The Batman corner of the DCU is full of wild and fascinating characters. One of the most interesting is the religious zealot and assassin Azrael- a violent young man seeking redemption for the sins he’s committed. In Sword of Azrael #1, Jean-Paul Valley returns to his own series for the first time in years.
Dan Watters, Nikola Cizmesija, Marissa Louise, and Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou bring violence and penitence to the DCU.
Jean-Paul Valley has forsaken Azrael. He seeks atonement at a monastery as far from Gotham as he can find. Unfortunately, trouble and violence finds him, forcing him to make a choice to unleash the Avenging Angel or let his new family suffer and bleed…
I have read very little Azrael. His titular introduction, a chunk of Knightsquest and a few guest appearances in books like Batman and Robin in the 90’s is about it. That meant I didn’t know what I was getting with this book. Immediately, Watters has made me a fan.
Jean-Paul is much more sympathetic here- the biggest conflict is struggling to control the System (which Watters implies might be a form of dissociative identity disorder that the Order of St Dumas took advantage of). His use of religious symbolism is its best meaning that amid the violence and heroics is something much deeper. Watters creates a take on the character you can’t help but root for, but also be scared of.
Cizmesija is new to me, but his cartoony style makes the action and violence really pop off the page. His storytelling is great, with layouts and figurework that are easy to follow, even without Watters’ script and Otsmane-Elhaou lettering work. Even better are the fantastic designs he puts on the page, particularly with how Azrael manifests in his psyche- a stunning two page reveal that Cizmesija ensures is breathtaking, particularly with Louise’s coloring.
Louise does a great job through out, but really shines in the sequence within Jean-Paul’s head. She makes it feel like a white-hot room, and helps create a sense of scale along with the pencils. Otsmane-Elhaou also puts in great work, but a highlight is the battling narration as Jean-Paul holds the System back as he takes a beating.
This is the kind of Bat-family story we need more of- something tangentially related to the Dark Knight, but can stand on its own. I greatly enjoyed this issue and can’t wait for more.
Sword of Azrael #1 is available now from DC Comics.
A violent delight of a Batman spin-off. This is the sort of Batman story that is worth telling while standing apart as its own thing.