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Azrael: Death’s Dark Knight #3 [Review]

Quick Rating: Below Average
Story Title: Book Three: Why Ask Why?

The stage is set for things to come as the new Azrael battles Nightwing.

azraeldeathsdarkknight003Writer: Fabian Nicieza
Artist: Frazer Irving
Letters: Sal Cipriano
Asst. Editor: Janelle Siegel
Editor: Mike Marts
Cover: Guillem March
Publisher: DC Comics

This issue, we get the battle between Nightwing and this new Azrael. We also get some further look into the “politics” and “origins” of the sect of the Order behind this new Azrael. Following the battle, we have a bunch of jammed-together scenes that don’t feel all that organic, but put stuff into place for the coming-soon ongoing Azrael series.

The art remains stylistic–not horrible, but not particularly thrilling. It definitely sets this book off from the other Bat-books, and sets a certain tone that I can’t quite put to words.

Story-wise, I’m not impressed. If this were in itself the third issue of an already-ongoing series, I might feel differently about it. As-is, I feel slightly hoodwinked, jumping on for a 3-issue mini that I thought would tie closely to Battle for the Cowl. What I got is something that is loosely tied to that story and an ending that doesn’t affect that story and simply tells me to follow more of this story in a new Azrael book.

This does definitely establish that there is a new Azrael and he’s not being abandoned after this brief story; if you’re interested in the concept, this isn’t a bad series…just look at this as a “pilot” and the rest of the series will pick up soon.

If you’ve not already picked up the first couple issues, this is not worth getting, and at this point, you may as well wait for a collected volume.

Ratings:

Story: 2/5
Art: 2/5
Overall: 2/5

Azrael: Death’s Dark Knight #2 [Review]

Quick Rating: Decent but not wonderful
Story Title: Book Two: Give and Take

The new Azrael’s costume is in demand…

azraeldeathsdarkknight002Writer: Fabian Nicieza
Artist: Frazer Irving
Letters: Sal Cipriano
Asst. Editor: Janelle Siegel
Editor: Mike Marts
Cover: Guillem March
Publisher: DC Comics

After so looking forward to this book…and generally being a fan of Nicieza‘s work, this issue leaves me quite disappointed. Especially for the fact that I had to practically re-read the thing to try to tell what exactly is going on–whatever larger plot, I’m apparently not picking up on it all that much.

The new Azrael’s costume is an old suit of armor, apparently cursed…and very much in demand, whether or not the man in the suit likes it…and the story seems to move around that and how the person wearing the suit is affected.

This issue’s art in and of itself is not bad–it’s nothing spectacular, but at the same time it is far from dissatisfying. No specific complaints on this aspect of the book.

Story-wise, I can’t help but wonder if I’m having trouble following things because of not being steeped in Azrael’s story. I know the original character from the Knightfall stuff, and read a couple other issues here or there–the Gotham Earthquake, stuff during No Man’s Land, as well as the final issue. Other than playing with some small toys placed in the larger Batman sandbox, this feels quite irrelevant to the Battle for the Cowl, and at a mere 3 issues–of which I’ve now read 2–I don’t know how the ending’s going to be at all satisfying…this almost needs to be 4 or more issues.

I dislike blatantly decompressed stories–those stretched several issues beyond what they need to be. This issue seems almost the opposite–I feel like we’re at best just starting to get an idea of what’s going on, and already the next issue is supposed to be the ending of the story.

I don’t particularly recommend this issue in itself. If you can snag it with the first issue and the third issue when that comes out, I imagine it might make for a decent one-sitting read. And perhaps the next/final issue will shed more light on things and make character more distinctive and memorable.

As-is, though, this issue–even with its cliffhanger–doesn’t even excite me enough to have me looking forward to that next issue.

Unless you’re coming to the Battle for the Cowl with a completist mentality, I think it’s safe to say you could avoid this book without really missing out on anything.

Ratings:

Story: 2/5
Art: 3/5
Overall: 2/5

Batman: Battle for the Cowl #3 [Review]

Quick Rating: Average
Story Title: Last Man Standing

The final battle (for the cowl) unfolds here, and we have a winner.

batmanbattleforthecowl003Written and Drawn by: Tony S. Daniel
Inks: Sandu Florea
Colors: Ian Hannin & JD Smith
Lettering: Jared K. Fletcher
Asst. Editor: Janelle Siegel
Editor: Mike Marts
Covers: Tony S. Daniel
Publisher: DC Comics

I feel like I’ve missed something…as somehow, this issue picks up from a point that I wasn’t expecting it to.

Basically, Nightwing and The Network set about dealing with this “new player” on the scene that has played them for fools (while they’d spent their time/efforts dealing with the Penguin/Two-Face feud). Nightwing tracks down Jason (Todd–the gun-toting Batman) and the two battle it out with Jason claiming Tim’s death; meanwhile, Alfred “enables” Damian to fulfill another role. And by issue’s end (barely!) we have a new Batman.

The art on this issue is quite good–I’ve enjoyed Daniels‘ art, especially his Batman work. While his style may not be for everyone, I enjoyed it and think it fits the story quite well, while not being bad on the eyes.

The story on the other hand has been downhill. The story itself felt rushed, like we were hitting upon a checklist of points to get to a prescribed ending. I’ve really never “felt” any attachment to the reincarnated Jason Todd, though for what little I’d followed the character, I expected more. Here, he came across as no more than just another take on the KnightsEnd Jean-Paul Valley/Azrael from way-back-when.

I don’t feel like this issue lived up to expectation. While yes, it does deliver on telling us who the new Batman is, that happens at the very end of the issue and actually feels tacked-on; I would have expected to see an issue given to watching the actual transformation of the character–the transition–from “old identity” to new, as a situation played out. So much potential, but pretty much wasted in the execution. Given the way it played out, I’m not convinced this 3-parter could not have been told across several issues of Batman and/or Detective Comics for a quick transition. As a mini-series, this is little but “transition” and does not feel like an actual, complete story was told.

Unless you’ve already picked up the first couple issues and/or want “the entire story,” this probably isn’t worth picking up; I suspect much better stories to come within the new status quo in the various Bat-related books this summer. At the least, don’t pick this up expecting a complex, moving story, as you’re likely to be quite disappointed.

Ratings:

Story: 2/5
Art: 3.5/5
Overall: 2.5/5

Batman: Battle for the Cowl #2 [Review]

Quick Rating: Decent
Story Title: Army of One

The gun-toting Batman’s identity is revealed as the actual battle for the (right to the) cowl begins in earnest.

batmanbattleforthecowl002Written and Drawn by: Tony S. Daniel
Inks: Sandu Florea
Colors: Ian Hannin
Lettering: Jared K. Fletcher
Asst. Editor: Janelle Siegel
Editor: Mike Marts
Covers: Tony S. Daniel
Publisher: DC Comics

Last issue left off with our heroes facing a gun-toting Batman that had been spreading his own brand of fear in Gotham City. Nightwing and Damian confront this cowl-claimant, and Nightwing reveals who is behind the mask. Meanwhile, Tim Drake in a different Batman costume does things his own way, and comes across an old ally. Two-Face and Penguin are manipulated, and Tim finds what he is seeking, and enters his own battle for the cowl, as the gun-toter firmly acknowledges an agenda.

For me, the best part of this issue is definitely the art. It’s not perfect, and seems less-detailed in places…but overall is some of the better art I can think of when it comes to Batman-related stuff. Whatever depth the story itself has, the art fits the story, and gets across what’s going on–I don’t really ask much more than that of art in a comic.

The story is a bit rougher. On the one hand I really want to like this, as it’s supposed to be this major story in the Bat-verse and all that. But at this point, I’ve already decided who I want to see “win” by story’s end, and am not as interested as I’d thought in how we get to that status quo. Daniel definitely has a good handle on the art–and though his story isn’t all that deep, it is understandable and fairly straight-forward.

Overall, this is feeling almost like it’s just a transition-story…it offers some quick explanation of how the status-quo-to-come will be what it is, but doesn’t actually feel like it’s all that organic in development. (Perhaps I’ve gotten too used to the six-issue-arc model of many comics these days).

Recommended if you’ve already been following the story…nothing in this screams “check me out!” in and of itself, though.

Ratings:

Story: 3/5
Art: 3/5
Overall: 3/5

Batman: Battle for the Cowl #1 [Review]

Quick Rating: Good
Story Title: A Hostile Takeover

In Batman’s absence, Gotham City has deteriorated despite Nightwing and Robin calling in backup from outside the usual bunch of costumed do-gooders operating in the city.

batmanbattleforthecowl001Written and Drawn by: Tony S. Daniel
Inks: Sandu Florea
Colors: Ian Hannin
Lettering: Jared K. Fletcher
Asst. Editor: Janelle Siegel
Editor: Mike Marts
Cover: Tony S. Daniel
Publisher: DC Comics

At this point in the overall story, Batman is gone/presumed dead by his closest allies. Even Gotham City as a whole has noticed the absence of Batman, as the underworld and gangs have gotten so bad that police officers are quitting rather than face being a cop in Gotham. Nightwing and Robin have called in other costume heroes for backup, though it is apparent that more than just a guy in a costume fighting crime so that there’s less, Batman has become a necessary entity in Gotham; the absence of which has tipped the balance against the non-criminal.

This issue–the first of only three (as opposed to the seems-like-standard 6-7)–seems to mostly be setup. We’re introduced to the major players–primarily Nightwing and Robin, as well as the other characters playing a role in this unfolding drama; for the most part, there’s at least token appearance of basically any “Bat Family” character you’d expect–or at least the characters are mentioned. I’d expected set-up, and the appearance of a lot of characters. However, I’d expected a bit more of an immediate confrontation to be kicked off, and was met instead with more development.

This story–written by longtime Bat-artist Tony Daniel–seems to play quite well in the playground established by Morrison during his run on the main Batman book, while also interacting with characters from outside–AND actually making sense on the first read-through. While characterization doesn’t seem to fully acknowledge long-term continuity (I’m a bit torn, for example, as to whether or not I think it’d serve the story well to reference 1994’s Prodigal arc in which Dick had temporarily taken over as Batman).

In addition to the writing, Daniel also does the art for the book. Said art comes across quite well, and the product provided by the entire art time (including inks and colors) is a visual that while not the best I’ve ever seen, is still solid, good work. Characters all come across clearly and distinctly, except for one panel that took me a moment to realize was Damian.

On the whole, this is a good start to Battle for the Cowl. It looks like most of the title’s actual battle for said cowl is going to be in the 2nd and/or 3rd issues. Despite being largely setup, this issue still has a lot packed into it that will hopefully pay off in the next couple issues.

Though this is a $3.99 book, there are 30 pages of story, which is just enough to keep me from crying foul. Whether you followed Morrison‘s Batman or Final Crisis (or not), you shouldn’t have much trouble picking up with this issue and enjoying the ride–all you need to know is that Bruce is gone and he has left a void.

Overall recommended, unless you’re specifically avoiding all “event” books or simply have zero interest in the Batman family of characters and how they deal with losing Batman.

Ratings:

Story: 3.5/5
Art: 4/5
Overall: 4/5

A Multi-Panel cover image done RIGHT

Rediscovered this over the weekend: the covers to Batman: Battle for the Cowl #s 1-3 fit together to make a single, large 3-panel image.

And thankfully, rather than serve as 3 variants to any single image of the mini-series…each stands on its own and serves as a single cover for DIFFERENT issues each.

I only had to purchase ONE copy of EACH issue, and by getting the entire 3-issue mini, I got the entire image.

REALLY wish this practice was followed in general.

Batman #687 [Review]

A Battle Within: an epilogue to Battle for the Cowl

Writer: Judd Winick
Penciller: Ed Benes
Inker: Rob Hunter
Colors: Ian Hannin & JD Smith
Letterer: Jared K. Fletcher
Assistant Editor: Janelle Siegel
Editor: Mike Marts
Cover: Tony Daniel, Sandu Florea (variant by JG Jones)
Publisher: DC Comics

Though this issue boasts the Batman: Reborn banner at the top of its cover, it actually ought to be labelled with the Battle for the Cowl logo, the word “epilogue” clearly spelled out beneath. Though this issue takes place after the events of the Battle for the Cowl mini, it’s not all that firmly set into the territory of this new Batman: Reborn “era.”

We open on a flashback of Bruce and Dick, then move into Dick and Damian, juxtaposing the two relationships. We also see Alfred reacting to changes, as well as Dick and Tim having words over Damian’s new role as Robin (reminds me just a bit of things during the early issues of KnightQuest: The Crusade back in 1993). We also get to see Dick in action, having accepted the need for a Batman while still struggling to embrace the cowl. Damian shows his brashness, and Dick–as Batman–reveals himself to the city as he shows up to face the Scarecrow.

The story is fairly straightforward. It’s not all that moving exactly–I definitely wish that Final Crisis had not had the epilogue it did–better to have been left guessing at the truly definitively final fat of Bruce to make this stuff more moving and impactful. It is nice, however, to see some of these moments happening given how entirely RUSHED the ending of Battle for the Cowl felt.

The art’s quite high-end…it’s good to get Benes’ art again on something I’m reading; I’ve enjoyed his work pretty much since I first started recognizing it in particular.

As an epilogue story, this will probably be more enjoyable/fitting for longer-time readers (particularly those who followed the Battle for the Cowl stuff in any form). The next issue I believe will kick off the action within the new status quo, and so will probably be a better jumping-on point for new readers.

Not a bad issue, but nothing to get terribly excited over.

Story: 7.5/10
Art: 8.5/10
Whole: 8/10

Batman: Battle for the Cowl #3 [Review]

Full review posted to comixtreme.com.

Story: 2/5
Art: 3.5/5
Overall: 2.5/5

Oracle: The Cure #3 [Review]

A Matter of Anti-Life or Death!

Writer: Kevin Vanhook
Pencillers: Julian Lopez & Fernando Pasarin
Inkers: Bit, Norm Rapmund, & Fernando Pasarin
Colorist: Hi-Fi
Letterer: Steve Wands
Assistant Editor: Harvey Richards
Editor: Michael Siglain
Cover: Guillem March
Publisher: DC Comics

Oracle and her new friends take on the Calculator on a high-tech, virtual-reality front. Their battle eventually shifts to the real world, as “the cure” stands revealed.

The art for this issue is consistent with the earlier issues. It’s not a style I’m all that thrilled with–there’s something to the art as a whole that doesn’t quite do it for me; that seems just a bit inconsistent from some panels to others (leaving aside obvious changes to represent what characters are seeing as ‘virtual reality’ in the game-world/internet log). The art is not horrible, but is not what I would seek out, and would not sell me on the issue.

The story is a bit of a cop-out; I’m not sure how much of that is that this series is so SHORT after half a decade of being groomed into acceptance of the 6-issue arc as “standard,” and how much is other stuff. The events seem to be within the realm of what I know of the title character, but at the same time, I just don’t feel that there’s any real enormity to stuff going on; I’m not sold on the necessity of this mini’s existence. You can certainly find worse stories, and probably worse depictions of the character.

As far as story arcs go, and mini-series in general, this seems little more than a weak attempt to “test the waters” for some ongoing series, while tying into/capitalizing on the Battle for the Cowl “event.”

Unless you’re a die-hard Barbara Gordon fan interested in any/all starring-role appearances, I don’t think this series has been essential to the character as yet; if you’ve bought the first two issues of the series, and enjoyed it, no real reason to avoid this final issue.

Story: 6/10
Art: 6/10
Whole: 6/10

Azrael: Death’s Dark Knight #3 [Review]

Full review posted to comixtreme.com.

Story: 2/5
Art: 2/5
Overall: 2/5

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