I’m sick. This sucked. Take ‘er away, boys.
If the recession has hit, nobody told Marvel or DC. They keep pumping out more and more titles with little regard to the cropped and controlled distribution of the early decade. I mean, honestly, good for them. They’re apparently doing very well at the moment. I just hope that this boom isn’t crushed by another near-bankruptcy.
The latest on the stack of comics nobody asked for (which includes Fantastic Force and the blue-laser-Superman (I just saw that today wtf?)) is Azrael, who replaced Batman for a time in the early-ninties. The book itself wasn’t too bad, which is a pretty high compliment for a wallet-sucking tangential mini-series.
The story of Michael Lane taking on the mantle of Azrael was suitably dramatic, and the man behind the mask has a rather charged personality which helps make good storytelling. Even so, it wasn’t clear as to why a group would recruit a violent psychotic who admitted to helping kill the Batman for an “opportunity to serve the public good.” The only thing I can think of is that he desires some kind of redemption over something. Killing his family? I don’t know; it was pretty ambiguous.
Another thing that wasn’t very clear was the storytelling itself. It got murky at times, especially toward the ending fight scene, and the reveal was spoiled when all I could think of was “where’d he get the mask?”
Despite its flaws, some of the pacing came off quite well, and the style of the art itself is actually pretty interesting, like ink and watercolor or marker. The colors work well for the mood of the story.
If you’re down with this whole “Battle for the Cowl” thing, you would probably be well-served to pick this up. If not, well, you’ve probably already passed this one by. I mean, it’s Azrael. Who cares?
Why is an Islamic angel of death working for a Catholic cult? I mean, strictly in terms of character names. There’s just no damn reason, really. But hey, there’s no damn reason other than boredom in comics. Someone got bored and made a man named Batman who dressed up in a costume and beat people up.
A bunch of years later, someone got bored and “killed” Batman, or at least made him Captain Cavebatman. Then they got bored and made a storyline to replace him, but they had to do it violently instead of through open tryouts. The answer will likely blindside us or circuitously route us to Dick Grayson. OR maybe he’ll die and it’ll REALLY blindside us.
But anyway. Right, so they call this an event. And events in comic land have spin-offs. You know, for the completists. So they come out with a bunch of books that are really meaningful, to the 20 people reading Knightfall who thought Azrael was going to be an awesome Batman. They say, “WHERE IS AZRAEL IN KNIGHT RIP FOR THE COWL,” because that’s the way they work, Dorito stains on their red gym shorts, typing away on the message board that Slashdot forgot.
Right, so someone writes a script for this shit, and makes it all primed and ready for the 20 fans. And oh are they ready. The rest ignore the series. But those who read it think, hey, this ain’t bad. But that’s what’s weird. It should be bad. By all rights it should be bad. It’s a spin-off miniseries about a character people scantly gave a shit about, if at all. But here it is, being an intriguing introduction. But given the history, given the ringer we were pulled through, we feel that we can’t like it. This has to be shit, because it’s nothing. It’s a non-entity. It’s not supposed to be anything.
But here it is, being something it shouldn’t be. Get past the gloss, get to the story, and the structure itself takes the weaknesses and instead sort of amasses its own self contained mythos. My cynicism got swept away at times. But hey, the other issues still have a chance to abysmally fail.
Well, at least it’s not Jean Paul Valley. Ok, now that I wrote that, I take it back. A part of me really wanted the blonde, whiny, unsure, half human/half grown from a jar, holy science experiment named Jean Paul Valley. I wanted him back as the Avenging Angel for the Order of St. Dumas, but instead we are once again subjected to the surefire DC method of renewing has been characters. Kill them off, and/or retire them and reintroduce us to a more modern version of someone unknown wearing the same mantle. For the most part, this method has worked pretty well for DC. Doctor Midnight, Blue Beetle, Ray, Firestorm, Mr. Terrific, and most of the JSA all come to mind. But there have been some that just don’t work, like Hawk and Dove, Fate, and many who’ve come and gone in the Teen Titans title. Will this method work for our new Azrael? Hmmm…
Let me go back to my first point, it’s not Jean Paul Valley. Jean Paul Valley died at the end of his book in issue #100. No body was ever found, which in comic book terms mean he’s still around and drinking coffee in some Starbucks with Bruce Wayne and Steve Rogers. For a book with the title Azrael, this seems stupid to me. I don’t think Jean Paul was ever really a strong character, but since his appearance in “Batman Sword of Azrael,” this was his mantle. If you know the history of Jean Paul Valley, he’s a manufactured “clone” of sorts, who’s a weapon of the Holy Order of St. Dumas. He came from a bloodline of those bred to become Avenging Angels. But the powers that be decided to go a different route. I’m not sure how I feel about this time. Can DC make this new character as stronger than Jean Paul… probably? If Superman died would DC just throw someone else in his book… wait… If Batman died, um. Ok How about if Green Lantern, no Wonder Woman… crap. Ok, so this isn’t so unusual, but I still don’t like it.
The Plot… Hmmm? Just the other day, I was speaking to some friends, asking, “What ever happened to the storyline about the three Batmen running around in Gotham City?” What ever happened to that story started by Grant Morrison at the beginning of his Batman run? I liked the concept that Gotham’s authorities worry about what would happen to Gotham in the event of Batman’s absence, and train three policemen to fill the void. Why wasn’t that story emphasized more during Grant’s “legendary” run on the book? That was more interesting to me.
Is this book going to be a good series? It’s too early to tell. I don’t think this is a bad book. I see a lot of potential. The art is really dark and very eerie. The almost monochromatic feel to the pages really lends itself to a suspenseful, horror-flick feel. I enjoyed the story and found myself curious about the next issue. But I will probably not pick up any more of these. It just felt forced and overall boring to me. I collected every issue of the old Azrael run, and despite this, this book was very confusing to me. I wanted to like it. I really did. But again, maybe the “Battle for the Cowl” and the ghost of Grant Morrison taints all the Bat books. Or it could be I’m just mad they put an Azrael label on a book that clearly is not Azrael.