Jean-Paul Valley, better known as Azrael, is a vigilante who formerly operated out of Gotham City. Most of his extraordinary abilities come from severe amounts of subconscious training and conditioning he was put through during his youth, unaware that he was being controlled by a 500-year old devout religious sect called the Order of St. Dumas. Named after the Angel of Death, Jean-Paul Valley is actually descended from a long line of crimefighters using the Azrael suit and name. Although his psychological conditioning led him to become an often remorseless killer in the name of vengeance, his lengthy time spent with the Batman Family led him to distance himself from the extremist views of his ingrained teachings and to a more responsible and humane approach to justice. As Azrael, his main nemesis was Carleton LeHah, an evil man of wealth who believed himself to be serving the demon Biis, the Order of St. Dumas' sworn enemy. Valley served for awhile as the second Batman when Bruce Wayne's spine was crippled, although he would later be forced to relinquish the role. His career apparently ended when he was apparently killed being shot and falling off of a balcony at the hands of LeHah.
- See also: Batman: Sword of Azrael
A test-tube baby, from his conception Jean-Paul's genetic structure was altered by scientists with Animal DNA, engineering him to be capable of feats beyond those of a normal human. He grew up oblivious to his intended larger purpose, and became a student of Programming at Gotham University. He learned of his family's legacy when his father, the previous Azrael, crawled bleeding to his apartment one night in costume, having been mortally wounded by LeHah. Before requesting that his body be dumped somewhere where the family secrets wouldn't be uncovered, his father supplied him with money, and the means to travel to Switzerland and meet with the Order of St. Dumas who would supply him with his training. It was later revealed that his father had actually been attempting to supply Jean-Paul with the means to escape the Order's influences, but his intentions were misread. In the Swiss Alps, a man named Nomoz taught Valley of the responsibilities of Azrael, and revealed that despite believing himself to be rather mild-mannered, he was in reality already a more-than-capable fighter requiring no additional training (apart from a few months of intense exercise in order to build up his body), having been already unknowingly suitably conditioned. His conditioning is the result of a process referred to as "The System", the full implications on the human psyche of which have never been fully explained. In his first time donning his costume, Azrael meets Batman (Bruce Wayne), accompanied by his butler Alfred, who had traveled to Switzerland investigating the mystery behind Azrael's father's death, the nature of which had inadvertently instigated a riot. Although at first they were at odds with each other, Azrael was eventually forced to rescue Bruce from Biis (LeHah), and ended up rejecting the Order's violent and uncaring methods in favor of the more humanitarian efforts Batman encourages. Already being aware of Wayne's secret identity, he traveled back to Gotham and began working with the Batman Family.
Bruce quickly sent Robin to train Azrael as a new vigilante and to control "The System". Valley was given a job as a security manager at Wayne Enterprises, where he also debuted as part of the selected group of vigilantes. Jean-Paul continued fighting crime, but it was obvious that the violent nature from "the system" wasn't going away. Jean-Paul did some work for Batman and after that, he saved Lucius Fox from a certain death. One night, Bruce was out of action and Jean-Paul took the mantle of the bat for the first time against Killer Croc and failed miserably. After the defeat, Jean-Paul's appearance and attitude changed to became more agressive and he trained harder to increase his strength. In order to redeem his mistake with Killer Croc and to test the result of his training, Jean-Paul went out to the streets of Gotham to patrol all alone. He encountered a couple of common thieves and beat them to a pulp.
After Bane broke Bruce Wayne's spine, Jean-Paul joined Alfred and Robin and rescued Batman from the streets. Later, he helped Robin get a special medicine for Bruce's recovery. With Bane rising to the power, Gotham was in need of Batman and Bruce asked Jean-Paul to fill in for him; a role that Jean-Paul accepted in a much more sinister way than expected. In his first exploits using the mantle of the Bat, Jean-Paul worked without Robin, unleashing his wrath on common criminals before learning about Scarecrow’s latest activities. Jean-Paul located Scarecrow, but as he was about to capture him, he had to confront Anarky. Scarecrow used fear on Anarky and Jean-Paul, but because of the System, Jean-Paul was not entirely affected and he finally stopped Scarecrow. As he left with the madman to deliver him to the authorities, Jean-Paul threatened Anarky to stay out of his way.
Confident after his initial victory, Jean-Paul became a more brutal Batman and forced a confession out of the notorious gangster Tony Bressi, who provided some information on Bane. Jean-Paul used Bressi to lure Bane, but he was instead confronted by Bane’s henchmen. Using his new metallic gloves, Jean-Paul brutally defeated the trio and couldn’t get further information as the police arrived at the scene and he was forced to flee. After learning the facility where Bane’s henchmen were locked, he released them and used them to get to Bane. The confrontation between the two was short as Bane got the upper hand in the fight. However, Jean-Paul managed to break free and both of them decided to retreat for the next confrontation. Jean-Paul was determined to take down Bane and with The System actively working on him, he designed and built his own battle armor, which he used in replacement of the Batsuit. With his new gear, Jean-Paul confronted Bane and after a long fight, he managed to defeat him, sparing his life and earning the city’s respect and rightful claim to the Batman title.
Several people close to Batman on both sides of the law were immediately able to tell that it was someone new, most notably Catwoman and the Joker. However, as Valley grew more involved in his role, it quickly became apparent that he was of a different breed. He allowed the mass murderer Abbatoir to fall to his death, and allowed several other innocent people to die as indirect results of his actions, preferring to punish criminals rather than save lives. He found detective work to be boring, and concentrated much more on the physical aspects of crime-fighting. His adventures as Batman would also frequently take him outside of Gotham City, functioning in Batman's role along with other heroes even in large battles such as the Bloodbath mission launched by Amanda Waller against the Taker.
Although Valley appeared to be doing a good job of cleaning up crime in Gotham, it was quickly brought to the attention of Bruce Wayne that his methods were both violent and irresponsible. However, he was also able to defeat Bane in single combat, albeit using the innovations of his new suit. Although Jean-Paul, in his mentally-altered state, believed himself to be a superior Batman, and a logical permanent successor, after Wayne's recovery, he was forcibly ejected from the position through physical combat when he refused to relinquish it. He was defeated when tricked into removing his armor's helmet, after which the dominant personality of Jean-Paul Valley, the shy Gotham University student, came through. Feeling shamed, Valley returned to his identity as Azrael and sought to redeem himself in Batman's eyes.
Agent of the Bat
After the Knightfall incident, Jean-Paul Valley became a vagrant, and was approached by Batman, who offered to give him funds to find out about his origins. This led to him to travel around the world, and he eventually destroyed the splinter faction of the Order of St. Dumas that had spawned him. He changed from being focused on his quarrel with the Order, to being strictly obedient to Batman, to finally becoming more his own independent crimefighter. He would make several costume changes throughout his life as Azrael reflecting his internal changes.
Azrael assisted the Bat-family regularly, acting as a major force during the Contagion fiasco, and as a large player in the No Man's Land crisis when Gotham City was abandoned by the United States government after an earthquake, becoming an impoverished gang-ruled battlezone. During this time, he found a kindred spirit in Batgirl, another child raised for a life of violence, (developing a sort of "big brother" type of relationship with her) and she in him. He regularly fought the forces of Biis as well, and worked actively to bring about the downfall of the Order of St. Dumas, a task in which he mostly succeeded. It was also during this time that Azrael encountered another new foe, Scratch.. Jean-Paul, even in his civilian identity, was continually plagued by hallucinations presumably brought up by The System, manifesting both his own father and St. Dumas himself. His struggles with insanity were a recurring problem for him, although he was usually able to fight through them. After No Man's Land, Jean-Paul set up a clinic based in an old cathedral with Dr. Leslie Thompkins, with the help of his friend and mentor, former psychiatrist Brian Bryan.
Sometime after this, Jean-Paul established a base of operations for himself at a small castle-like structure formerly owned by the Order of St. Dumas. This castle was situated near Ossaville, a small community about 100 miles away from Gotham City with a population of less than 28 people. This base was in considerable disrepair, so Batman sent Harold Allnut to live with Jean-Paul in the building and repair it, as Jean-Paul lacked the necessary skills to do so. Jean-Paul established his position as the protector of Ossaville after he chased away a biker gang which was threatening it at the time.
Death and Legacy
Azrael was eventually killed in a fight with his two greatest enemies, Biis and Scratch, following an attempt by the latter to once again frame Azrael for various crimes. Azrael was shot through his armor by multiple teflon-coated bullets, and then tumbled off of a balcony with LeHah. LeHah survived, and Scratch was arrested, but Jean-Paul tragically perished. Although his costume was recovered, his corpse was not.
Five years later, the Order of Purity, a splinter sect of the Sacred Order of St. Dumas created a new Azrael for Gotham City in ex-police officer Michael Lane, who has taken on his duties with gusto.
Jean-Paul Valley was revived as a member of the Black Lantern Corps with a power ring. He murders a bystander, proclaiming, "You don't deserve a savior who sacrificed as much as I did to protect your corrupt and misled lives. You don't deserve Azrael!" He attempts to murder the Scarecrow, although Scarecrow simply isn't capable of feeling the fear that Black Lanterns feed on, thus is practically invisible to Azrael.
Due to the effects of "The System," Jean-Paul Valley developed a sort of split personality; Himself and Azrael. While Jean-Paul Valley was kind, gentle, and could be described as a "computer geek," Azrael was irritable, violent, and vengeful. This contrast was strongly evident in this respect: As the sect that conditioned him was a largely medieval organization, other members of the Batman Family would notice that occasionally Azrael's solutions to problems would ignore easier actions he could have taken using modern technology. For example, during the events of "Contagion" where he had to deliver an antidote recipe into the quarantined Gotham City, he attempted a mad rush of the surrounding fences past the military, and did succeed; but meanwhile his accomplices simply e-mailed it to the hospitals. This is contradictory to his mindset as Jean-Paul, who would normally, as a student of programming, been very aware of the possibility of such a solution. He also had a smaller, less developed personality, which he began to regress into shortly before his death; Batman. During his time as Batman, Jean-Paul had developed a third personality that combined the intellect of Jean-Paul Valley and the bloodlust of Azrael, but lacked the empathy and compassion of Jean-Paul Valley. It has been theorized that Jean-Paul's continued mental illness was only due to emotional and familial neglect from either of his father, or Batman.
- Genetic Enhancement: Raised in a test tube and put through various DNA experimentation in his fetal state, Jean-Paul's physiology allows him enhanced strength, speed and reflexes, and even durability.
- Computer Operation: Jean-Paul Valley studied Computer Programming at Gotham University.
- Hand-to-Hand Combat (Advanced): Mental programming from The System has led Azrael to become a vastly above-average hand-to-hand fighter. While not on the same skill-level as Batman, he has proven himself more than capable of handling most physical threats. This was mainly due to that fact that his full combat potential was limited by his easily exploited Mental Illness. Batman has asserted in the past that if not for this factor, Azrael could become a better fighter than him.
- Mental Illness: The Sacred Order of St. Dumas purposefully built an almost split-personality into Jean-Paul Valley. While the "normal" persona of Jean-Paul Valley was quite passive and mild mannered, and had no seeming irregularities, the Azrael persona is much more ragingly violent, and believes itself to be the manifestation of an actual biblical angel of vengeance. Originally, he was only able to manifest his superhuman abilities while in the Azrael costume and mindset. Later in his career, although he was still plagued by inner demons, and often even hallucinations, he gained better control over his two conflicting personalities, including the ability to utilize Azrael's abilities while acting as Jean-Paul (See below for more details).
- Battle Gauntlets
- The gauntlets used by Valley during his time as the Batman are now used by the Manhunter, Kate Spencer.
- Prior to the return of Azrael in 2008, several minor events around the DC Universe foreshadowed his comeback. Notes on the Chalkboard of time traveler Rip Hunter proclaim "Jean Paul Valley Lives!", and later "Azrael comes and goes". There's also a minor behind the scenes cameo that can be seen during Gotham Underground. However, rather than Jean-Paul Valley as the chalkboard claimed, it is actually a different man underneath Azrael's hood.
- Azrael once fought the Punisher, but lost.
- In his civilian identity, Jean-Paul wore round glasses.
- Oracle frequently flirted with Jean-Paul, and Chuck Kim confirmed in a question and answer session found in Azrael #35 that she had a crush on him.
- Although Jean-Paul Valley once stated that he and his father shared the same name, other sources indicated that his father's name was actually just "Ludovic Valley."
- Jean-Paul Valley is also known as Az-Bat.
- 241 Appearances of Jean-Paul Valley (New Earth)
- 135 Images featuring Jean-Paul Valley (New Earth)
- 31 Quotations by or about Jean-Paul Valley (New Earth)
- Character Gallery: Jean-Paul Valley (New Earth)
- Azrael (comics) at Wikipedia.org
- Azrael at the Unofficial Guide to the DC Universe
- The Religion of Azrael at Adherents
- Azrael at Geocities
- Azrael at thebatman.bravepages.com
- Azrael at Batman: Yesterday, Today and Beyond
- Azrael at Brave and the Bold
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- ↑ Azrael: Agent of the Bat #100
- ↑ Batman: Sword of Azrael #1
- ↑ Azrael Annual #1
- ↑ 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Batman: Sword of Azrael #2
- ↑ Batman: Sword of Azrael #4
- ↑ Batman #488
- ↑ Batman #488
- ↑ Detective Comics #657
- ↑ Detective Comics #658
- ↑ Batman #489
- ↑ Batman #491
- ↑ Batman #494
- ↑ Batman #495
- ↑ Batman #497
- ↑ Detective Comics #664
- ↑ Batman #498
- ↑ Batman: Shadow of the Bat #16
- ↑ Batman: Shadow of the Bat #17
- ↑ Batman: Shadow of the Bat #18
- ↑ Detective Comics #665
- ↑ Batman #499
- ↑ Detective Comics #666
- ↑ Batman #500
- ↑ Bloodbath #1
- ↑ Batman #500
- ↑ Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #63
- ↑ DC Comics Encyclopedia
- ↑ Azrael: Agent of the Bat #50-61
- ↑ Azrael: Agent of the Bat #47
- ↑ Azrael: Agent of the Bat #76
- ↑ Azrael: Agent of the Bat #100
- ↑ Azrael: Death's Dark Knight #1
- ↑ Blackest Night #4
- ↑ Booster Gold (Volume 2) #10
- ↑ Booster Gold (Volume 2) #1,000,000
- ↑ Gotham Underground #8
- ↑ Batman and Punisher: Lake of Fire #1
- ↑ Batman: Sword of Azrael #4,
- ↑ Azrael Annual #1
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