Sword of Azrael #1 review

So here we are with the first issue of the Sword of Azrael miniseries. If you’d like to read my review of the prelude, Dark Knight of the Soul, you can find it here. I really loved that story so this one has a high standard to live up to. Does it succeed? Let’s see!

First, just let me grumble about the title for a minute. Sword of Azrael? Try looking that up! All you’re going to find is the 90s miniseries Batman: Sword of Azrael. It’s just annoying that nobody could be bothered to think up a new title for this comic. No wonder comic reading orders are confusing!

As far as this story being a continuation of what came before, I have to say I’m a bit let down. This issue starts off with a time jump that resets Azrael’s status quo somewhat. The events of Arkham City: The Order of the World (another great comic written by Dan Watters) are also taken into account to get Jean-Paul to where he is at the beginning of this issue. So despite the re-release of Dark Knight of the Soul there is still more to read to get caught up.

As for how this comic starts, Jean-Paul is now living as a monk on a secluded island. This does result in some good character moments and interactions with the other monks but it also precludes action on Jean-Paul’s part unless it comes to him. I fully expect him to leave the island in the next issue or two, so I don’t really see this becoming a problem. For the time being it also provides the positive of some fabulous backgrounds.

Nikola Cizmesija remains a great choice for this comic. This entire issue shows a great versatility when compared to the environments he drew for the previous story.

Spoiler
Perhaps the biggest point of interest here is how Watters has chosen to portray the System. In the past it always manifested as hallucinations of either Jean-Paul’s father or St. Dumas. Here we see something more akin to a split personality. The system is Azrael and it is fighting for dominance over Jean Paul’s body. I don’t dislike this development but I do have to say it isn’t a change for the better. This is mostly because I feel it takes away some of the character’s complexity. Before, while the system was something he had to fight, Jean-Paul was also accosted by his visions when not under its influence. Thus, he had to contend with both a physical reaction and a sense of duty. Even when he had control of himself there was conflict between what he felt he was supposed to do and what he wanted to do. Now we are left with a second identity that he just has to push down. Like I said, I’d rather have it the other way, but I’m not upset about the new reality either.

There are also more hints about a larger world with many secrets that Watters is building up. Based on the glimpses we have seen, I am very interested to discover more.

As I mentioned before, Nikola Cizmesija remains a great choice for this comic. In the previous story the only thing I criticized was the way he draws feet. This time around he seems to have attempted to avoid drawing them at all, frequently hiding them behind things or cutting off the panel. I can’t say it’s an improvement but I guess I can’t complain about what isn’t there! The art is great overall, though. I honestly can’t find anything else to complain about. A highlight of this issue is a vision scene that takes on something of a psychedelic tone.

Spoiler

The combination of the letters, colors and line work come together so effectively here and make something outlandish look entirely believable.

Recommended if…

  • You’ve been following Dan Watters’ trajectory at DC
  • You want to read the first longer form Azrael story in over a decade.
  • This is a good comic. You should read it

Overall

I’m quite happy with this as an issue #1. While I didn’t enjoy it as much as the previous story it still satisfied and I’m just as excited for the next issue. This is an easy recommend for me!

Score: 8/10


Disclaimer: DC Comics provided a copy of this issue for the purpose of this review.