January 1, 2009

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Batman Sword of Azrael

Written by Dennis O'Neil
Illustrated by Joe Quesada and Kevin Nowlan
DC Comics

Oh wow. There's a nasty rumour that DC wants to put Azbats back in the cowl. Before they do that, I urge them to go back and re-read this mini-series and remember just how awful the Azrael idea truly is.

There's a lengthy introduction by the late Archie Goodwin kinda trying to justify the idea of Azrael, though he never stops to explain *why* Batman needed replacing. If it was because Batman wasn't edgy enough (we're in the age of Image-by-Liefield, Punisher is hot, and the violence notches in comics were seriously ratcheded up), they could have just given him a gun again, like Bob Kane did.

Azrael wasn't needed, and just how poorly he fits into Batman's world is on diplay here.

First, there's the mystical factor. Azrael is tied into saints and demons while Batman is all about logic and science. "I hate magic" is a Batman by-word. That's why when there's a magical clash, like the Demon for instance, it works so well--it's a total contrast. To drag mythical crap--and the Order is about as generic as a mystical cult gets (we don't even see HOW they are mystical!)--into mainstram Bats was a terrible idea.

Second is the horrible secret identity plot holes. Bruce Wayne gives almost no cover story and starts going off as Batman--one time not even in costume!--at the drop of a hat. His explanation--people don't know what Bruce Wayne does--is laughable. This is a man who's an international celebrity. Bruce Wayne jumping into windows? Then Batman sighted just after? You don't have to be Ben Urich to figure that out.

Third is the absolutely shallow characterization of Jean Paul Valley. This is supposed to be his coming out party, but he's no more known by the end when he declares himself to be, well, Jean Paul Valley, than he is when his father drops in with the Azrael costume and a lot of lost blood. He's a man, he's sumlimated into the system, he listens to Deus ex Alfreda (a variation on Deus ex Batmina), and all of a sudden, he's human again.

Confused? Because I sure am, and I just read the thing recently!

Dennis O'Neil is a name with a lot of street cred in the Batman world. But unfortunately, I mostly know him as the person who wrote or edited/planned a lot of really bad Batman ideas. Azrael is the poster child for this. Not even pretty Joe Quesada art can make up for the terrible story that goes from bloody kill scene to bloody kill scene, with so many narration boxes that Chris Claremont would blush. Nothing about it makes sense, and if this was the set up for the whole Azbats thing, it really was doomed from the start.

Please DC, I beg of you--let the Azrael era die, okay? You'll only regret it later, like eating Taco Bell at midnight.