In some ways, "Azrael" #8 looks like a very amateurish comic. Ramon Bachs' art is blocky and simplistic with messy colors, looking somewhat like something a teenager dashed off. The story jumps from scene to scene with no explanation or context as numerous subplots drift in and out of the book despite this being the first part of a new story arc. And, yet, there's something very compelling about the comic -- a strange energy that drives it and sucks you in.
Maybe it's just my admittedly small knowledge of Medieval literature, but "Azrael" #8 reads like an attempt to capture the parataxis technique used in stories from that time period. Instead of using syntax (cause and effect), parataxis is storytelling through a listing of events. Events happen and then something new happens and then something new happens and so on. It's the endless series of 'and then' over and over again, which is the approach here. It could be sloppy storytelling with scene changes that just happen with no explanation, but telling the story Medieval knight-esque character in a Medieval fashion appeals to that English lit geek inside of me. I actually don't care if it's a purposeful choice or not by the creative team, I think it's a fantastic way to approach the book.
This issue has Azrael and the Order of Purity taking on the Cult of the Eighth Deadly Sin with the murder of an Order member by the Cult in Paris. The first half of the comic establishes the Order and the efforts to track down the Cult, while the second half is Azrael fighting against the embodiments of the seven deadly sins as they attempt to use him to resurrect the Eighth Sinner, which is an interesting idea. Throughout the issue, the mystery of what the eighth deadly sin could be was genuinely intriguing and the payoff is very strong and surprising. I laughed quite hard at the final page reveal of the eighth deadly sin.
While I appreciate the parataxical approach to the writing, the first half of the issue suffers a little from the lack of explanation. None of the characters have much depth, not even Azrael. The closest we come to some character development is when the White Ghost confronts Azrael on behalf of Ra's al Ghul over the hero's use of the Suit of Sorrows for his armor. There isn't a lot in the first half of the comic to draw a reader in beyond any possible interest in the idea of an eighth deadly sin.
Ramon Bachs' art is distinctive and, as such, is somewhat of an acquired taste. There's definitely a simplistic, amateurish look to it with characters not fully rendered or looking too small. But, there's also a lot of energy in his art. His characters are always moving or showing some dynamic element through their body language. He isn't helped by muddy, sloppy colors that rely too heavily on browns and deep reds. The art has a dirty look as a result, which could turn off some readers.
A solid superhero book, on the surface "Azrael" #8 doesn't look like it can stand up to a lot of other books on the shelves, but, upon a closer reading, it's compelling and interesting. Plus, the ending is absolutely wonderful. One of the best final pages I've read all year.