Batman/Deathblow-After the Fire Retro-Review

BATMAN/DEATHBLOW: AFTER THE FIRE

Script: Brian Azzarello
Pencils: Lee Bermejo
Inks: Tim Bradstreet
Colors: Grant Goleash
Letters: Todd Klein

Ihad to have all of the Brian Azzarello Batman. Having more Lee Bermejo Batman material was nice incentive to pursue this book too but either way, I have just finished reading what is basically the prequel to the stellar “Lex Luthor: Man of Steel” and “Joker” series of graphic novels by the team of Azzarello and Bermejo.

The story was okay, but the art is the true revelation here. Lee Bermejo gets to cut loose on doing every kind of Batman shot you would want this artist to do.

It helps me understand and appreciate the Azzarello/Bermejo team’s use of Batman throughout all 3 of those graphic novels (as well as in Bermejo’s art on John Arcudi’s Superman strip in Wednesday Comics last summer). In Joker and Lex Luthor, Batman appears throughout roughly a chapter and a half what are easily six chapter (120 page, do the math…) graphic novels. It’s sparse, it’s moody, it’s cinematic and frankly they’re probably better stories both than “After the Fire”, an early 2000’s attempt on Azzarello’s part to start injecting the kind of reality (conspiracies, CIA spooks, IO soldiers, no costumes but Batman and ‘Blow’s red vertical lines)he likes in his gritty funny books into Gotham city. That said, Bermejo gets to do all the awesome Batman shots he could ever want so the creative team would go on to use the character more effectively in later works.

That said, the story is cool and readable. Bats and Alfred have entertaining dialogue and Deathblow isn’t the most annoying tough guy sodier in comics though he’s not the most endearing either. The hip Asian pyrokinetic villain strikes me as something Grant Morrison would have put in Final Crisis, and that’s not a bad thing but as a lot of Azzarello stories before he hit his stride during ‘100 Bullets’, it all feels so bleak, nihilistic and manly at points that it’s hard to care or pretend that this book has an emotional core…(Oh come on, how many dying friends had Bruce Wayne had in the hospital while he’s gone out into the city and kicked ass on their behalves? This CIA spook is not going to be the one to make Batman cry…)but the story is double crossing intragovernmental agencies that get in Batman’s way and a decade spanning ‘job gone wrong comes back to haunt government agents’ story that links Batman and Deathblow but never actually causes them to meet each other.

It’s pretty good.

If you’re like me, you want all the Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo Batman and you want to own this.

Or if you just love super great Batman art, this is worth owning.

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