After The Fire
been told to await its coming with bated breath and we've
learned to hate it with a fiery passion: the comic company
is something that is done purely for the benefit of the comic
book fan. How long have the debates raged about whether Superman
could beat the Hulk in a fistfight, or if Batman could whoop-up
on the Punisher?
pump out crossovers whenever they need an influx of cash,
knowing full well that many of us will shell out the cash
just to watch The Avengers duke it out with the Justice League
of America. They are usually bad so we don't expect much more
than an illustrated boxing match.
now and then the comic crossover tries to actually stand on
its own as a story. Batman/Deathblow: After the Fire
makes such an effort. With Brian Azzarello writing and Lee
Bermejo doing some fine art, it almost pulls it off, too.
is what grabs you first: unlike most crossovers involving
Superhero A running across Superhero B and inevitably mistaking
each other for super villains before teaming up to take down
a true evil menace, the two main characters never actually
you don't know Wildstorm continuity from old (pretend it had
continuity in the Leifeld era), Deathblow was a mercenary/assassin/government
bad ass that shot guns, had red face paint, and may or may
not have had some kind of super power (I can honestly say
I never wasted money on Wildstorm comics before they moved
to DC, so my character recall isn't the sharpest).
Deathblow was sent on a killing mission to Gotham City ten
years ago, seeking to eliminate a pesky terrorist cell headed
by the enigmatic Falcon. Along with his handler, he goes on
the mission, takes out a few lower rung terrorists, and just
before he completes his mission, it gets botched by the arrival
of a pyrokinetic (called a "burner") who almost
takes out Deathblow.
ten years and a immolated severed hand clutching Deathblow's
calling card shows up in a Gotham toll booth. Enter the Batman.
Batman now has to solve a decade old murder and unravel the
weaving of government red-tape covering the case, all while
trying to find the same burner from a decade ago. Needless
to say, Batman will be busy.
almost makes this a great book, but he blows the ending so
horribly it just detracts from everything else. The book ends
with no story resolution. Azzarello doesn't explain the pyrokinetic's
motivation for a recent (read: in Batman's Gotham) killing
spree, nor does he really clear up the connection between
the burner, the Falcon, and the government to my satisfaction.
shame because this book was doing well up until the end. The
pacing was wonderful; the dialogue, especially on the part
of Batman and his manservant Alfred Pennyworth (doesn't "manservant"
sound kinda dirty?) is dead on, and Azzarello also does some
creative thinking involving the way Batman operates in Gotham.
He makes the Batman/Alfred relationship parallel the relationship
between a secret agent and a handler, which makes a lot of
sense considering the way Bruce Wayne and Batman have to co-exist.
It's just that damn ending. Azzarello is a great writer, which
he's proven on other books like 100 Bullets and Hellblazer,
but even he couldn't pull off a good crossover.
thing that makes me wish this had been a better comic than
it was is Lee Bermejo's artwork. He's wonderfully cinematic
in his style. The scenes involving Deathblow (and I'm mostly
referring to Deathblow's penchant for gunplay) is page-turning
action. The scenes lack a lot of dialogue, which just makes
you pay more attention to the visual and Bermejo has no problem
telling a visual story at parts. It reminded me of The
Matrix, if no one had a harness and a guide wire on. I
know I use terms like "dark" and "gritty"
frequently, but I have been using them wrongly until now.
Bermejo is as grim and gritty as they get and it really makes
for beautiful reading.
I liked this book more, at least enough to recommend it, but
I don't. It is only $12.95, so if you're looking for something
to read for a little filler between the newest issue of Powers
(which was spectacular and mind-blowing, thank you Bendis)
and a Starman collection, it won't set you back too
much, but you can skip this one without missing much.
Batman/Deathblow: After the Fire