By Javier E. Trujillo

SYNOPSIS: After nearly killing Penguin, Azrael races to find the person who stole from the Church of St. Dumas. Batman, however, won’t allow Azrael to use such aggressive methods. Who will be left standing when the Dark Knight faces the burning vengeance of St. Dumas?!

Right off the bat (uh, pun not intended, honestly), I was taken by surprise that Penguin’s guard, Mr. Wing, could actually talk. I had just assumed he was some lab mutation, not a low-level goon obsessed with a bonus for taking down the Bat.

I was also happy to see yet another James Bond reference made in this series, with Batman bringing up Vesper martinis! Not only is it a fun nod, but gives us an insight into Bruce and Jean Paul’s past relationship.

Batman and Azrael divide and conquer when it comes to their foes, with the Dark Knight handling the monstrous Mr. Wing with relative ease. When he comes to Azrael’s side, we get a stark moment of violence for this series, with Azrael holding a very bloody and battered Penguin over the building’s edge before dropping him. The expression Templeton adorns Batman with says it all-this Batman doesn’t kid around.

With Batman occupied with saving Penguin, Azrael is off to his next target and he’d better prepare for a chilly reception! (okay, this pun was intended)

It’s in the second half of this story that we get a bit of a wrinkle in the continuity, learning what happened to Nora Fries in between The New Batman Adventures and Batman Beyond. The tragedy just keeps coming for poor Victor.

Said tragedy takes an awkwardly dark turn as Batman has to use Nora as a means to distract and take down his frozen foe to save Azrael. I felt a little disappointed that we didn’t get to see a fire sword versus freeze gun battle. Azrael’s design carries over the oversized gauntlets from the comics, yet the gadgets they were imbued with don’t make an appearance. It’s a missed opportunity for this outing.

As with all these digital issues, they are a quick read, but I appreciate that we take a moment to have a discussion between Bruce and Jean-Paul about their respective beliefs. It also highlights the compassion Batman has compared to Azrael, something key to their dichotomy. Plus, Kubina’s colors get to really shine in the church setting!

The tease for the next issue hints at the mysterious stalker coming for The Joker! It’s worth noting that Templeton goes for an aesthetic more aligned with his appearances in the Justice League cartoon and the flashback in Batman Beyond: Return of The Joker than his TNBA look, which I am all for.

I definitely enjoyed this issue, but feel a little cheated somehow that Azrael’s time in the book seems to be at a close already. Realistically, this was never going to be “Knightfall: The Animated Series”, so it’s really no surprise that Jean-Paul’s involvement was only for an “episode”. Still, it was fun to see the character get the B:TAS take. Looking back at the “Bane” episode, what mattered was having the essence of the character there, and I feel Burnett and Dini succeeded in that.

We’ve got four chapters left and Red Hood, The Batman Who Laughs, and Vampire Batman are still waiting in the wings! I’m greatly looking forward to where we go next! Javier E. Trujillo




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