There have been some great selections in the "Why You Should Read" segment since its debut. Quite a few will leave you reflecting on life, blown away by a brilliant plot or even strike you with an unsuspecting amount of emotion. Bane's return in AZRAEL likely won't do any of those things, but it's by no means setting out to accomplish those tasks, either. Ultimately, it's a fairly simplistic story with a fairly basic conclusion, but this five-issue story is being highlighted for one key reason: it's badass.
After being defeated by Batman, Bane reemerges and this presents Jean-Paul Valley with the perfect opportunity to prove himself to Wayne. Despite previously defeating the villain in 'Knightfall,' Valley still doesn't seem like hero material -- he's too rash and the book even opens with a scene to showcase this. Knowing Valley is desperate to prove himself, Alfred suggests he should be the one to track down Bane and hand him over to the authorities. After thinking it over, The Dark Knight concurs and this is where the journey of awesomeness begins. The adventure will lead you to Bane's home, Santa Prisca, and is filled with wealthy amount of energetic and impactful action. To say why the adventure takes you there would spoil the fun.
As stated above, the story isn't going to throw any strong twist or turns your way. Instead, it's simple yet highly enthralling. First and foremost, the characterization of Bane is topnotch and absolutely a must read if you like the villain. Writer Denny O'Neil puts a strong focus on who Bane truly is -- and that's a selfish man who has no mercy for the weak. O'Neil gives the fiend's intellect a more than adequate amount of respect, and when it comes to his abilities as a combatant, they're praiseworthy and then some. Azrael may have his name slapped across the cover, but these five-issues almost feel like a love letter to Bane and do a terrific job illustrating how formidable he is. If you think Bane needs venom to be a threat, you'll want to read this story to see why you're dead wrong.
Azrael is potentially a character many of you haven't followed in great detail, so it's worth pointing out this story is mostly new reader friendly. There's a moment or two where you may feel a little in the dark with his supporting cast, but for the most part, it's incredibly easy to follow along and you won't feel left behind with any of the major developments. Naturally, it's strongly recommended that you read 'Knightfall' first so you understand the history between these two (but in the event you don't, they explain what happened in the event). Also worth noting is the fact this conclusion ties directly into 'No Man's Land.'
While O'Neil puts a tremendous spotlight on Bane, Azrael is also given an overwhelming amount of respect as he endures significant challenges -- both physically and mentally. Being tasked with bringing in Bane is certainly no easy feat and the man goes through a remarkable amount of pain in hopes of accomplishing his mission and proving he can indeed be a hero.
Quite a few stories build the tension until there's one big confrontation between the two leads, but O'Neil throws multiple fights between the two or way. Each are sprinkled with different factors to make them unique and each are thoroughly enjoyable and downright savage at times. After this read, you're sure to have a new level of respect for both characters' physical capabilities.
Artist Roger Robinson and colorist Jim Pascoe totally nail the look of these two characters. Jean-Paul Valley looks fantastic in his attire and there's a hefty amount of weight behind every punch he throws with those massive gloves. Bane, on the other hand, never looks too over the top with his stature yet is still absurdly intimidating. Moreover, his expressions are still accurately conveyed through his signature mask and really sell some of his more villainous moments.
Overall, 'Angel and the Bane' is an excellent dose of popcorn fun. It may not make you reflect on life or leave you speechless with plot twists, but it delivers five chapters of jaw-dropping action and solid characterization. If you're looking to read more with Bane or just want to shut off your brain and enjoy some badassery between two daunting characters, these five issues are well worth your time.