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Azrael #56 : The Night Foretold
Writer : Dennis O'Neil
Penciller : Roger Robinson
Inker : James Pascoe
Colourist : Rob Ro & Alex Bleyaert
Seperations : Rob Ro & Alex Bleyaert
Letterer : Ken Bruzenak
Assistant Editor : L.A. Williams
Editor : Mike Carlin

Synopsis :

Azrael makes his move on Nick Scratch, infiltrating a gathering of Scratch's followers, Azrael is discovered and captured by Nick Scratch.

Review :

The Opening Shot Has a powerful drawing effect. The western setting is so different the reader has to continue, to satiate their curiosity. The dialogue is designed to mimic the cheesiest on offer from pulp westerns. Denny Quickly informs the reader that this is a dream, and the manner in which it is done makes for an interesting window on Jean Paul's thoughts. It seems Jean-Paul is a lucid dreamer and as his logical mind intrudes his creative mind sets matters straight. Denny makes it abundantly clear that Jean-Paul enjoys this pulp western world from his choice to ensure quote-unquote period accuracy, to his choice to embrace the dream. In true western style the villain -Nick Scratch- wore the black hat, none of Azrael's posse wore hats though, bandannas one and all. Interestingly enough while there's a "magnificent five" so to speak, panel by panel, the number accompanying him dwindle till it is just he facing Scratch.

This issue does something that hasn't really been done in a long time, added to jean-paul's character. While his thoughts have been picked to pieces, we know very little about what he likes and dislikes. It seems that Jean-Paul is a pulp aficionado. His discovery of pulps in Azrael Annual #3 must have made an impression, would this be expanded upon, as a hobby of sorts?

While this issue has plenty of cameos some fall prey to their existence as marketing gimmicks. Robin and Nightwing take up a page and a half of space without any particular reason for being there. Azrael seems to be kept in the background as much as possible to show off Batgirl. Azrael very much seems to be the guest star in his own comic. On the other hand some were well executed, especially the Joker's scene-stealing panel. Denny O'neil does one of the few funny Jokers I've seen. There's a definite humour to these portrayals.

While Denny places a few surprise jolts in it's path the plot is annoyingly linear, little more than a set up for a cliff hanger. More worthy of attention is Azrael's use of an assault rifle. I has been stated the Azrael's are only permitted to use bladed weapons, this might include programming to prevent them from being capable of using them. It's an interesting piece of continuity.

Art's interesting this issue. Pascoe's inks are constantly evolving and a new artistic trick manifests itself. The greater emphasis on brushwork has remained but faces half in shadow have an interesting shading effect applied, straight regularly spaced lines, and the end result is very effective.

Throughout the book, the art is moody, and very good at conveying the story, Robinson seems to capture body language very easily particularly during the ally interlude. that particular section sports some of the best art in the book, with the colouring perfectly capturing the eerie moonlight glow.

Rant :

If there's one thing that annoys me it's that I'm always right. In a heated argument with another internet denizen, I said that it seemed that editorial made a steadfast effort to ignore and marginalise Azrael, Azrael never appeared in other charactrs books, was never mentioned except in a negative light, and wasn't recieving the sort of promtional attention lower selling books were. I said I fully expected that soon Azrael would have a book where every other character would be prominantly featured and Azrael would appear in one panel being upstaged. I was dissapointed when my prediction came true. Batgirl was so forced into this issue it was irritating, Azrael was shown to be incompetant in comparison to this character who is even more of a force fit ripoff than Azrael is. Nightwing and Robin's appearance was intrusive, annoying and pointless, they already appear in two or three titles a month, taking over Azrael's is not an option. If DC marketing want to push Azrael, then he should have appeared in their books, thanks to this horribly handled cameo I have vowed never to buy Robin again, Nightwing is heading in that direction too. There was one saving grace Joker's one panel and line of dialogue were fantastically amusing, the rapid fire plays on words and puns were amusing. Too bad there's no O'Neil penned Joker title for me to pick up (oh wait they tried that already...). When will the marketing people figure out you don't get people to like a character by making him into an idiot. This issue smelled too much like a Batgirl promotional tool. What a stink.

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