between Batman, Joker, and Batman's secret guest was a particular favourite of mine. I especially loved the way Murphy used it to highlight just how different the psychotic Joker is, from the quiet, calm Jack Napier of the last arc.
With the halfway point of the arc approaching next issue, it's clear that Murphy is building towards something explosive. And after the GTO take a particularly memorable trip to the diner, I think I know what's going to happen.
And I CANNOT wait to see it.
Final note: I can't lie. I'm not a "Shipper". It's not something I generally have any interest in. But seeing the interactions between Batman and Harleen, and the way their relationship has evolved since the first Arc. Yeah, I kinda ship it. I hate myself for it. But I ship it...