Sword Of Azrael
Batman Sword Of Azrael is the book that Begins the Knightfall saga.
It features the inception of the character Azrael and sets up the downfall of the Dark Knight and the rise of a brand new Batman.
I’ve never read the book before but have heard a wealth of things about it nonetheless.
This is a shining reminder of the 90s in comics. A time when writers were looking to upset the status quo and make their mark.
We saw the death of Superman, a new Spider-Man and Batman, being so popular, too had to have some new blood pumped into the cowl.
I’m excited to see how this tale measures up now and if it can stand the test of time, setting up one of the darkest moments in the caped crusaders history.
How will it do?
Let’s find out!
The story opens with the Death Of Azrael. He is shot attempting to kill a mobster and barely makes it home to his son, Jean Paul, before succumbing to his wounds.
In his dying breaths he informs Jean’ that he is part of The Order Of St. Dumas, a continuation of The Knights Templar, who have been around since the 14th Century. He instructs Jean’ to follow in his footsteps and the boy travels to the mountains to train in what is similar to Bruce’s journey from his younger years.
In hindsight the parallels are not lost on me. It’s clear that the writers wanted to craft another Batman from similar circumstances. I don’t know why DC feel the need to orphan off all of their heroes but once again the motif works well here.
Of course all the commotion caused by Azrael’s father attracts the attention of Batman, who through some cutting edge detective work tracks down young boy on his quest to fill his fathers shoes.
From the start Dennis O’Neil crafts a world that will engross any fan and his balance between the mystical and scientific continues to make him one of the best writers of the character.
Man of the mountain
Batman encounters the new Azrael, Jean Paul, in the mountains and the two fight. Saying it was one sided is an understatement and it’s interesting to see how amateurish a man who would become Batman is.
I don’t dislike Jean’ in the way that I thought I would going into this book however. He is handled completely differently to Jason, often humble and if there is a fight, then it isn’t his idea. I think the was crucial to his creation. In order for us to believe that he can replace Bruce we have to be invested in him and from the off, we are. He has always been a controversial character in the DC universe but there is a lot to admire here due to his portrayal. This book certainly does a good job of removing any prejudice that you may have towards the character and from the off he is likable and endearing.
It’s in this chapter that we are introduced to the arc’s villain. From the conflict in the mountains a member of the order named Lehan believes that he has now been granted life by the Lord Demon Biis. After surviving the attack by Batman he irrationally believes that he has been chosen for a bigger purpose and dons a demonic costume.
It’s very 90’s and wouldn’t look out of place in a Spawn book. The fiend comes across as intimidating and ruthless and really feels at every turn that he could mercilessly strike down our hero with zero hesitation. This is what we needed in a book that deals with the occult and Biis seems like a great representation of the darker side of Dumas.
Bruce is captured during a battle with Biis and this forces Jean Paul, his mentor and Alfred to work together in order to track down the billionaire.
It’s refreshing to the focus shift more towards the side characters and the fact that Bruce isn’t a helpless hostage adds humour to the work.
It’s a great combination to see the trio of sidekicks bickering whilst Bruce comedically avoids interrogation by spouting off Nursery rhymes and stupid answers.
This is one thing that I always loved about O’Neil. As a writer he is able to perfectly balance tension with fun and every book that he helms is enjoyable to read no matter what it centres around.
When Biis begins murdering the members of the St. Dumas group, Azrael quickly picks up his trail and we head into the final chapter.
Azrael tracks down Biis and slaughters all who might get in his way. He really feels indoctrinated at this point and it becomes hard to side with the character until he breaks from the mound and stands up as his own man.
I really got the feeling that they were ushering in Jean at this final chapter and showcasing that he truly could replace Batman.
Bruce, too weak to go after Biis after his days of torture and starvation, compels Azrael to take the villain down and the book ends with a friendship being formed between the two.
This is a decent story that has comedy mixed well with drama and action. It’s very pulp and doesn’t delve too much into the psychological side of The Dark Knight but is still entertaining none the less.
Pick this up for a fun read and to see the building blocks that would go on to create the Legendary Knightfall Arc.
Leave a comment whether you agree with my ranking or not.