Azrael goes to find Dr. Leslie Tompkins, hoping that she would know of anyone left in No Man's Land with the surgical skills that the new serial killer displays. After getting off on the wrong foot by assaulting a group of people he assumed to be thieves, he is about to ask her the questions when a boy who had his aunt killed. While investigating the death Azrael saves a woman from a collapsed building, and helps Dr. Tompkins save her life. Dr. Tompkins tells Azrael of a doctor she knew who died in the quake and had a soon called Alvin Kothers who dropped out of med school to become a dancer. While Alvin attempts to take down Oracle Azral makes his way to where Dr. Tompkins told him Kothers lived. Oracle makes a strong attempt to deal with him, but she winds up stranded from her wheelchair and Azrael turns up to take Alvin down swiftly.
Does Azrael's presence in proximity to the collapsed building echo # 46's "Angels are where they need to be"? While the Angel angle hasn't been worked on in a while this issue seemed to reemphasize Azrael's desire to help people rather than his interest in avenging.
Interesting parallels this issue. Given that the underlying theme of the issue is suffering, Dr. Tompkins comments on the children being the ones to suffer, her comments about life, and Azrael's comments about suffering, there seems to be a subtle implication that Azzrael may have grown up a bit recently but he still retains a certain child like core to his personality. Yet Azrael adapts quickly, takes everything in his stride and even displays an adoption of Batman's methods, his detective work and drawing the attention of Alvin away from the victim and onto himself being prime examples.
While the origin of the Death Dancer was hardly cheesy or cliched it did lack the sort of thing that gives a villain an element of fear inducing creepy-ness, although there is a hint of Norman Bates in the story. The cold almost off hand "you shouldn't be" was perhaps the one chilling bit of speech the character had in the entire issue.
Roger's use of shadow is particularly interesting on page 2 and panel three marks another use of one particular artistic trick that I like. Also while I didn't notice any particular interesting work with perspective except for pages 10 and 18. Throughout the issue Roger uses line work and such to bring the readers attention to the focal point in a very effective manner. Rog also make a great deal of effort to keep his layouts varied and free, perhaps the first time he's really let loose since the change to mando format.
James Pascoes freer inking gives both a sense of texture and an interesting break from the heavier darker areas of inking. To an extent the hatching in the art is more noticeable than before, but it lacks the fullness and sense of form that made the inking on issue s # 1 - 12 so distinctive What marks the recent inking is the very noticeable variation in line thickness' which makes for a decent realization of depth and form on the page.
I can only think of two nut shots in all the time I've read Batman and both of them involved Azrael. The first was when Azrael kneed Bane in the groin in Batman # 500. This issue marks the second. Azrael does not deliver said nut shot, I think he's been told the whole Do-unto-others thing regarding that. Oracle delivering said nut shot to Alvin reminded me of something that possibly distresses me. Other characters getting more respect in Azrael than he gets in other people's titles, if he ever appears at all. Azrael looks good on page 7 and it's interesting to see he didn't let anyone get their hands on him, he took down his opponents very effectively, and we see Azrael performing superhuman feats again he must be lifting in the 0.5 to 1 ton range at least.
The lines about Azrael having medical experience was interesting. Azrael as much as told her that he was trained to kill, with that "the opposite" remark., and at least two random people now know what Azrael looks like so far that list only included Willy Ronton and Brian and Lilhy, everyone else who's seen his face is either dead or works for the order or Ra's.