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Who is Azrael, Batman’s Ally?

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In 1992, DC Comics published a four-part miniseries titled “The Sword of Azrael,” written by Dennis O’Neil–the editor of the Batman line–and penciled by Joe Quesada. At the time, readers thought it was just another inconsequential adventure of Batman, not knowing that the introduction of the character Azrael was part of a bigger plan that would come to fruition with the Knightfall storyline.

Azrael, Vengeful Angel of the Order of St. Dumas

When Jean-Paul Valley’s father is mortally shot by a gangster he was sent to kill, he gives his son instructions to follow before dying. This led Jean-Paul to Switzerland where he had a rendezvous in a tiny mountain village to meet his destiny. There, a small man dressed as a monk named Nomoz becomes his new teacher. His brutal training starts.

Jean-Paul Valley is to become the new Azrael, the deadly Angel working to protect the Order of St. Dumas–a secret society/religious organization with a long history, dating back to the Crusades, that was originally connected to the Knights Templar. What he doesn’t know is that he was conditioned to take on this role from birth as were his father and ancestors.

The Sword of Azrael #2

As Azrael, Jean-Paul Valley has to obey the Order of St. Dumas and faces Batman. But in an unexpected turn of events, Azrael breaks from the Order, following his instincts instead of his orders, and helps save Batman’s life. An act that makes him disgraced in the eyes of his mentor. Instead of becoming an Angel of Death, Jean-Paul Valley chose to be a man.

Azrael, The New Batman

Azrael could have just disappeared for a long time after “The Sword of Azrael” miniseries concluded, but he found a place in the Batfamily, becoming an employee of Wayne-Tech and being trained by Robin to become a hero. He already knew how to fight, but the values and conditioning of the Order of St. Dumas were deeply ingrained in him. He had to learn another way to fight injustice.

While this took place, Bruce Wayne’s health was deteriorating, and a new enemy called Bane worked to not let him get better. The plan was to destroy Batman and he succeeded. But a new Batman appeared. Choose by the Dark Knight himself to replace him, Jean-Paul Valley wore the cowl and took up the fight against Bane and the other rogues.

DC Comics had planned from the start to have a year with Azrael as Batman. A new costume, a new man behind the masks, and a lot of problems for Tim who tried for a while to manage the new caped crusader who was violent and uncooperative. This Batman was bad news, he was on a downward spiral that came crashing on the Batfamily and Gotham while Bruce Wayne had to get on his feet.

Jean-Paul Valley was a victim of his upbringing. His mind was broken by his conditioning. Eventually, he was stopped by Batman, but this was not the end for him.

Azrael, Agent of the Bat

For Dennis O’Neil, Azrael was to end his run with the return of Bruce Wayne, but the writer was asked to launch a new ongoing series starring Jean-Paul Valley. O’Neil who ended his tenure as editor of the Batman titles took charge of the new Azrael monthly comic. Now, the character is sent on the road to recovery, to fix what the Order of St Dumas broke in order to control the violence that is bottled up inside him. Then, he could become the hero he wanted to be.

The Azrael series went on to last 100 issues (all written by O’Neil), ending in 2003. After that, Jean-Paul Valley disappeared for a while. In 2009, a new Azrael was introduced, a former US Marine and GCPD officer named Michael Lane. Following the New 52 reboot, Valley made a comeback during the Batman and Robin Eternal storyline, being once again an enforcer for the Order of St. Dumas who starts to help the Bat Family. He then came back as a full member of the Bat during the Rebirth Era.

You can find more details about all that in our Azrael Reading Order.

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