When it comes to the host of Batman characters that have graced the comic book pages over the years and decades, it gets a little hard to keep track of them after a while. It’s even ironic, considering some of these characters have even donned or taken up the mantle of the dark knight at some point. You would think they are more popular in the mainstream continuities. Well, one of such characters is one we see in Batman Azrael.
But who exactly is this Azrael character? What has his role been since his first appearance? Is he a friend? Or is he foe? Let’s take a look at the Batman Azrael character.
Batman Azrael: Origins
His birth name is given as Jean-Paul Valley. Ironically he wasn’t born by conventional means. Instead, he was a test tube baby as part of an experiment. His DNA was fused with animal DNA, giving him superhuman abilities that far surpassed that of even peak human condition. He was, however, unaware of this development and grew up to study programming at Gotham University.
His real identity was revealed to him one night by a bleeding stranger, who had approached him and was near death. This stranger turned out to be his father, the very first Azrael. He was an assassin with the same abilities as his son, working for the Order of St. Dumas.
His father succumbed to his wounds, but not before requesting that his body be dumped where it could not be found. He also gave Jean some money and directions to travel to meet the Order in Switzerland, although it was later revealed that his intention was for Jean to get away from the Order. Jean had misread his last wishes.
In Switzerland, he encounters Batman, who has investigated the events that led to the original Azrael’s death. The two initially do not get along but are eventually forced to work together when Jean saves Batman’s life from the hands of LeHah, who it turns out had been the cause of Azrael’s injuries. In a sequence of events, Jean renounces the Order and joins Batman, preferring to live by way of the caped crusader.
At this point he is aware who Batman really is as Bruce Wayne, so he heads back to Gotham and helps the Bat family fight crime.
Knightfall: Azrael’s Role
Batman sees Azrael as a perfect replacement for himself should the situation ever arise that he could no longer do it. He begins to train Jean with that in mind, but it is not long after this that the young protege is called up to reflect on his training.
The events of Knightfall are iconic as they depict the showdown between Bane and Batman, leading to the Santa Prisca native breaking Batman’s back. Batman is no more as Bruce uses a wheelchair, prompting Jean to take up Batman’s mantle in his stead.
Azrael as Batman
At the end of the day, Jean shows himself to be an effective replacement, taking up the position of Gotham’s protector quite easily. However, his methods are another matter, and he successfully ends up alienating the cowl from long-time members of the Bat-family, Robin and Commissioner Gordon.
His earlier conditioning from the Order drove him insane, and he modified the regular Batsuit into something more of a killing machine. Where it had been difficult to tell that a new person was donning the Batsuit, Jean’s actions were so vicious that several of Gotham’s residents, from innocents to even criminals, could tell this was not the Batman they knew.
Jean turns out to be an efficient crimefighter, although his actions led to innocent and criminal deaths. He sought to punish criminals and didn’t care what it took him to achieve that. When Bruce got informed of what was happening, he was furious with his replacement.
Azrael proved to be a strong fighter, even beating Bane in single combat. However, both his mental health and conscience were warped, and he eventually had to relinquish the Batman mantle by Bruce. At first, he refused to but was beaten in combat and had to do as he was told.
Batman Azrael: Death and Legacy
Despite his insanity and terrible actions, Jean was at his core trying to do good, just in a warped way. After he lost his place in the Batfamily, he would still go on to do vigilante work, focusing on taking down the Order of St. Dumas. He mostly succeeded in his efforts, especially against Biis aka LeHah. Eventually he was killed in a fight with Biis and Scratch.
Receiving Teflon coated bullets through his armor, he fell off a balcony to his presumed death, taking LeHah with him. His armory was recovered, but his body never was, and he was declared dead. Five years later, another Azrael in the person of Micahel Lane would be created. Lane was a former policeman for Gotham PD. This Azrael was created by order of Purity, a breakaway sect from the Order of St. Dumas.