Ascalon has taken over Azrael’s mind and is looking to have one of those uncomfortable religious conversations that seems to only take place at the Thanksgiving dinner table or the outside of bus stations at 3 AM. Elsewhere, Batman and Zatanna grab a magical deus ex machina that may eventually save the day!
So there isn’t much in the way of plot development in this issue, but we are treated to one of the better Bat Family fights in recent memory as a mind-controlled Azrael faces off with Batwoman and Cassandra in a knock-down, drag out brawl for the ages. The key to this fight’s success is the choreography, as the sweeping motions and impacting blows are all pretty well rendered. Especially late in the issue, when Azrael and his opponents are just landing haymaker after haymaker. It almost makes you ignore the inconsistent character modeling that is peppered throughout the fight. I’m not sure how tall Jean-Paul is supposed to be, but at times he towers over Kate and Cassandra as if he’s like 7-feet tall. Either that or the two athletic Batwomen are the size of tween girls. Maybe he really is that big, though, because the ending teaser for JP’s return to the Az-Bats costume of old has the suit towering over even the sentient armor Lucas calls Rookie.
Elsewhere, I really like the visual metaphor of Jean-Paul’s internal struggles with Ascalon. It’s not the most subtle thing in the world, having JP literally up to his neck and drowning as the cherubic yet insane child floats above him, but this is Batman not Shakespeare. It’s a cool image all the same. That it’s juxtaposed against the stormy night sky littered with Batwing drones ready to pounce on Clayface is also a solid narrative device. Good plotting all around, actually.
Size discrepancies aside, this is a strong outing for penciler Alvaro Martinez. Little things like the consistent design on Zatanna’s blouse are so easy to miss, but he manages to keep things like that steady throughout the book. The colors are fine, the pacing is good. Overall, there’s not really a ton to say about the book one way or the other. It’s very much a middle chapter of a larger story, and short of the fight with Azrael, it doesn’t have a ton for new readers to latch on to. That being said, invested readers should have a good time and will find enough action to keep them interested and enough intrigue to bring them back for another issue.