Review of Azrael, Dark Knight of the Soul #1

Azrael: Dark Knight of the Soul #1 review


Azrael, Dark Knight of Soul is a one shot written by Dan Watters with art by Nikola Cizmesija, that compiles all three chapters of last year’s Urban Legends story. This reprint allows everyone to catch up. Sword of Azrael #1The book is also available today, as well as. I’ll be reviewing that as well, so you can catch my thoughts on it here. First, let’s take a look at the prelude!

I was very excited about this comic right away. Knightfall was the first Batman comic I ever read and I’ve been a big fan of Azrael ever since. The idea of Azrael began as a thinly disguised criticism of Image Comics. It has since grown into a fantastic character. He’s a great example of a tragic hero and also features one of the coolest backstories of any DC character. I just want Jean-Paul to be loved and treated with respect. My hopes were realized: This is a great comic.

I was immediately struck by Dan Watters’ love and understanding of this character. This is something we readers would like to see, but it’s often not. Watters starts this story with an action scene as Azrael spouts his famous line (in my head at least): “Know that men call you liar! Be aware that men call your Defiler! Know that men call you Betrayer!” This shows me he gets the aesthetic of the character. I have to admit, part of Azrael’s draw is his EXTREME 90s flavor. As the comic goes on, though, we see how Watters’ writing of the character builds from Denny O’Neil’s foundation. Jean-Paul is depicted as someone searching for meaning in life, which is typical of Watters.

This is partly due to his relationship with God. It is something we should all pay attention to. Despite how long Azrael’s original title lasted, this is the first time I’ve read a story that wants to actively explore the character’s relationship with his faith. It explores multiple sides of this topic and while it is brought up, Watters doesn’t lean on the rather overdone and one dimensional “religion is bad and creates zealots” claim.  In the end, it’s simply a story about Azrael’s faith being tested which, to me, should be as essential to him as a test of physicality or intelligence is to Batman.

Beyond the themes, there’s a lot of world building that is very impressive. If you haven’t read this yet, I’ll leave that for you to enjoy. I’ll just say that it really feels like Dan Watters has plans for this character and wants to build his world back up, something I couldn’t say about other writers who have handled him in recent years.

 Nikola Cizmesija’s art is great as well! This is the first comic I’ve read from him but he won me over immediately. His ability to convey emotion is impressive and his work retains its clarity, despite being stylized. These action scenes are particularly impressive. This page is an excellent example of his energy.

Ariana Maher deserves to be credited for her amazing lettering in this issue. Besides that great Ba-Boom effect, her work on Azrael’s internal monologues and word balloons are fantastic as well. Azrael is one character that I think has a lot to gain from having a different font. It helps create that otherness between Jean Paul’s two sides and Maher nails it. Along with Ivan Plascencia’s brilliant colors, this is a near perfect art team.

There are a grand total of three negatives I find in this comic but they’re essentially irrelevant. First, the transitions from each of the original parts to the second and third were quite jarring. I believe this could have easily been corrected by simply placing a chapter marker between them. This issue of Sword of Azrael should have been published on a different date. It would have been fine if it had been released a week or a month earlier. It seems like a huge task to get a reader to buy the first two issues of a comic immediately without any guarantee that they will enjoy them. In the long run, I feel it’s more likely to cost a few sales that could have been gained by making a small separation.

My only other problem is that Cizmesija doesn’t really… draw feet. Feet are difficult. It’s a fairly common problem for artists and it’s also totally possible that the appearance of the “feet” featured in this issue was a conscious decision.

Either way, based on Cizmesija’s overall style, I really feel the need for more substantial feet. When they become triangles, they can be distracting. What can I say, they remind me of you-know-who’s work a little too much…

Recommended if…

  • You’re an Azrael fan!
  • Good comics deserve support
  • Experience some amazing art

Overall

This is a great comic. I have only a few minor complaints. This comic is highly recommended, regardless of whether you care about Azrael.

Score: 9/10


Disclaimer: DC Comics provided a copy for this review.


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