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Wednesday Comics Review: Azrael #17 and Crossed Family Values #7

Controversy. it's a funny thing. Oh there are plenty of things to offend people, but they have to get to the people who would be offended first. Often people wouldn't pick up anything likely to offend them, why would they? But sometimes that content creeps into the things they would pick up. Or they experience it by some kind of media osmosis, where they learn of things that might offend them, and get a kind of offence-by-proxy.

I mean, seriously, in the third issue of my comic for Avatar Press Holed Up, I had the cast blow up a mosque in Mecca. But no one read it, so I'm safe.

This week, we have Azrael #17 from DC Comics. The book is cancelled in a few issues, so basically the creators David Hine and Cliff Richards can go for broke. And it's not like this is reaching for the book, hell it's about a religious cult, haunted armor, sacred swords and Azreal as a Crusader for heaven's sake. It's just surprising it's taken a while to get this far. We've got the Dan Brown-styled version of the Turin Shroud that proved Jesus did not die on the cross but is full of his DNA recap.

Which is terribly useful, because, in this issue, Batman Inc goes to Afghanistan, albeit without the formal label, with Azrael the Crusader riding in on horseback.

Yeah. An actual Bat Crusade. Pretty much literally.

Coupled with an account of how a liberal Iraqi family were turned into extremists during the Iraq War. A human weapon of mass destruction. And the politics of gang warfare mixed with religious extremism in Afghanistan

All from the writer who brought you Batmuslim Nightrunner. It's like he's daring the right-wing blogs to read this.

Wednesday Comics Review: Azrael #17 and Crossed Family Values #7

The story demands a certain simplicity to keep moving, no one getting bogged down in political or social red tape. Azrael moves on from Gotham, gets into the country quickly, finds who he needs quickly, which does make the book feel rushed and ephemeral in places, and this may be the first casualty of a twenty page story over a twenty-two. But the Baghdad back story is well told and given the space it needs, even with compressed panel pages.

Visually the book excels at portraying two major locations, Gotham at night and Afghanistan in the day, with great distinction. Both use of space and colour provides a very clear turning point for the book. And, yes, I'll be here for part two.

Reading the last issue of Crossed: Family Values, I'm reminded of the rarely-watched John Cleese film Clockwise where he cried "It's not the despair, I can cope with the despair, it's the hope!" And so it is with this comic. This female-led group losing member after member, some at the hand of the Crossed, some at the hands of themselves as their number gets reduced, in one case very literally indeed. But they hold out. And, right at the very end, are given some light.

If Garth Ennis and Jacen Burrows was all about the penis, with one character Horsecock waving around a horse's penis as a weapon and a totem, then Family Value is about the vagina. Here we have the mother figure-turned-Crossed repeatedly requiring her family return there, as she strides around naked, tracking down her prey by… well…

Wednesday Comics Review: Azrael #17 and Crossed Family Values #7

This is an angry, deliberately disturbing comic that crosses over the line from purposeful bad taste to purely juvenile shock tactics. Ennis' Crossed was based in the idea that every inhumane cat was committed by people in the modern world anyway, Family Values has moved away from that grounding into more Freudian territory and I don't know if the concept holds up as well to that approach. And it seems to counter this more cerebral structure by piling on the atrocity, almost as if to disguise it under buckets of ejaculate-covered entrails, no matter how well realistically portrayed by Javier Barreno.

But then there's always that hope, and that's what elevates this book and keeps you reading. You will not be unrewarded.

Wednesday Comics Review: Azrael #17 and Crossed Family Values #7 Review copies are courtesy of Orbital Comics, London. Check out their signing this Saturday with Skullkicker's Jim Zubkavich.

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Rich JohnstonAbout Rich Johnston

Founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world, since 1992. Author of The Flying Friar, Holed Up, The Avengefuls, Doctor Who: Room With A Deja Vu, The Many Murders Of Miss Cranbourne, Chase Variant. Lives in South-West London, works from Blacks on Dean Street, shops at Piranha Comics. Father of two. Political cartoonist.
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