I write comic book reviews that NOBODY has ever asked for!
Let me tell you something. It ain't easy being a defender of Azrael.
That said. . .I'm a pretty big Azrael fan, and guess what? I thought he was a decent Batman too.
Yeah, I know. DC has pretty much admitted that they specifically created Azrael in a sort of "You want this? You got this." response to constant reader demands to make Batman more grim, gritty, and generally 90's - tastic. But I liked Azrael, and I liked Azrael as Batman, and I liked Azrael AFTER comic fans were like "Whoa, now! Give us back the old Batman, please."
BUT. . .
That was Jean Paul Valley Azrael. THIS is a whole DIFFERENT Azrael, introduced as part of the "Battle For The Cowl" event, where everyone thought Batman had died in Final Crisis (but he was really travelling through time and Grant Morrison's mind) as one of the handful of tie-in mini's that came along with that merry mess.
So. . .new Azrael. Is it any good? Let's find out!
AZRAEL: DEATH'S DARK KNIGHT (DC)
Michael Lane. . .former Marine, GCPD beat cop, and part of a secret program to replace Batman. A broken man who has lost everyone and everything he loves. His tragic past leads the Order of Purity to offer him a purpose and a chance at redemption by becoming their Avenging Angel. . .Azrael.
Like the last "Battle For The Cowl" tie-in mini that I reviewed (Oracle: The Cure), this is not so much a big part of THAT story as it is an epilogue to ANOTHER story. In Oracle's case it was Final Crisis, in this case, it's Batman: R.I.P.
The main character, Michael Lane, was one of the three replacement Batmen that the GCPD and the military were training in case Batman fell, and who came under the influence of Dr. Hurt as part of his plan to destroy Batman.
So. . .once again in a "Battle For The Cowl" mini, you're gonna need to wiki up on past storylines.
That said. . .it's not a bad start. Not that it's a particularly GOOD start either. It's really pretty average. Lane's transformation from a broken wreck of a man into a guy shouting about how he's Azrael, Avenging Angel and jumping into battle with Talia Al Ghul's motley band of mercenaries she's sent to recover the stolen "Suit of Sorrows" (which leads one to have to wiki up the "Resurrection of Ra's Al Ghul" story) takes place in the course of about 3 panels.
It's like one minute Lane is in the graveyard not wanting to talk to his sister in law because he's so sad, the next minute, he's like "GET SOME!"
But other than the extremely rushed transformation, the origin of Michael Lane Azrael isn't bad. The art is dark and moody, fitting the story well, but there really aren't any moments of brilliance.
Overall, this first issue of the new Azrael's origin was pretty average. Not bad, not great. The backstory requires knowledge of past storylines to fully understand, but even without that knowledge it's not too hard to figure out. Unfortunately, the bland story and art didn't really excite me for reading the next issue.
Michael Lane learns the truth about the cursed armor he wears from Talia Al Ghul. . .that every Azrael who has worn it has gone insane.
Another pretty average issue with a few headscratching moments thrown in the mix.
After Talia Al Ghul goes to all the trouble of tracking down the stolen Suit of Sorrows and then having her merry band of mercenaries attack The Order of Purity. . .she sits down for drinks with Lane and tells him all about the curse on the suit, then just sort of. . .goes away. What?
And then at the end of the book, Lane just sort of casually strolls into the Batcave. One would think there would be some sort of security down there. I'd hate to think my friggin' CAR has more security than a crimefighter's secret high-tech hideaway filled with billions of dollars worth of stuff.
But WTF moments aside, this second issue was pretty much like the first. . .extremely average, with decent art that doesn't really have any great moments either.
After a confrontation in the Batcave ending with Azrael defeated and part of his memory erased, Nightwing and Talia Al Ghul come to an agreement to continue letting Michael Lane operate as Azrael in Gotham, for. . .reasons?
So here we are at the big finish for the origin of the new Azrael. And it definitely lives up to the title of the story. . .Why Ask Why?
A lot of things happen in this issue for no real reason except to cram a new Azrael into DC continuity, tie up loose threads from previous stories, and set things up for the promised new ongoing Azrael series. There's quite a bit of WTF in this issue, but it's all presented in such a bland "this happened and then this happened" manner that it sort of. . .happens. There's nothing exciting or particularly interesting about the events.
Overall, I'd have to say that this was probably one of the most uninteresting new character introductions I've read. It was so utterly average in every way that I really had no interest in finding out what happens next. Not that it was BAD, it just wasn't that good. It's just sort of. . .there.
So what we have here is ANOTHER Battle For The Cowl mini that is actually less of a Battle For The Cowl tie-in and more of an epilogue for another story written by Grant Morrison during his days of tainting Batman with his peculiar brand of insanity. . .in this case, it's Batman R.I.P. that you'll have to wiki up on to fully understand the references in this story.
That aside. . .
The story at hand has to be one of the most uninteresting character introductions I've ever read. It's not bad, and the art fits the story nicely, but it's all presented in such a bland way that it seems like a minor miracle to me that after this mini DC decided to go ahead with an ongoing Azrael series with this new version of the character. Was there REALLY that much reader interest? Or were they just like, "Here's your new Azrael. . .whether you want him or not." I don't really understand.
Up next. . .
Let's take a look at the confusing question of how an uninteresting introduction led to an 18 issue ongoing series. DC's 2009 Azrael. . .the Azrael nobody asked for, but we got anyway!
Be there or be square.
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