Azrael comes out of retirement in this week’s Sword of Azrael #1 from DC Comics. The avenging angel of the Batman family struggles to keep his inner demons in check as a lost soul seeks his aid. This new mission comes together thanks to Dan Watters, Nikola Čižmešija, Marissa Louise, and Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou.
The warrior angel of St. Dumas returns! When a young woman who claims to have the same System programming that made Jean-Paul into Azrael arrives at the monastery, he won’t have a choice but to don his violent mantle of Azrael once more to protect her from the deadly assassins who wish her harm. From the rising star creative team of Dan Watters (Arkham City: Order of the World, Lucifer) and Nikola Čižmešija (Batman Urban Legends, Future State Gotham) this miniseries will redefine one of the Batman world’s most iconic and fierce characters.
The story begins with Jean-Paul Valley working to contain Azrael by locking himself in a monastery. Valley finds he has to recite ways saints were tortured and murdered to keep his other self contained. The pacing shows Valley seems content with living among the monks and is trying his best not to become Azrael ever again. Previous storylines have featured Valley trying to better understand and unlock the powers of Azrael. This struggle to keep Azrael contained is a different direction than what the character and the audience has experienced before.
Writer Dan Watters makes sure to give a bit of a refresher course into the history of Azrael. Considering the character hasn’t had more than a few appearances here and there in select titles, this is a great idea for anyone looking for a start to the character. For veteran fans the appearance of a villain with a connection to Azrael’s past ensures this mini-series is going to get intense moving forward.
The art by Nikola Čižmešija offers a lot of insight into Jean-Paul Valley’s struggle. Lots of emotional facial expressions are used for Valley to show the conflict he is experiencing. You can tell the struggle Valley faces as he tries his best to keep Azrael under control. Also, the reveal of the ethereal form of Azrael is intense and makes the reader feel like they are gazing upon an otherworldly presence.
The coloring by Marissa Louise helps to convey the intense moments of drama throughout the issue. The use of color also aids in illuminating the flashbacks to previous events by presenting like works of stained glass. It’s an eye-catching aspect and makes the history of the character seem manageable and easy to understand.
Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou brings some very diverse lettering elements to the issue. The parchment-like bits of Valley’s internal monologue is a unique and entertaining way to present the character’s thoughts. The more noticeable aspect comes with the ways used to convey Azrael’s speech: one for Azrael talking through the system (gruff and full of rage), and a completely different style when Azrael speaks in his ethereal form (refined and powerful). This attention to detail adds to the visual presentation of the issue.
Sword of Azrael #1 seems like the start of something incredible. The promise of a new direction for the character mixed with elements of his past is the perfect recipe for a great storyline. Hopefully the events will leave the character in a better place for future encounters when the mini-series is over.