As Azrael and his band of survivors head for a cabin in the jungle we learn that Deathstroke has been hired to kill Calibax by his parents to end his isolation and his threat to other people. As Azrael, Lilhy, Luc and Vyce breach the security preventing Calibax escaping Deathstroke arrives. Calibax's powers put everyone to sleep except Azrael because he's not fully human. When he realizes this Calibax attacks him and the two begin fighting before Deathstroke arrives at the door demanding Azrael get out of the way. Azrael and Deathstroke battle to decide who controls Calibax's future. Deathstroke begins to fall under Calibax's spell and Azrael pistol whips him with the hilt of his sword. Calibax runs away and Deathstroke recovers to begin pursuit. We then learn that one week later Calibax is making his way to Gotham.
The most striking thing about this issue is the art. After Demetrious Bassoukos dismal work on Azrael #32 and his slow improvement he still has not managed to reach the level of excellence he routinely managed during Barry's run, but - and this is a big but, he is getting damn close. This issues colouring was fantastic. Once again we are seeing several subtle shades and subdued colours which add to the noir feeling of the art without resorting to stark colours as we saw in the Angel and the Monster Maker arc. The colour detail was subtle and was rounder than the very angular colouring in previous issues.
We all know that Demetrious' more angular color boundries were a result of the adaptation to Roger's more angular facial features, angular in that they are sharper than Barry's rounder, softer faces. Roger's made a lot of small changes to his style, moving from marvelesque character depictions to making characters look more "normal". Roger could do well pencilling a noir crime book instead of a spandex book. His layouts this issue are also much less complicated almost reminding me of the days when the contents of one panel would never spill over onto another. Also of note is that Azrael's gauntlets are no longer rusty.
This issues writing is interesting in that it doesn't exhibit the hallmarks of an O'Neil/Azrael story. It doesn't open with one of the characters making a past tense narration. The narrator doesn't change according to scene, in fact the only thing that tells me O'Neil wrote this is the single panel opening (key to his style) and his name on the credits.
The Format change to Mando has a lot of fans riled but remember, things could be worse, Azrael could drop to Standard paper stock. Azrael first made it onto the market as a Mando Book when it started and the art was phenomenal so Azrael can claw it's way back. The only thing that upsets me about the change to Mando is that it is indicative of Azrael's slipping sales and DC's losing faith in the title. If it is the increased profitability of the title which has resulted in the better art in this issue then I'm all for the format change.
I love the return of Azrael's sword, it is too cool to never be used. I know some people dislike Deathstroke's criticism of Azrael's sword skills but they should remember that JP himself said that his style was more hack and slash than anything else in Ish #41. His knowlede of technique was implanted but he's had almost no chances to excersise that knowledge and so his skill with a sword isn't great. It was nice To see Azrael over power Deathstroke and even if they did call a truce it feels like Azrael would have won that fight.