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Review Group Azrael #1

MrBlack had the pick for new comics shipping October 21st and he selected Azrael #1 by Fabian Nicieza and Ramon Bachs.

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The Review Group is a collection of posters who get together and review a new comic each week that we each take turns selecting. Our threads can be found in The Outhouse’s News Stand forum and is open for anyone and everyone to participate in.

Which Review Grouper hated this book the most?  You be the judge...
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Review by thefifthman

"Here’s the catch though, Nicieza wrote an interesting mystery in that two part story from that last couple of weeks. Here there is no real mystery. Instead the reader gets a jumbled plot made worse by an artificial story device. Part of the story happens now - Azrael hunts down an Assassin Priest (I don’t know why this was green lit, maybe DC worried they were losing the Dan Brown audience); and in the future - Bullock and his partner investigate a bloody trail that leads them to investigate one of their own. Just to make it all a little less tangible, there is also a cryptic flashback to Lane’s childhood.

All the while, there is talk of a secret order, haunted armor and nun muggings. There is a cameo by the Dark Knight and one indecipherable scene between Lane and his baby’s mama. It all lacks a point or at least clarity. To make matters worse, the narrative starts at the beginning and the end of the story. An odd choice for a book not sporting an "of X" suffix to its issue number."

To read thefifthman's full review, go here: http://www.brokenfrontier.com/reviews/p/detail/azrael-1

Stupid art saving the score.

Story 2
Art 4
Total 3
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Review by starlord

Liked it. Liked it a lot. Good book. Great potential. Heaping amount of history to work with. Groovy cliffhanger. I'm sold.

Art was okay too.

Story: 7
Art: 6
My Score: 6.50
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Review by Dragavon

When the first book of a new series requires you to read other comics to catch up with the story, that's a bad sign. I understood the basic gist of the story after finishing it but it felt like I walked in on the second half of a movie. I did not get a chance to know the main character. In fact the only two things I can tell you about him are that he let a killer go free because he might be a killer himself and that he's got a family. All this had the effect of making me not care whether I pick up the next issue.

The art was decent but nothing beyond that. It felt just serviceable enough that I had no problem following the plot.

Story 3
Art 5
Score 4
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Review by amlah6

So with all the shit talking about this issue, my expectations for this comic were about as low as humanly possible. I've never read an Azrael comic in my life so I know nothing about the character other than the basic outlines of Knightfall. After reading this, I have to say it's not the worst comic ever. After taking a little time to think about it though, it was pretty terrible.

As far as things go with this being a continuing story from the Batman and Detective Annuals, it wasn't really that noticeable. Maybe it's a case of me not knowing that I'm missing something but as pure setup goes it seemed like pretty standard stuff. The basic outlines of the character and the story of this issue seemed a bit cliché and overwritten, but that's pretty standard for a Fabian Nicieza comic. The flash forward framing sequences were a neat device and maybe could have sucked me into reading the series if the premise wasn't so weak.

Ramon Bachs. Hurm. There are some artists that I just flat out don't like and Bachs is near the top of the list. He seems to do a mostly okay job here though and it's clear that he's improved since his days on Frontline. It would help him a ton if the inker wasn't burying any possible nuance from the pencils. Muddy as hell and all together inconsistent. Did not like. The colorist also kept playing around with a couple of filters and some panels looked like Photoshop amateur hour as a result.

Story: 5
Art: 2
Overall: 3.5
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Review by GHERU

Ok, so this book was not as bad or as uninteresting as I though that it would be. That is not to say that it was a great book, or better than average, by any stretch, it’s just to say that it did not suck massive donkey balls.

I did not care about Azrael in the 90’s and this book did nothing to make me care about him now, but the structure of this story, the switching from present day to 6 months ago was very well communicated through the artists and their use of colors, and the punch line on the last page was very well delivered. Basically, I usually trust in Fabian, and if I cared at all anymore about DC or even Gotham I would probably give this book a shot. As it stands, even Fabian cannot save this uninteresting concept, nor can he make me want to spend $3 a month on this book. I’ll either read the trade in a book store or buy the first 6 issues in the quarter bin some where in a year.

Story – 6
Art – 7
Overall 6.5
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Review by Punchy

Story - Oh dear, it's been a while since I've written a negative review, I haven't stretched my spite muscles, so this may be bad, who knows, but what we do know is that Azrael #1 was not a particularly good comic book.

Fabian Nicieza is not a terrible writer, he has a good grasp of continuity, and can seed long subplots yet still surprise the reader with shocking events, as seen in probably his best work, his run on Thunderbolts, but still, he's missing something, he's not like those other solid craftsman, he has nothing to set him apart, he's like Dan Slott without the sense of humour, or Kurt Busiek without that extra edge. He doesn't write bad comics, just unremarkable ones, and Azrael #1 is as unremarkable as they come.

I've never read an Azrael comic before, and I'm guessing neither have you, and this issue does little to make me reconsider my stance, there's nothing in the book that sets this character apart from every other Urban Vigilante, you've got Batman in there, Daredevil's Catholicism, Shadowhawk's violence and pretty much nothing new. Well, he's got lightsabers I suppose, that's cool. And while a bit of unoriginality I can accept if the story is good, sadly that's not true here either.

Basically, Azrael is investigating some mystery, and there's something to do with some kid being molested in the past, and all the victims are the molestors, so far, so typical, he stabs some dudes, he argues with Batman (a requisite for any Gotham based character, they have to confront Bats, because their methods are more X-TREME!, and Batman basically acts like a dick, well he is Dick) and confronts the killer. There's some standard subplot stuff, his ex-wife or whatever, I really don't care, I've seen it all before. I'm not a big Batman fan because of my perception that the books always remained the same and nothing could change, and while the recent reboot actually has me reading a Batman book for the first time (Morrison's), it's sad to see that the ancillary titles are still falling back to stock stuff, this issue literally could have been about any of the other Bat-family characters who are more violent than ol'Brucey, Jason Todd, Manhunter, Huntress, Onyx, Batwoman, whoever, there is literally nothing here to put Michael Washington Lane apart from all the other Gothamites, apart from maybe his ex-Cop background, except oh wait, Dick Grayson used to be a cop too. The religious aspect is vaguely interesting, Azrael is a vigilante for some odd cult, and his conflicts with them could be interesting, but really Vigilantes struggling with religion... better off with Matt Murdock. This issue actually picks up after a 3-issue mini and also 2 annuals, which I didn't read, so maybe I'm not picking up on some nuance, or the plot with the molestation has been building for longer, but really, this is the first issue of an ongoing, I should be made to care.

But it's not all bad, this issue uses an interesting Flash-forward technique, with Azrael's ex-Partner in the Police force being interviewed by Harvey Bullock 6 months in the future about Azrael, and Nicieza uses this to build mystery and tension, we the reader know the future, but our hero doesn't, and that last page is actually a really good hook to get people to continue reading, if only the rest of the book wasn't so mediocre. It does raise some questions about the longevity of the series, but since I'm not going to carry on, I don't care.

Overall, this was a fairly poor comic, the structure and last page have promise, but the rest of the issue is just so generic, DC publish so many Batman titles, I think they each need their own identity, and this is something Azrael doesn't yet have. Maybe Nicieza will improve things, he works best when he's allowed to plot long-term and seed things, but on the basis of this issue, I don't see any reason why you should stick around, when there are so many other books that do this better.

Art - I know that Ramon Bachs probably drew this whilst also finishing up his run on Red Robin, so maybe I should cut him some slack... but really, this wasn't particularly good. My only real previous Bachs experience was on the fun Marvel Apes, and maybe he should just stick to drawing Monkeys, hell, at points Azrael was as bulky as a Gorilla! This just looked really rushed to me, and there was no real sense of fluidity or motion, there's one panel where Azrael lands on a rooftop and does a forward roll, and it just looks ridiculous. The colours by JD Smith were also a problem, things either looked to dark when they needed to be lighter, or too light when they needed to be darker. I did think the grey tone flashforwards looked better though, it was quite Noir, and the fact that Red was highlighted was particularly effective. Hopefully once Bachs is no longer double-timing Az with Red Robin, it'll look better.

Best Line - I hope this isn't a spoiler for anyone, but '... we're calling it a suicide!'

5/10
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Review by Old Man

Michael Lane is the current Azrael. Six months, six days, and six hours from now, he will be dead. (6-6-6...get it? Isn't that clever? I mean, how did anybody think to bring up 666 in a story that involves the Catholic church and religion?)

And the world will be better off without Michael Lane. He is an evil mugg. He attacks (and maybe kills) some common thugs, yet he lets a serial killer go free, claiming 'How can I do anything to him when he is doing the same thing as I am.'

13 murders have been committed. (13! Another significant number in religion.) Some of the murder victims had their fingers cut off, some had their eyes cut out, and some had their lips cut off. All are said to be complicit in covering up a crime committed be a priest. (We are to infer that the priest has raped an altar boy, because, obviously, that is the only crime of which a priest can possibly be guilty.) Fingers because of the signing of transfer papers for the priest, eyes because of seeing the crime and not admitting to having seen it, and lips because of knowing about the crime and not speaking up.

Logically, how do you prove that someone who signs a transfer knows about the crime? How do you prove that someone who claims to have seen nothing actually did? And how do you prove that someone who doesn't speak of the crime actually knows about it?

Logically, if we allow that the crime victim's word is proof enough that these people are guilty of the cover up, then shouldn't all of them have their lips cut off for remaining silent?

The serial killer in this story has been hired by the crime victim to kill these people, so he doesn't really care if they are guilty or not. He just takes the client's word and money. When Michael confronts the serial killer inside the airport, he lets the killer fly to Ireland to kill another person. Michael is now guilty of being complicit to a murder. That is why he is an evil mugg.

(About the airport scene. Michael is shown talking to the killer while the loading of the airplane is being announced. The killer would have had to have been cleared through security before that, and Michael would not have been able to get into that part of the building. Have the writer or the editors flown anywhere lately?)

In another scene, Azrael attacks a police precinct. A cop yells at him to stop, so Azrael knocks him out. Then he charges and knocks out another cop. Then he knocks out even another cop. All three knew he was there, yet couldn't even offer token resistance. Then, Azrael bursts either a. around a corner, or b. through a door into a break area where there are four more cops. Of course, he easily knocks out three of them, leaving the fourth, who he knows, conscious. He calls the cop by name, risking that one of the other three might here him and then realize that the cop knows Azrael. Just because someone is knocked out doesn't mean they are not aware of their surroundings. Sometimes a knocked out person recovers in seconds. It happens in boxing.

If the scene had been set up that Azrael accomplishes this through stealth, perhaps the scene would have worked. Or the reader can assume that Azrael has enhanced speed, some thing that has not been established in the story.

After Azrael leaves the precinct, Batman makes an obligatory appearance. Batman tells Azrael there's now way he should have attacked the precinct. Azrael goes WAY! Batman goes all er, umm, kthxbai.

(About the precinct. It is drawn with turrets. Is this a part of Gotham architecture? I don't recall seeing it portrayed this way before. I do remember a lot of classic buildings, but not turrets.)

This isn't a very good comic book. The problems start of the first page. There are two different scenes on the first page, yet there is no indication of this. The first scene establishes that Michael was an altar boy. The second scene establishes that an altar boy and a priest are in the basement of a church. As drawn, the scene can read as if the crime was set in Michael's church. Each church has a round, pale blue, stained glass window.

In some places, the art looks to be cloned from Brent Anderson's work. In others, it is standard poses apparently taken from the world of wrestling. (Oh, how "professional" wrestling tropes have become used so much in comics today. People don't stand like that except in "professional" wresting.)

There is nothing here that makes me want to read another issue, but I don't want to kill somebody in rage from having read it. I just can't find it in me to give this anything other than a 5.
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Review by guitarsmashley

I'm not going to bother writing my thoughts on this book so I'll let this guy do it for me.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p7w64fbqYQY&feature=player_embedded

.08
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Review by SuperginraiX

I wish I could care about this. I really do.

OK, not really.

I usually enjoy Fabian Nicieza on anything I've read from him. Except that last scripting of X-Force but I can't imagine that being an easy gig. Fabian is normally clever and generally fun.

This wasn't either of those things. I'll give it props for having a flashFORWARD instead of a flashBACK but that's all I'm giving it. That flashforward actually annoyed me more because it made the actual story bland. No one cares that he DIDN'T act to stop a man from murdering a pedophile priest and those who did nothing to stop him... not when the main character is strung up on a cross and dead on the last page of the book of apparent suicide (ok, I'll grant you that sort of sparks my curiosity).

The rest of the book is a jumble of things happening. The main character isn't properly introduced. I still have no clue what he does for a day job, if he has a day job, or who that chick is that he talked to who had just put her kid to bed. THAT was an uncomfortable conversation, by the way. I know this follows a mini-series so it's not an ACTUAL number one even with that shiny "1" on the cover. Fabian is expecting us to know what is what or play catch-up as we're reading. If this was an Avengers book or even a proper Batman book, I would be willing to put in that effort.

But this is an Azrael book. It's not even the original Azrael with the cool costume. This is an second rate Azrael in second rate armor. You've got to make me care enough to actually WANT to figure out what's happening. There are random characters all over that I don't even think are given names.

The art is serviceable but nothing flashy. I think I know what the colorist is going for but some panels look muddy when they actually aren't. Some pages look too busy.

Finally, that is just one sorry costume. It looks like he ripped the sleeves off his t-shirt and spray painted a cross on the front. He finished the look by putting on a pair of brown jeans. This is not a good look. The red thing on the face mask? Also not working.

Azrael #1, you get a 4. I didn't expect to like you much. You lived up to those expectations.
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Review by 48THRiLLS

Well the good news is this was better than I expected after reading some of the comments... the bad news is that is was still pretty lousy. This book has no chance of being remotely cool because this is such a lame character, there are no redeeming qualities at all. He is not likable, the whole religious hero angle is fail for me, and his costume is ridiculous (the swords are almost cool). You know there is something wrong when you would rather read a story about the no name bad guy assassin who is in 2 pages instead of the title character... even a Batman cameo could not save this.
I am not sure if it is the Marvel zombie in me or do they just have waaay better artist than DC, it seems every DC book we review the art is pretty average. The art here seemed sloppy and the black and white pages looked bad to me.

Short review from me on this one because I really have nothing to say.

STORY - 3
ART - 3
OVERALL - 3
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Review by House of J

[in a monotone]

This book was not written or drawn well. It wasn't a very entertaining comic as a result.

The writer of NFL Superpro does it again, and by it I mean takes a big dump on the comics reading community.

2
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Review by PDH

It's a comforting feeling, hitting the nadir of Western Civilization. After reading this comic I now know that no matter what happens we will never again experience mediocrity of such profundity unless, in some nightmarishly bland dystopian future, there happens to be a Coldplay reunion tour. Azrael #1 represents the point at which DC stuck its head so far up its arse that space-time collapsed upon itself in an implosion of backwardness that inspired Professor Stephen Hawking to concoct an entirely new 'arse-hat shaped' model of the universe. One of the practical consequences of which is that no sufficiently old idea, however dreadful or unpopular, shall ever be allowed to die. And so, at least a decade after all relevance has been swept off into the open sewers of DC's publishing history, here is a regurgitation of the Azrael property, vomited on a seemingly unrelated character at the request of absolutely no-one.

Anyway, much as I spit on the whole enterprise, there are actually some half-decent ideas here. This comic invites a lot of interesting parallels with the first issue of Haunt a couple of weeks back. They're both painfully 90s. They're so 90s I half expected them to take a bass line from a Queen/David Bowie song, add people whispering their own pretend surname over the top and a dance routine that resembles an inebriated Ace Ventura: Pet Detective on hot coals, then do absolutely nothing else of note for a decade and wonder what happened to their music careers. But if Haunt had an awareness of its own 90sness, Azrael seems determined to pretend the decade never happened (or ended) and proceeds in wilful ignorance of how terminally clichéd the sub-genre of grim, fanatical vigilantes has become.

Of course, writer Fabian Nicieza probably didn't have much choice in that regard. This has all the hallmarks of a premise foisted on its creators (not to mention its audience) for absolutely no reason whatsoever in the face of near total indifference from just about everyone. Under the circumstances he did as good a job of it as could be expected. What this comic has that Haunt doesn't have is a largely successful deconstruction of the archetype. There's an interesting scene where Azrael tracks down a vigilante who cuts the lips off people amongst other things and is forced to accept that they're basically not that different at which point he just...lets him go. Whatever else you say about Azrael, at least he's consistent. He also seems reasonably happy with himself, when he's not committing suicide via unexplained crucifixion in a well-structured flashforward sequence, which is a nice change of pace. It's gritty but it's not quite as grim as you'd expect.

The art is somehow even less inspired, though not completely dreadful. The characters have a sort of stooped quality to them like a half-hearted Quasimodo after being face-fucked by the ugly stick but this is clearly a deliberate creative choice so I can't really fault it, though it's not to my tastes. It has relatively solid storytelling and of course it's extremely murky but then this isn't a primary colours sort of comic. Of the three primary colours, only red makes a significant appearance, though you do get the impression that the colourist would probably prefer it if rivers of blood were brown. Can't win them all, though, eh?

Not a bad comic so much as a comic whose mere existence is offensive on an ethical, aesthetic and commercial level.

Story: 5
Art: 5
Overall: 5
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Review by MrBlack

I had high hopes for this book. The "Azrael: Death's Dark Knight" mini from earlier in the year was surprisingly good, and it had excellent artwork. I was not thrilled by the story in this year's Batman and Detective Comics Annuals, but I had faith that Fabian Nicieza would deliver an entertaining story in the first issue of the ongoing.

Although Nicieza delivered a passable story with an interesting twist at the end, it was not enough to hold this comic together. A recap page would have been really useful to readers who missed the mini earlier in the year, particularly where the nature of Azrael's swords and armor is not explained in the issue. I didn't find the story hard to follow, but I can see why some new readers would be lost.

The story was, as I said, passable. We see Azrael at work, establish the contentious relationship between him and Batman, and see that his sense of justice is a bit different from that of the Caped Crusader. The problem with the story is that all of this does not make for an exciting first issue. We see Azrael beat up some punk kids and a few cops, and then he lets the "bad guy" get away without a fight. Again, this issue seems like a stand alone story or the beginning of a new arc in an ongoing rather than the first issue of a new series.

The bigger disappointment for me was the art. Frazier Irving did a brilliant job on the Azrael mini, and the cover on this issue promised more of the same. How disappointing to find that the interior art is not even remotely the same style. The art is not bad, it's just a terrible fit for the character. It's just too "cartoony" for this character.

I was disappointed with this issue. The story was okay, but it failed as the first issue of a new series, and the art was a distraction. I still like this version of the character, but I do not know if I am willing to stick with this series after reading this issue.

Story: 6
Art: 5
Overall: 5.5
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Review by Chubbles

I had been putting this off for as long as I could but I broke down last night and read it before bed. Based on everyone's reviews I thought this would suck really bad but I actually didn't mind it so much. Yes it was very cliche, and the main character is actually quite boring, but I liked some of the things that were done in this book. I liked the 'flash-forward' as others have refered to it as and I think that last page was definitely an interesting development. Finding out how it gets to that point actually made me want to stick this out for a couple more issues but after sitting down and thinking about it I decided i'd be avoiding it. Pretty standard mediocre art, nothing awful, just not anything special either.

The main reason why I'll drop this I decided is bc of the whole priest molestation thing. Yes pedophilia is fucking evil and I love seeing pedophiles get what they deserve, but using the Catholic church as the scapegoat for this has been so much and really does a disservice to all the priests who are actually good people. Yes there are bad priests, but there are bad people in every single walk of life. There are pedophile teachers, firemen, politicians, etc. Using the Catholic church as the scapegoat here is a cheap way to do it and it sort of pisses me off.

Another reason I'll drop this is I just have way too many books on my pull list already to bother with a medicore DC book.

Story 3
Art 4
Overall 3.5
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That gives Azrael #1 a group score of 4.11.  Congratulations Azrael, you are the third lowest scoring book in the Review Group's history!!! 

For further pontification on the shortcomings of this week's book, feel free to join us in this week's thread (http://www.theouthousers.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=30839) found in the News Stand forum where you are also invited to post your own review.
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SuperginraiX
has the pick for October 28th and he has selected Dark Avengers: Ares #1 from Marvel Comics.  Look for the new thread after it becomes available Wednesday morning to post your own review. 

Dark Avengers: Ares #1


WRITER: Kieron Gillen
PENCILS: Manuel Garcia

Ares – the God of War! His relentless brutality and his bloodthirsty drive to attain victory at any cost earned him only scorn from his fellow gods in the Greek pantheon, and exile from Olympus. After thousands of years living as a man and fighting in man’s bloody, petty conflicts, Ares joined the ranks of Earth’s mightiest heroes – the Avengers. Now Norman Osborn – the new head of the corrupted Dark Avengers and director of the paramilitary intelligence agency H.A.M.M.E.R. – wants the finest fighting force the God of War can provide. He charges Ares with hand-picking an elite squad of soldiers and beating them into the hardest, sharpest warriors ever to wield an M-60 in each hand. And that’s exactly what Ares will need, when the goddess Hera provides him with a fighting chance to regain his standing in the pantheon’s eyes. And Ares is taking his men with him into the battle of their lives… Rated T …$3.99


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