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Why You Should Read: Azrael: Angel and the Bane

AZRAEL #36-40 is basically one big fight between Jean-Paul Valley and Bane. And, if for some reason you actually need another reason, it's a great look into who Bane really is as well.

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.

22 Comments
Posted by Mrfuzzynutz

Man, GOOD Call on this one my friend! I remember reading this when it came out I been a huge fan of Bane every since. The art was amazing at the time, these guys never looked better. If you can find it give it a whirl!

Edited by Buddy_Baker

Most of the DC and Marvel comics I bought as a kid are lost somehow (bummer!) but my brother gave some trades of that collection back a few years ago (I guess I lend it to him someday so these few books were untroubled by that mysterious black hole that ate my collection hehe). One of these trades is a collection of this story which was released as "Azrael vs. Bane" here in Germany.

Thanks for reminding me to reread it again. I don't remember everything of it, but I still know that I was way too young to read that tough shit haha.

I don't read anything other material with Bane in it, but just as you mentioned, that arc puts a big spotlight on that character that still makes me feel knowing him.

Also, I just realize how great the art is!

Posted by RedheadedAtrocitus

I have this in my stash but haven't gotten around to reading it yet. Now you've given more more impetus to do so, man!

Posted by Dernman

Pity Post. :p

Posted by kennybaese

It's a crazy different characterization (that's justified in the book), but I think that Secret Six is my favorite Bane. Then again, Secret Six was one of my favorite books period.

Edited by Deranged Midget

Nice! Hopefully I can find this in a trade rather than tracking down the separate issues! Might as well pick it up with Knightfall as well since my old issues are all sealed now.

Moderator
Edited by bunkerbuster05

Heh, I was actually reading the Batman: Knightfall hardcover novel earlier! Jean Paul is brutal.

Posted by dondave

Definitely going to pick it up

Posted by G-Man

These issues are available on the DC app and comiXology. But...most of the issues got 3 stars and a couple got 4. It's been too long since I read this. But leading into Cataclysm...ugh.

Staff
Posted by Eivion

Read this story a year or two ago. Its pretty good. On the Azrael side of things it actually served as a good move forward for JPV as he doesn't/can't rely on the brainwashed assassin side of him to take Bane on. Its one of my favorite favorite stories for both Bane and Azarel.

Posted by Shallbecomeabattoo

@g_man: hey Tony! You said on a podcast a while back, that there is not much great Batman stuff before Morrison and Snyder. I just wanted to tell you that you definately should check out Batman City of Crime by David Lapham, if you don't know it yet! One of the best batman stories ever, in my opinion. Also, the whole Dini Detective/Streets of Gotham run and Brian Azzarellos Broken City.

Edited by DecoyElite

Sweet! I need to check this out.

Posted by Miss_Garrick

I would like to read Azrael, but there never seems to be any TPB.

Posted by hyenascar

This lead into cataclysm (ok-ish) which lead into No Man's Land, which some of the best Batman. Cassandra Kain, came from No Man's Land.

Posted by AdmiralPetty

At least this comes before Azrael's awful costume change that happened soon after. *Facepalm*

Edited by AdmiralPetty

@g_man: hey Tony! You said on a podcast a while back, that there is not much great Batman stuff before Morrison and Snyder. I just wanted to tell you that you definately should check out Batman City of Crime by David Lapham, if you don't know it yet! One of the best batman stories ever, in my opinion. Also, the whole Dini Detective/Streets of Gotham run and Brian Azzarellos Broken City.

There is definitely a lot of great Batman stuff before Morrison. Hush, Long Halloween, Dark Victory, YEAR ONE! I loved No Man's Land, its biggest flaw was how overblown it was, frankly Batman books tended to go from one overblown event to another for most of the era surrounding Knightfall, so it would be hard for a Batman fan to not get sick of all the events in that period. I agree with everything you listed except Broken City, ugh, what a terrible story, which I wasn't expecting from Azzarello. He has written and is writing some great stuff, but the man did not have a good handle on the characterization of Batman.

Edited by LyraFay

I hate Jean-Paul Valley, err it's probably why I never read Knightsend.

Posted by Sammo21

I keep wondering if they are going to bring back JPV in New 52...you know, since they keep changing their minds on what happened and didn't really happen.

Posted by k4tzm4n

It's a crazy different characterization (that's justified in the book), but I think that Secret Six is my favorite Bane. Then again, Secret Six was one of my favorite books period.

For sure. Herr Bane is totally different yet still very, very awesome.

Staff Online
Posted by Azrael_Online

'Angel and the Bane' is a great story. Considering that Azrael and Bane are two characters who were pretty much created for Knightfall, one of those huge 'must read' stories, I don't understand why still over the years there has been so much (any) focus on Bane but almost complete ignore on Azrael (JPV). The Cataclysm issue (No 40) is a good read as well as Bane tries to get Azrael to partner up with him, only to be taken out (again) by Azrael. These two characters are linked pretty well. These older stories with Bane show his intelligence, unlike the stories from Arkham onwards which portray him as all muscle and no brain. Kind of like the version of him in the laughable Batman and Robin movie.

I really don't get why they haven't brought Azrael back (JPV, Not Michael Lane) with the New 52. There has been a lot of renewed interest in him thanks in part to the Arkham game. I'm surprised by how many people look up info on Azrael and find the JPV version thinking the two are the same as well. Big difference between the avenging/punishing angel Azrael of St. Dumas and Order of Purity's angel wearing the Suit of Sorrows. DC Kind of screwed up the Michael Lane version too whereas JPV has a more sympathetic storyline personally.

Also, I don't believe that they actually released a TPB for Azrael with the exception of the 4-issue collection of Sword of Azrael, unless you want to count the one-shot of Azrael/Ash.

Posted by draco_01

@azrael_online:

I agree but I think it's the fact that Didio hates the character and forced Lane down our throats as some shoe-horned replacement no one cared about. I think that the Calvin Rose Talon is basically the New 52 version of Azrael at the moment.