Hello and welcome to the Bat Casebook, where I take the latest Bat-comics that came out during the week and I review them. Sounds simple enough, right? Don’t get cocky kid–there will be a test later. Anyway, this week’s we’ll be reviewing Batman: Streets of Gotham #12 and Azrael #8. Onward!

BATMAN: STREETS OF GOTHAM #12
Story by Paul Dini
Script by Dustin Nguyen & Derek Fridolfs
Penciled by Dustin Nguyen
Inked by Derek Fridolfs
Cover by Dustin Nguyen

I’ve heard people wonder in the past what the point of this book is. Batman & Robin is basically where we find out where the direction of the books are going, what with Morrison being the big dog and all. Batman is, well, about Batman’s solo superhero adventures. Detective Comics seems to be going back to being about solo Batman adventures, but with a more crime/mystery edge. So what’s the point of this book other then giving the great Paul Dini another book to do? This kind of issue shows what this book is about–it’s about the people that are important in the literal streets of Gotham City. Other then a brief cameo in the beginning punching out bad-guys at a bar, Batman is barely in this book. We see Robin, but not in costume. Even in the storyline that most featured Batman and Robin, the Zsasz child-fighting ring, the climax ultimately happened with Damian, sans costume, and Abuse, a Dini creation. This book seems to be somewhat about Dini trying to make as many Harley Quinns (popular supporting characters that stick around, not specifically sexy henchgirls) as possible.

This issue does that, focusing mostly on Jenna Duffy, alias The Carpenter, previously debuting in Dini’s run on Detective Comics as a member of the Wonderland Gang, and then in Gotham City Sirens when hired by Catwoman to repair their headquarters and then to bail them out of a bad jam by a little person with a massive grudge. As of this issue, she’s run out of cash from the latter job and nothing new’s coming her way, so she’s ripping mush-headed bikers at pool thinking they can easily win against a girl. As I mentioned earlier, this is interupted by Batman breaking in to take out some crooks. Jenna thinks this might be her opportunity to finally take out Batman, since she’s not in her outfit and he’s distracted by the other bikers, but Batman tells her to go before she can even lift her pool cue in aggression. After she gets out of dodge, she’s approached by The Broker to do a job–build some death traps for an eccentric new villain in Gotham named The Director, who’s MO is to film the deaths of superheroes. I think Film Freak’s gonna sue somebody. Anyway, she’s doing the job up to par, and by the time she’s almost done, she finds some of The Director’s other plans, which includes killing her with the deathtraps, so that there’s one less witness to stop The Director from taking out Batman.

Meanwhile, Damian meets up with Colin to see how he’s recovering from the Zsasz business, as well as give Colin a motorcycle and a were-house headquarters to use when he’s out patrolling as Abuse. Colin asks if Batman knows about this, and Damian says he does, while thinking in his mind that whatever Grayson doesn’t know won’t hurt him…

Overall I really enjoyed this issue. The Carpenter story was interesting, even if the villain of the piece, The Director, is kind of a cliche’d one, and his talking solely in film biz lingo was a bit annoying at times, but the actual characterization of Jenna more than made up for it. I can’t wait for next issue, where I’m sure she’s going to take down Director and his goons with their own death-traps just before Batman shows up. The brief scene with Damian and Colin was also cool. I’m really loving the interaction and growing friendship between these two kids, and could totally see them being sort-of like the next Tim/Kon.

AZRAEL #8
Written by Fabian Nicieza
Penciled by Ramon Bachs
Inked by John Stanisci
Colored by J.D. Smith
Lettered by Sal Cipriano
Cover by Francesco Mattina

Speaking of odd Bat-books to define–this one’s probably the oddest.  This feels the least like a “bat book,” and more like a combination of the commentary on organized religion (minus all the gore and humor) of Preacher and the reinterpretation of a semi-known property like, say, Unknown Soldier. The fact that the books I mentioned are all Vertigo doesn’t surprise me either–I wonder if this book would sell better if it was put on it’s own as a Vertigo book. However, I don’t necessarily think that it not feeling like a “bat-book” is a bad thing; in fact, I’d say it’s a strength that it offers something completely different from the rest of the line.

Basically, the Cult of the Eighth Deadly Sin, established all the way back in the Batman and Detective Comics annuals of last year, have come back, appearing in Paris, murdering one of the members of the Order of Purity. Michael Lane, Azrael, knows that it’s a trap to draw him out, but decides to go and track them down anyway. He does so, and he doesn’t so much fight them as much as he tries to defend himself physically and spiritually, but he doesn’t prevail, and the cult gets ready to make Michael the host for the Eighth Deadly Sin, which is revealed here to be…faith.

This was some deep, complex stuff in this issue. At first I was thinking how odd and slightly ridiculious the whole Eighth Sin thing was–what could they say that would work alongside the other seven? But faith…that I can see. Without getting too controversial, it makes sense in that too much of anything, no matter how good, can be harmful to you and/or others. It’s good to have pride in your own work and self-worth–it’s only when that pride makes everyone else’s work and self-worth inferior that it becomes a bad thing. It’s perfectly fine and natural to be attracted to and lust over other people–but if you focus so much on it that it interferes with the rest of your life, then it becomes a problem. So, in that sense, having faith in something and using it to help you can be a good thing–but when faith is used to do bad deeds and force it onto others, it does become something that one could categorize as a sin.

…So as you probably guessed, it’s not the most absolute “fun” book on the market by any stretch of the imagination. But if interesting moral conflicts and dramas interest you, then I highly recommend giving this a shot.

That’s all we have for this week. Next week, we’ll be tackling Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne #2 and Detective Comics #865