Review: Azrael #1

Azrael

I didn’t read the two Annuals leading up to this launch, despite the last one featuring the Question and Huntress, two characters for whom I share more than a passing fondness.  The extremely heightened price tag and my so-so interest in Azrael, combined with the fact that I prefer a tongue-in-cheek Nicieza to a grim-n-gritty one, made them fairly skippable.  But Nicieza does still have some good will with me, and the Batman-family relaunches have been fairly interesting to follow, so it seemed worthwhile to give the main title a shot.

Nicieza’s writing here seems to be all over the place.  There are some aspects of it that are stellar, including a bizarre, memorable cliffhanger, and there are some that are downright ridiculous, like the fact that the cliffhanger happens ‘6 months, 6 days, and 6 hours’ after… I’m assuming that ‘Now’ always refers to the start of the issue, but it is nonetheless a clumsy device used by a writer trying to be too cute by half.  The bulk of the issue falls somewhere in between those two extremes, with a quickly-solved mystery that largely functions as an examination of how Azrael will operate and a very brief introduction to Azrael’s seemingly bland supporting cast.

Ramon Bachs is almost certain to be the subject of a great deal of argument amongst the book’s readers.  His broad, cartoonish style hurts some of the books slower moments, and give some of the action sequences a fairly stiff, posed quality that takes away from the excitement.  However, alongside inker John Stanisci and colorist JD Smith, he also manages to create some genuinely memorable images, whether it’s the single, bright red band on Bullock’s hat in the otherwise sepia-colored flash forwards or the crackling afterglow of Azrael’s swords.

Overall, Azrael is a strange book.  An awkwardly-conceived religious warrior with a pair of magic swords, he doesn’t seem to fit Gotham’s image terribly well, and a lack of consistency may turn off potentially interested readers.  Nicieza appears to have some solid ideas as to where he wants to take the book, but he offers little evidence that he’ll be able to consistently keep the book interesting long enough to pull an audience with him.

Grade: C

– Cal Cleary

Foilball’s Review Roundup #46 – DC Events: Batman R.I.P. & Final Crisis!

So, my laptop died yesterday. I only mention this because for the immediate future, there will not be scans to accompany my reviews. You see, my scanner doesn’t work with XP 64 or Vista, and seeing as how I just spent 800 bucks on a new laptop (w/Vista), it may be a few weeks ‘til I can grab an affordably price compliant scanner. Oh, I also need a new printer, but that isn’t really relevant to you guys. Anyway, on with the scan-less reviews.

Batman #679 (****)

Finally! An issue of RIP I can understand! I’m so late on this, and everyone else has said everything worth saying, I’ll keep this short. The Batman of Zur-en-arrh is OUTSTANDING FUN! Dude, he cuts out his own tooth!?! Converses with imaginary gargoyles and Bat-Mites!?! Beats the living crap out of everybody!?! And next, The Joker!?! OMG!!! I approve.

Detective Comics #847 (****)

This issue, Dini continues with the telling (or is that re-telling?) of the “Origin of Hush”. So far, I like it. I like it better than the rushed garbage that was the introductory Jeph Loeb story (even if it was 12 issues of Jim Lee). But, I don’t like how civil Selina and Zatanna were. I was definitely looking forward to that fight. How do you guys feel about the Scarecrow retcon? Is this cool? I’m on the fence. I need more input. But, so far, like the rest of his run, I’m enjoying this arc.

Robin #176 (****)

Whoa, is this better than the first issue? Hell yes! My favorite stuff, and the RIP junk is nice but I really don’t care about it so much in a book starring Robin, anyway, the best stuff about Fabian’s run so far is that, unlike Dixon, he’s got Tim acting exactly as you’d expect a teenager to act in response to the return of a presumed dead girlfriend. RIGHT!?! He finally admits that he’s pissed at her. Screw Batman RIP, this is what I want from my Robin. Robin’s inability or refusal to act like a real person was one of my biggest complaints about the Dixon stuff, and I’m glad Batman editorial or Fabian or both have decided to do something about it. Well done, sirs.

Nightwing #147 (***)

Um, how does this tie-in to Batman RIP? And where the hell has Two-Face been since One Year Later? Please, explain. Aaaaand, I still hate the way Tomasi writes Dick, er, Richard. Whatever. Maybe Tomasi can only write villains? His black Adam was crazy scary as was his Mongul, and the villains in the “Manhunter Memorial” tie-in were spot on, but his Green Lanterns SUCK, his Justice League SUCKS and his Richard Grayson SUCKS. DC, give this man a villain book!

Final Crisis: Revelations #1 (****)

This was very nice. Spectre killing bad guys? FINALLY! Anyone else grossed out by the way Spectre deals with Effigy and Dr. Light? Oh, since they’re dead, does that mean they’ll both show up in Reign in Hell? That would be cool. What else was cool, how about more infos on Libra? SWEET! Who is this guy? Seriously! The revelation is gonna be sick, I tell you. Oh, is that what the title is referring to? Mayhaps. Question was in here as well, and that stuff was nice, but I’m still not sold on her character. It’s well written, but I just don’t care about Montoya. Since this is a tie-in mini that Grant specifically asked Rucka to write for him, I’m reasonably sure that by the end, we’ll come to view this series as fundamentally essential to the Final Crisis epic. It’s definitely been the best of the tie-ins so far, although I have yet to read Legion…

Final Crisis: Director’s Cut #1 (****1/2)

Why buy this? A number of reasons, actually. 1) The black and white J.G. Jones pencils are A-M-Z-I-N-G. Just, WOW. Without the color and the word balloons, his skill really shows through. And if you had any questions about what was going on, these uncluttered pages answer them. I would definitely buy a hardcover like this. Seriously. It’s like the Ultimate DVD Special Edition. 2) Full Morrison Script. And, um, CRAP this is hard to read. I feel sorry for Jones. Seriously, this stuff is insane with the heavy. The description of the “Orrery of Worlds” is migraine-inducing. 3) By far, the best reason to buy this is the interview with Morrison and Jones in the back. The comments are revealing to say the least. Morrison and Jones explain scene and dialogue choices, metaphors, motivations, as well as hints of things to come. Usually, these Director’s Cuts are a lame attempt to grab more cash, but in this case, if you’re trying to decipher the mystery that is Final Crisis, this is a must-buy. For real though, this is by no means necessary reading. BUT, if you are already enjoying this series, this is definitely worth checking out. Or, wait for the hardcover/omnibus/abosulte edition. I’m sure it’ll be reprinted in there.