Ending his run on the book, Fabian Nicieza concludes the two-part story surrounding the eighth deadly sin, faith. That one idea is striking in its originality and simplicity, but this issue doesn't follow up on the potential there because of the need to have the story completed in this issue. Azrael's acceptance of his new role as the embodiment of the eighth deadly sin and his rejection of it is too quick. This seems like a story that was meant to be longer and more drawn out, but was rushed because of the creative team change.
The idea of faith as a sin is introduced well in this issue, especially in the life of Michael Lane. Nicieza tries his best to present a complete picture of the good and bad sides of faith. First, the sinful side is shown with the argument for pure faith as a destructive, negative force on humanity. It's been the cause of wars, bigotry, hatred, and more deaths than can be counted. Azrael being chosen as the embodiment of this sin makes sense since his entire character is based on using violence to further his specific cause of faith. He so believes that he commits acts that are destructive and harmful, even going against the things he claims to believe in and act for.
However, a confrontation with the White Ghost stops Azrael from continuing his new role before he can do anything of consequence. This is where the story feels rushed and overly compressed since it's a quick conversion to his role as the embodiment of the eighth deadly sin and, then, it's a quick reversion to his same old self. The White Ghost gives a long lecture on the nature of faith and that solves it. It's too convenient and too easy. There's no struggle.
Ramon Bachs' art maintains its energetic messiness despite the lackluster execution of the story on a written level, but even his art suffers somewhat in the scene where the White Ghost lectures Azrael since those pages are filled with word balloons and characters standing around. Despite some action to begin the scene before moving on to Azrael getting revenge against the other embodiments of deadly sins, that section drags on every level.
Throughout the rest of the issue, Bachs excels with dark, clunky art. There's a simplicity and immaturity to the art that's very attractive. This art doesn't look like it belongs on a regular DC (or Marvel) title, and it gives the issue a necessary edge that matches the ideas that Nicieza is trying to explore. The pages are dark and muddled, but still present a clear narrative drive.
While the ideas are fantastic in "Azrael" #9, the execution falls down as the story is cut short. I would have loved to see a longer, more complete presentation of the idea of faith as the eighth deadly sin and Azrael as its embodiment.