Batman: Sword of Azrael

By Dennis O’Neil, Joe Quesada & Kevin Nowlan (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-56389-100-7

Almost a lost classic now, this impressive fast-paced romp (originally released as a four issue miniseries and teaser-prelude to the KnightFall comics publishing event) catapulted artist Joe Quesada (superbly inked by the incredible and far too rarely seen Kevin Nowlan) to the forefront of hot “name artists” after a relatively anonymous introduction to the industry as a colourist/penciller at Valiant Comics and illustrator on DC’s TSR licensed Spelljammer series and Question Quarterly.

Here given a full creative head he combines with Dennis O’Neil, probably the most efficiently prolific of modern Bat-scribes, to introduce a young medical student to the DC universe, but one with a centuries-old secret.

When international arms dealer Carlton LeHah embezzles millions of dollars from a hidden warrior-cult with origins dating back to the Crusades their avenging assassin Azrael tracks him down but is unprepared for the cutting edge weaponry Lehah has awaiting him.

Wounded unto death the Knight of St. Dumas activates his final resource: his own son. Programmed since birth, trained to kill and augmented by the implanted skills of uncounted deadly soldiers of a fanatical organization, the new Azrael goes hunting…

Meanwhile Bruce Wayne has been hunting the murderous forces loose in his city but he too is unprepared for Lehah who has since graduated to the next stage of a martial madness. Believing himself the physical avatar of the Demon Biis, he has been stalking the last cult-members, sowing death and destruction wherever he appears. When he captures Batman, faithful Alfred and the new Azrael are all that remains to prevent a global catastrophe…

Sharp, clever, hypnotically adrenaline-charged and strikingly illustrated, this mini-classic (only 112 pages including Archie Goodwin’s introduction, sketch pages and cover gallery) is about due for a 21st century upgrade, but if not there’s always your favourite comics vendor or internet retailer…
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