March 22, 2009 at 2:27 pm (Comic Books, Music)

Azrael: Battle for the Cowl #1 is really, really amazing. It’s been a while since we’ve seen some Frazer Irving. March 08 had Gutsville #3 with full interiors, and July 08 saw X-Men: Divided We Stand #2 with a short penciled by him, but man I miss an entire story handled by Frazer, and it’s totally worth the wait.

It also doesn’t hurt that Fabian Nicieza offers some very great stuff for Frazer to illuminate. A handful of (impressively designed) spies just show up to be defeated in battle (Irving’s casually bizarre and horrific recalling his work on the Inhumans, but really everything he’s ever done, too), there’s a secret religious conspiracy with bright, stylish rooms housing dark characters not out of place in the Matrix; there’s even a fight scene in a completely dark cathedral whose sole light source is a flaming sword. The panel where the new Azrael turns his luminescent weapon to find three monsters slinking towards him is absolutely amazing.

Also impressive, as ever, is Frazer’s visual storytelling. The lines of most pages are made of diagonal instead of straight lines, the panel on the left hand of the page pointing diagonally to the right most panel, character’s eyes looking below to the action a further panel reveals. If I had a scanner with me, I could describe the mechanics a lot better, but its sheer readability with complex points of view deserves testimony.

This kind of work can become lost, as any complexly designed, stylish work for a superhero crossover might, but this issue is a great return to form for Irving who may have never lost it, an artist I was worried might have lost the momentum all his various projects at DC and Marvel gave him. Still looking forward to Gutsville, whenever it comes out, too!


Also of note and colors: The Flaming Lips render all other music unnecessary with this video. With soft and delicate electronic drums in an atmosphere of distorted energy just begging for some time in the sonic foreground, Wayne Coine sings the lyrics at half the speed and twice the emotion. It doesn’t sound cathartic like Madonna’s original, but reflective. Well, at least until the entire band comes on to play, with Wayne’s voice reverberating throughout the entire set in impressive artificial acoustics.

And they even play on the nuttiest set design ever! Very few other bands would play with such a stupendous light show pulsing to the music and dancing to the beat, but just look at the first shot of the set, with just a couple people on stage; wires dangle from the instruments on the candy colored set, the tangled electricity as important to the visuals as the bright colors in contrast. What other band would incorporate their instruments’ wires into their visuals?

About the music, now? It’s Who-derived Rock performed with power that doesn’t sacrifice subtlety, deserving a synesthetic cathedral for its illustrious performance, and on top of all of this they take all the powerful lyrics from Madonna’s “Borderline” without repeating the song’s chorus until its emotions become weak. The guitar solo and gong are both absolute tops.


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