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Swordazrael1

Cover to Batman: Sword of Azrael #1 (1992).
Art by Joe Quesada and Kevin Nowlan.

Azrael (Jean-Paul Valley) is a fictional character in the DC Comics universe. He first appeared in the 1992–1993 four-issue limited series Batman: Sword of Azrael, created by Dennis O'Neil and Joe Quesada, and later as a supporting character in various Batman-related titles, before gaining his own self-titled series (also by O'Neil). He is named after the traditional Angel of Death and shares the name Azrael with a Teen Titans character introduced years earlier, making him the second Azrael in the DC Universe.[1]

Publication historyEdit

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The character first appeared in the series Batman: Sword of Azrael, released in 1992.

Part of the Battle for the Cowl storyline involves an Azrael three-issue mini-series written by Fabian Nicieza.[2][3]

Fictional character biographyEdit

The Sword of AzraelEdit

Jean-Paul Valley, a university student in Gotham City, is unaware that he is the latest in a line of assassin-enforcers for "The Sacred Order of Saint Dumas", a sinister secret society, and had received training and mental conditioning to prepare him for his role since before he was born. He is a test tube baby, and his genes have been spliced with those of animals. For most of his life, he has been brainwashed with "The System", a deep level of psychological conditioning. Valley only learns of this upon the death of his father, who was also his predecessor, at which time his conditioning is activated and he is called upon to take up the mantle of Azrael. When he is sent by the Order to kill a weapons dealer, a rogue member of the Order who had turned against the others and killed his father, he crosses paths with Batman, who was investigating the death of Valley's father after the damage he had caused following his attack. While working with Alfred to find the weapons dealer after he has captured Bruce Wayne, using the Batman costume to kill the other Order members in an attempt to create further confusion, he is shown the error of his ways and he decides to fight alongside Batman against the criminals of Gotham, rejecting his "birthright" and seeking Batman's help in breaking his conditioning to forge his own destiny. His name isn't revealed until the end of the story, at which point he claims it was his father's name too. However a later storyline in his solo series stated his father's name to be Ludovic Valley.[1]

"Knightfall"Edit

Det667

Detective Comics #667 (1993). Art by Kelley Jones.

Main article: Batman: Knightfall

Valley plays a pivotal role in the "Knightfall" story arc (1992–1994), in which he stands in as Batman after Bruce Wayne is defeated and paralyzed at the hands of Bane. Against Bruce Wayne's orders, Valley fights and defeats Bane, wearing an enhanced battle-armour he designed and built under the influence of the System. His performance as Batman is influenced by his Azrael conditioning; he grows increasingly violent, allowing the mass murderer Abattoir to fall to his death, thereby also allowing one of Abattoir's still-living victims to die. Valley also refuses to recognize Robin as his partner. In addition to the mental problems, Valley also expresses a desire to be as good as Bruce Wayne was at being Batman, though by the time Abbatoir dies, he rejects this decision. Valley is also shown to prefer the action side of being Batman and finds detective work to be boring. As a result, he makes mistakes, particularly regarding Catwoman.

Although Valley disobeys his orders, Wayne is impressed enough to let him remain as Batman, but when Robin tells him of Abattoir's death, he resolves to reclaim the Batman mantle. His back repaired thanks to the sacrifice of Doctor Shondra Kinsolving, Wayne seeks training from his enemy, the deadly assassin Lady Shiva. As part of the training, Shiva unleashes one assassin after another on Wayne, having framed him for the murder of their master, until he is forced to break his vow never to kill, wishing to make Wayne the same as her and thus make him a worthy opponent at some future date. Wayne does actually appear to kill one of these assassins and, satisfied, Shiva calls off the attacks; the "killing" later turns out to be a bluff.

Wayne then goes after the technologically-enhanced Valley to reclaim his identity. After a prolonged battle on Gotham Bridge, when Azrael, using his own Batman suit, barely defeats Nightwing- he had briefly believed Wayne to be dead after he attempted to use the sabotaged Batmobile. He is defeated when Wayne tricks him into removing his armor by confronting him in a confined tunnel and exposing him to sunlight, forcing him to finally realize that Wayne is the true Batman. Valley, disgraced, leaves Gotham and becomes Azrael once more.[1]

Agent of the BatEdit

The subsequent Azrael series, chronicling Valley's battles against the Order of St. Dumas, ran for 100 issues between 1995 and 2003. Starting with issue #47, it was retitled Azrael: Agent of the Bat in an attempt to boost sales by tying the series in with the rest of the Batman mythos,Template:Fact including Azrael as part of the team of Batman, Robin, and the new Batgirl (Cassandra Cain). He also changes his costume considerably for a time. Azrael returns to his original costume and battles supposed hallucinations that are supposed to represent both his father and the creator of the order that spawned him, St. Dumas.

Toward the end of the series, Azrael is plagued by apparently supernatural occurrences in the form of possible miracles.

Azrael is seemingly killed in the series' final issue, shot with two specially-coated bullets while battling archenemies Scratch and Carlton Lehah. However, his body is never recovered.[1]

Mark ShawEdit

See also: Manhunter (comics) In the current Manhunter series, former Manhunter Mark Shaw was offered the mantle of Azrael, but rejected it.

Michael Washington LaneEdit

See also: Battle for the Cowl In Booster Gold (vol. 2) #10, a note can be seen written on time traveler Rip Hunter's chalk board reading "Jean Paul Valley Lives!". In the following issue, another note says "Azrael comes and goes."

The new Azrael is The Third "Ghost of Batman" to undergo Doctor Hurt's experiments; an African American ex-cop named Michael Washington Lane.

LegacyEdit

In Batman And The Outsiders (vol. 2) #14, the shadowy form of an apparently bald, black man is shown as he undergoes various purification rituals, overseen by the Order of Purity.[4]

On 11 December 2008, DC Comics Editor in-Chief Dan Didio announced that an Azrael mini-series titled Azrael: Death's Dark Knight will be launched between March and May 2009.[5]

Other versionsEdit

  • Valley is not the only Azrael in the DC Universe. Valley's father was the previous Azrael. A Chinese man, supposedly given the same training as Valley, and an identical costume, is briefly under the control of the Order. Also, the position of the order's enforcer has been passed on since medieval times.
  • Earlier on in the Azrael series, another man is supposedly selected and trained in the same way as Valley and the Chinese Azrael to be Valley's replacement. He is defeated by Valley and supposedly falls to his death, only to resurface in Gotham at one point wearing one of Valley's 'Batman' armors and engaging in underground fights.

Powers and abilitiesEdit

The source of Azrael's abilities is a post-hypnotic training regimen known as The System. The details of The System are never fully explained, but it is understood that training begins before birth and includes genetic modification, prenatal electric shock, and the use of apes as surrogate mothers. The end result is a human being who is inhumanly strong and fast and has a raging split personality triggered by the donning of the Azrael costume. The split personality is apparently coached to believe it is an actual Biblical angel of vengeance. His weapons include wrist-mounted swords which ignite flames and can also be launched from the gauntlets. Azrael also dons a bullet- and flame-proof armor.

It is implied towards the middle of the series that all Azraels have been imparted with some form of The System, but that the training and genetic tampering have been updated and changed significantly in the Order's 500 year history. The System also somehow separates an Azrael's civilian identity from his powers, in that they are only super strong or super fast while in costume. However, towards the end of his life Jean-Paul was able to manifest these abilities while in his normal personality.

Azrael is also an expert with computers. When he was first introduced in Batman: Sword of Azrael #1, it was revealed that Jean-Paul was studying computer programming in college.

Jean Paul is also trained as a detective when he was with Batman's team.

EquipmentEdit

Azrael's original costume consists of special red and gold armor. After becoming an "Agent of the Bat", he dons silver and black armor with a red cape and a stylized red bat symbol on the chest. Later on, he dons red armor with golden gauntlets, boots, shoulder pads and a blue cape. He sometimes carries a flaming sword, and also uses two retractable daggers hidden in the gauntlets of his costume. On page 71 of the updated edition of Batman: The Ultimate Guide to the Dark Knight, Scott Beatty implied that Azrael's changing costumes were reflections of the changes in Azrael's life from an agent of St. Dumas to an agent of the Batman to his own man. The Azrael entry in The DC Comics Encyclopedia confirms this.

In other mediaEdit

Video gamesEdit

Azrael is a character that can be officially created after obtaining all the mini-kits for the hero chapters of the game in Lego Batman: The Video Game in the character customization feature. The Nintendo DS version also features him and can be unlocked and made available to purchase after all the levels have been completed.

Azrael is set to appear in the upcoming video game DC Universe Online.

External linksEdit


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