O'Neil (w), Robinson (p), Pascoe (i)
Reviewed by JYD
Where is "Azrael" going--could someone please fill me in? Is this a secret I'm missing out on? Is it possible he's actually moving BACKWARDS in terms of development? I really have no idea what's going on in this series--all I know is that JP is...not your average superhero. In fact, I would say he is not a superhero at all. He seems more on the lines of a spokesperson for all those anti-violence groups out there. Let's face it, we have all of two pages of fight scenes (pgs. 18-19) in the issue that's supposed to move JP out of NML and into the new millenium. And in these two pages...JP...doesn't fight at all... The people over at Marvel must be scratching their heads over this one. What the heck is going on here?
I had lots of problems with this issue and I apologize for not voicing them sooner. Just be glad I managed to get around to them. First of all, is that not the most trite and contrived "bumping into" scene in Batman comics history when JP and Brian meet? I mean heck...what is going on here? This isn't the Waltons! And then there's the deal with the whole cathedral and Batman's obligatory cameo appearance--forced! The dialogue also was something that seemed even clumsier than usual. Does everyone need to speak in blocks of language containing the minimum amount of words possible? I felt like I was in the midst of a grunt session. And then to top it off we have three mooks who "conviniently" run into JP twice, Leslie Thompkins boring appearance, and a HUGE step back in the relationship b/t JP and Batman.
What's going on here? Does Denny remember anything he accomplished over the past year and a half? I mean I knew "Azrael" had problems in terms of development, but it's almost inane to believe JP would be treated in such of a churlish manner by his "mentor." And when did JP suddenly have control over the mantle of the bat for a year (in the "background summary" for first-time readers)? The only good thing I can think of for this issue was that it was a profoundly realized stepping on point for first time readers. It was at least 10 times for effective when compared to the amazingly dense serial "Starman" or how complicated "Black Panther" became over its 16 issues. The only large problem is that "Azrael" didn't hold a spark of ingenuity. If it wasn't for the artwork and semi-imaginative layouts Robinson has going (but I still feel he has degressed over the past 30 odd issues), I doubt I would pick this issue up again (from the perspective of a first-time reader).
I'm not asking for action and violence. I don't think JP should necessarily "change" the situation he's in (the "agent" of the bat). What I do STRONGLY feel is that he's been stuck in neutral for well over two years--ever sense he separated from Lilhy after he defeated Bane he's been a zombie. And then there was a good 30 issue stretch before that of comatose development. I have no idea what to do with "Azreal"! I have no suggestions to jump start its sluggishness! When I compare it to another title that started right around the same time, "Starman," I can see a massive canyon of differences between the two, even though each are unlikely heroes who rebelled initially against a parental figure pushing the role onto them and have chosen to deal with this decision. "Starman" has a huge cast with a dozen subplots, yet comparred to where where Jack Knight was 62 issues ago, JP is still somewhere around issue #8 or 9.
Some have had problems w/ the whirlwind of guest appearances and cameos--I never had until I had a chance to step back from it all. JP will NEVER develop as a character if he is constantly overshadowed by the "guest star of the month," the Batgirls and Huntresses. And if this is the case, that JP just DOESN'T DO MUCH OF ANYTHING anymore besides wander the streets musing over his past, wonder how to face his old friends, and struggle between his urge to commit violence and his role model (Leslie) who tries to refore him, I'm going to have to make a decision over how much I want to keep reading this book. Think about it--while the NML issues were excellent initially, it remained the same tune all 12 issues--and now, post-NML, what do we have? JP is dealing with the exact same problems, including ones he was still wrestling with in the 30 or so issues PRE-NML. Re-read the story with Gilda the witch (the "monstermaker" one)--substitute Leslie for the witch and we have practially the same story, but instead JP is actually defeating evil rather than wrestling with himself. Do we want this neverending struggle with inner angst and demons? Are you OK with spending, now, $2.50 for a monthly book starring an non-hero who debates his every action--and has been doing so for 62 issues? Is this ever going to change?
Now, I have yet to read issues #63 and 64 (w/ the Huntress and his old costume) so I can't tell you whether anything has changed. Also, Mr.Scowl himself, Sergio Cariello, is coming to draw the series as of #69. Great--just what the series needs, an artist who turns everyone into one big frown (see "The Arrow and the Bat" for further elaboration on this one). To tell you truth, I have NO idea where the hell this series is going, but, based on its past, I have a feeling we aren't going to see a change in any sort in JP until issue #100 (if it gets that far). Warren Ellis was right--superhero comics just don't do anything anymore. I'm sure I'm going to hear from GordonHM soon. That's good. Maybe he can explain this all to me. But I don't want to hear the same ideas anyone's had for JP over the past 62 issues--b/c nothing's changed aside from new faces saying the same things, a new costume, and more guest stars stunting any kind of growth in JP that probably wounldn't have happened anyways. This is getting almost as bad as "Catwoman" was before I dropped that.
The JYD's grade: "Azrael" #62--B -