About the Author:
Dennis 'Denny' O'Neil was a writer and editor of comic books. He died in June 2020.
AVERAGE REVIEW SCORE:
3.3 out of 5
Batman: Birth Of The Demon - Part 2
(Art by Norm Breyfogle, Irv Novick and Dick Giordano)
Part of the DC Comics Graphic Novel Collection. Two stories; in the first, whilst trying to prevent Ra's Al Ghul from accessing the Lazarus Pits he has scattered around the globe, Batman encounters Talia Al Ghul and learns the details of Ra's' origins centuries earlier. In the second story we see Ra's' second ever encounter with the Dark Knight, wherein they try to prevent a deadly plague from being unleashed.
The majority of this book is made up of the story 'Birth of the Demon', which has an appropriately mythic quality as we learn the tragedy of Ra's Al Ghul's origins as well as his descent into murderous villainy. There were two elements which held it back from true greatness; the fact that Batman acts strangely manic and out of character and the fact that the young Al Ghul has visions of Death itself which happen to have a very batlike silhouette, something which was just too on-the-nose for my tastes.
The second story (actually from long before the main one), 'Swamp Sinister', is very much in the same James Bond style of storytelling as the stories told in 'Birth of the Demon: Part 1' (reviewed here). It's an interesting switch-up in genres for Batman, but not one I was a huge fan of.
3 out of 5
(Art by Steve Erwin and Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez)
The graphic novel adaption of the classic Tim Burton movie. As the deformed Penguin rises from the sewers and attempts to seize control of Gotham City, Batman finds his hand full also facing Catwoman, who unleashes gleeful destruction upon the city.
I have always loved the movie this is based on, with Burton's two Batman films always having a special place in my heart (between you and me I almost wore-out a bootleg VHS of 'Batman Returns' as a kid). The dark and twisted reimaginings of Penguin and Catwoman were particularly iconic and here we get a version of the Batman who's had time to bed-in to his role as Gotham's protector.
However, as adaptions go this is probably best described as 'functional'. It's very short, for starters, and therefore a lot of the subtlety and subplots just don't make the cut here. Far more disappointing, however, is that this book fails to capture the grimy sadistic menace of Danny DeVito's performance as the Penguin or of Michelle Pfeiffer's gloriously sensual turn as Catwoman. I don't think it could reasonably be expected to, but it's still a disappointment.
3 out of 5
Batman: Sword Of Azrael
(Art by Joe Quesada and Kevin Nowlan)
The lead-in story to the iconic Knightfall storyline in which Bruce Wayne, with a broken spine, is replaced by a new Batman. In this book Batman discovers the existence of a secret brotherhood which sends out its agent of vengeance, Azrael, to kill the unjust. When Bruce is captured by the brotherhood's most dangerous enemy, one who was once a member of them, it falls to Alfred and a new, untested, Azrael to find him.
Azrael is one of the best characters in the Bat-mythos as he is constantly torn between his hypnotically implanted training as an angel of vengeance and his human conscience. We also get to see the young Azrael, AKA Jean Paul Valley, learning a few tricks of the detective trade from Alfred, which makes for a nice hint of things to come.
This book won't change your life forever, but it's a good solid bit of Batman-based entertainment featuring a character who is a perfect foil for the Dark Knight (he's like the Punisher to Spider-Man) and who has an ever-so-cool visual design. I mean, the guy has a pair of extendable flaming swords on his wrists!
4 out of 5