Azrael #1


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Azrael #1


  • Words: Fabian Nicieza
  • Art: Ramon Bachs
  • Inks: John Stanisci
  • Colors: JD Smith
  • Story Title: Angel in the Dark
  • Publisher: DC Comics
  • Price: $2.99
  • Release Date: Oct 21, 2009

Azrael is back. Or at least an Azrael. Young Michael Lane is wearing the armor this time and his fight is against the sins of his immediate predecessor, Batman, and since he was a cop, possibly Internal Affairs.

Those who know me well, know there is a deep dark hole in my knowledge of comics. Pretty much all of the Nineties fills that hole. The stories that are lucky enough to get collected are read by me as I get around to them, but Azrael is kind of a new thing to me. I knew that Bats got his back broken and this guy was one of the guys who tried to fill his shoes. Thus ends my prior knowledge of the character.

For me, that lack of baggage means that Mr. Lane gets a clean slate from me. I got a taste during the dark and captivating Azrael mini during Battle for the Cowl and of course, the recent Detective and Batman Annuals were a great introduction to this incarnation of the armored vigilante.

Here’s the catch though, Nicieza wrote an interesting mystery in that two part story from that last couple of weeks. Here there is no real mystery. Instead the reader gets a jumbled plot made worse by an artificial story device. Part of the story happens now - Azrael hunts down an Assassin Priest (I don’t know why this was green lit, maybe DC worried they were losing the Dan Brown audience); and in the future - Bullock and his partner investigate a bloody trail that leads them to investigate one of their own. Just to make it all a little less tangible, there is also a cryptic flashback to Lane’s childhood.

All the while, there is talk of a secret order, haunted armor and nun muggings. There is a cameo by the Dark Knight and one indecipherable scene between Lane and his baby’s mama. It all lacks a point or at least clarity. To make matters worse, the narrative starts at the beginning and the end of the story. An odd choice for a book not sporting an "of X" suffix to its issue number.

Bachs and Stanisci give the book an edgy style. It recalls Eastman and Laird’s work on the early Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. It is gritty; and accentuated by Smith’s colors, it does more to set the mood of the story than the script does. In much the same way, the coloring is a better cue to the time setting of the book than the frankly confusing narrative boxes that are supposed to help the reader know when things are happening.

Don’t get me wrong, it is quite possible that Nicieza is falling prey to being too ambitious and most of these problems will work themselves out as the story is allowed to progress. One can only hope, because if not, this book is destined for a very short shelf life.

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