Sunday, June 03, 2012

Who Remembers Az-Bat?

KnightsEnd promotional card, with the "real" Batman (left) vs. Az-Bat, circa 1995.
This past week at my local comic book store, I found (among the regular array of promotional pieces for upcoming series/events/annuals), a card advertising the KnigthsEnd storyline from the mid-1990s Batman books.

In retrospect, the 1990s were seen as a "dark" time by many comic books fans. There was the Death of Superman storyline (followed by The Reign of the Supermen which spawned iterations of --SPOILER ALERT--Superboy, Steel, the Eradicator and the Cyborg) and the rise of ultra-thick McFarlane-esque webbing. Perhaps one of the most befuddling events of the Nineties, however is the crowning (an occurrence eventually ret-conned out of many fans' memories) of Rob Lefield as a comic "god." Despite the renewed vitriol toward Lefield as evidenced by the weak sales of nearly anything he touches in DC's current New 52 re-boot line, his impact is unmistakable. Take for instance Batman, or more specifically Jean-Paul Valley's Az-Bat (the name by which this Bat-character would commonly come to be known) from the KnightFall Saga.

KnightsEnd was the third in a trilogy of the series-within-a-series that began with KnightFall (a story that will likely receive renewed interest as it deals with Bane's "breaking of the Bat," a plot element that seems to play a part in this summer's film The Dark Knight Rises), and continues through KnightQuest (in which Jean-Paul Valley is installed as the new Batman, replacing Bruce Wayne). In addition to being psychologically unstable, Valley also has a hankering for violence, over exaggerated armor and pouches--all signature elements of Rob Lefield's character design sensibilities. The result, in sharp contrast to Bruce's traditional Bat-costume, is on display in the promo card above. When he took on the mantle of the Bat, Valley wore the traditional suit, but as his mind came unhinged, and the need for more violence was felt to be necessary, he slowly modified the costume with Azrael-tech, resulting in the suit above. In one issue he added the razor sharp gauntlets, the next chest armor and so on...

While I was primarily a Superman collector at the time, I did collect individual issues of KnightsFall that included Jean-Paul Valley's character arc from Azreal to Batman and back. This was mostly (I guess Lefeild knew what he was doing) because I dug the modern tech -based look of the Az-Bat suit.

The back of the same promo-card.

No comments: