Note: For the second Azrael, Michael Lane, go here.
"Not devil, angel. Guardian Angel" -- Azrael (Jean-Paul Valley)
Several centuries ago, the Templar knight Dumas left his group to found his own Order of Saint Dumas. They pillaged villages for their wealth, and came upon the fabled treasure of King Solomon. Using this capital, the secret society began collecting information for its agenda and developing technology to advance it beyond the rest of the world. To guard this, The Order created Azrael, a legacy-type agent coached to believe he is the Biblical angel of vengeance as was his father before him.
Major Story Arcs
Jean-Paul Valley, a university student in Gotham City, is unaware that he is the latest in a line of assassin-enforcers for the sinister secret society of The Sacred Order of St. Dumas, 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. After Ludovic Valley impregnated a woman, the Order of St. Dumas retrieved the fetus to develop it on its own. This would grow to become Jean-Paul Valley. For most of his life, he has been brainwashed with "The System," a deep level of psychological conditioning.
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 gorillas as surrogate mothers. When he is sent by the Order to kill the weapons dealer who had killed his father (the last Azrael). Carlton LeHah believes himself to be the idealistic opposite to Saint Dumas, his path then crosses with Batman's. After saving Wayne from an explosion set up by LeHah, Valley is shown the error of his ways, and he decides to fight with Batman against the criminals of Gotham, rejecting his "birthright" and seeking Batman's help in breaking his conditioning to forge a new destiny of his own choice.
A Darker Dark Knight
Valley plays a pivotal role in the epic "Knightfall" story (1992-1994), in which he stood in as Batman after Batman was defeated and paralyzed at the hands of Bane. Against Batman's orders, Valley fights and defeats Bane, but his performance as Batman is influenced by his Azrael conditioning; he grows increasingly violent, allowing the villain known as 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. Upon his return to fitness, Bruce Wayne is forced to fight the technologically-enhanced Valley to reclaim his Batman identity. After a prolonged battle on Gotham Bridge, in which Azrael nearly kills Nightwing, he is defeated when Batman tricks Valley into removing his Bat Armor. Due to Valley's psychosis, once he removed his helmet, he also "removed" his version of the Batman identity he had built.
Angel of Death again
Following this, Valley becomes a homeless drifter in the streets of Gotham, unaware or unwilling to adopt his identity as Azrael once again. After being contacted by Bruce Wayne, Valley soon dons his Azrael costume once again and searches for clues to his past in the Order of St. Dumas, the ancient organization which had engineered Azraels throughout ages, passed from father to son. This was done through the use of deep hypnosis and genetic experiments. Upon discovering The Order in Europe, Valley finds he has been replaced by another man claiming to be Azrael, who is quickly defeated by Valley. He had multiple contacts with soldiers and high priests of the organization and the impostor Azrael, Ra's Al Ghul and eventually develops a relationship with a former priestess of the Order, Lihly.
Valley is then able to largely destroy the Order. During the No Man's Land saga, Azrael assists Batman in the earthquake-torn Gotham and eventually attempts to contact a U.S. Senator who is key to federal funding for Gotham.
Redemption and Death
The Senator is killed by a man known as Nicholas Scratch, a rock star who is also involved with many terrorist organizations and attacks. Scratch is eventually involved in the apparent death of Valley when he disguises himself as Azrael and is confronted by Valley. LeHah reappears and fires on Valley with an armor-piercing bullet. LeHah and Valley topple over a balcony. LeHah survives and Scratch is arrested, but Azrael's body is never found. A panel of the comic showing Batman holding an image of Azrael, sans mask, is meant to lead readers to believe he is dead.
Note: While this happening, in a Booster Gold comic, a message can be seen on Rip Hunter's Blackboard. As Rip Hunter and Booster Gold talk, A message on his blackboard reads "Jean Paul Valley Lives! but that's not him!", and a later issue says "Azrael comes and goes".
Return as a Black Lantern in Blackest Night
The alleged death of Jean-Paul Valley is confirmed as the Blackest Night sweeps over Earth. He rises as a member of the Black Lantern Corps and rampages through Gotham City, harvesting the hearts of the living. Scarecrow crosses his path and lives because he is no longer able to feel the fear he so craves. With no emotional response to him, Jean-Paul ignores the Scarecrow's presence and moves on to other victims.
In this new timeline, Jean-Paul is the son of the previous Azrael cloned by the Order of St. Dumas at his father's request to be the next Azrael as his successor. His father installed "The System," an A.I. called Ascalon, within his fatal state. His father then saw what the order was going to do, resulting in action to take the young Jean-Paul with him, protecting his son while hiding him away from the Order as a family. But the Order sent their enforcers to eliminate his father for such an action and kidnap him to be raised by Mother as one of her children, whom would shape the young Jean-Paul into a living weapon, before being broken by the Order to be used as their Angel of Death: Azrael.
Batman & Robin Eternal
Mother sent Jean-Paul to serve as the Order's "Angel of Death" on the island of Santa Prisca. Azrael served for the Order, attacking black market technology dealers in order to steal their merchandise and return it to the island. This actions caught the attention of Red Robin and Red Hood, who went to Santa Prisca and located the Order's base of operations in Peña Duro. Soon, Bane joined and helped them infiltrate the former prison, but once inside they were confronted by Azrael. Bane and the others tried to stop Azrael, but using a flaming sword called Murasame and special gauntlets, Azrael subdued Bane. Red Robin and Red Hood managed to find enough information about the Order, Azrael and their connections to Mother, before Red Hood was forced to leave the prison carrying Red Robin with him after the latter tried to reason with Azrael, but was subdued the same way as Bane.
However, Azrael also learned of his unknown past and something changed in his mind, questioning himself and the Order of Saint Dumas. Later on, when Mother had control over the children on Earth, both Azrael and Agent 37 went after Mother in her Stronghold, but a Jet crash landed which was piloted by Azrael. Telling Agent 37 to join him on taking Mother's life or getting out of his way. Agent 37 then attempted to stop Azrael once he had learned when the Angel of Death would kill Mother for taking his life as a human being away, nothing more than a product produced and sold to the Order of St. Dumas. A fight sparked between the two upon confrontation, but Agent 37 told Azrael that if Azrael killed Mother; he would turn her into a martyr in the end toward all her followers. As Azrael would still follow her teachings, instead of being free from her lessons, which made the Angel of Death stop the battle and ask Agent 37 on how to live a different way. Reforming - and by poetic justice - Azrael took Mother's lifetime achievement of making children living weapons away before her ultimate demise.
After these events, Azrael relocated to Gotham City, acting as their newest vigilante.
Detective Comics: Rebirth
Jean-Paul Valley meets a member of The Colony, a group of Batman themed soldiers, when they attack him in a church. Before the soldier is able to kill him, Batman arrives. After he drives them away, he gets Jean-Paul medical help. After recovering, Azrael decides to join the new vigilante team Batman has assembled.
While at a basketball game, one of Valley's former associates, Nomoz, appears to him on the verge of death and the team takes him to the Belfry to treat the injured creature. Azrael explains to Batwoman, Orphan, Clayface, and Batwing of his past, noting that Nomoz was the person responsible in the Order of St. Dumas for brutally training him in preparation for his eventual role as the Order's Azrael. In the present time, Nomoz had since been systematically targeted by a former associate of the Order whom believed in guiding the order in a new direction and activates a powerful AI, Ascalon, that is dispatched to assassinate key members of the St. Dumas order. When the Gotham Knights team along with Zatanna encounter Ascalon, he confuses Jean-Paul for himself and reasserts his influence onto Valley. Batwing would also reveal that Ascalon was formerly the AI present in the Suit of Sorrows responsible for the "programming" of Azrael, having studied it since Valley allowed him access to the Suit of Sorrows. Valley's encounter with Ascalon would reassert his old "programming" causing him to slowly regress to his original Azrael personality as the "System", the neurological programming in his mind, overcomes him. In his former persona, Valley battles both Batwoman and Orphan while he himself battles the influence of the System and Ascalon. He is defeated due to a timely intervention of Zatanna and is placed in a different suit with a new guiding AI based upon Batman's best personality traits in order to counter Ascalon's influence.
Using a similar tactic, Batwing and Azrael would battle Ascalon once more in order to upload the same AI into the robotic entity, Nomoz sacrificing himself in the process. With the Batman AI uploaded into Ascalon, Zatanna appears with a magical artifact, the Sphere of Gnosis, able to answer the questions of those who wields it. Ascalon experiences a revelation as his human aspect becomes real and identifies Jean-Paul as his "brother". Sympathizing with Batman's grief over the lost of Tim Drake, he reveals to him he is alive before disappearing. In the aftermath, Valley recovers from his wounds and speaks to Batman about wiping out Ascalon's influence from his Azrael suit and the idea of having a Batman AI guide him. The end of the story would reveal the rogue member of the Order to be Valley's father, Jean-Paul Valley Senior, who is collaborating with Ra's al Ghul.
The Final Frontier
Months after the collapse of the Colony, a new voice entered Azrael's head. This new voice told Azrael to abandon the streets of Gotham and journey into the stars, specifically a place called the Ghost Sector. Azrael soon discovered that two other heroes were experiencing these strange utterings - Cyborg and Starfire. Convinced that these voices meant something, the trio stole the spacecraft of Brainiac from the Hall of Justice and made their way into space.
The Ghost Sector was a collection of planets which were formerly imprisoned in bottles for unknown reasons by the people of Colu, but were freed by the Justice League. Upon re-entering reality, the worlds of the Ghost Sector became surrounded by a never-ending maelstrom that devastated multiple planets. This, coupled with the lawlessness of many worlds, prompted the Guardians of the Universe to quarantine the whole sector, allowing only members of the Green Lantern Corps in and out.
Immediately after entering the Ghost Sector, the trio were ordered to surrender by Jessica Cruz, one of Earth's Green Lanterns. However, when the maelstrom's radiation became too much for the Green Lantern, Starfire hauled her on board. Before any further action could be taken, the ship was attacked by a gigantic space organism which forced the ship to crash land on a nearby planet.
As the group filled Jessica in on what they were doing in the Ghost Sector they were greeted by a new presence: Darkseid, God of Evil, and arch-nemesis of the Justice League. Darkseid told the trio that it was he who had lured them to the Ghost Sector. He explained that someone had wanted the knowledge of these worlds hidden because of the Old Gods they worshipped, which was why the Coluans had locked them away in bottles. He then went on to reveal that the Gods that the people worshipped were actually Starfire, Cyborg and Azrael.
Believing Darkseid was trying to deceive the group, Cyborg attacked his old enemy, prompting the others to join the fray. Not wanting a prolonged fight, Darkseid drew the heroes to a shrine in reverence to Starfire in order to prove his statement, and then vanished into the wind. The scene was grim, as countless followers of Starfire lay butchered on the temple floor, although what caused their death remained a mystery.
Skills and Abilities
As a result of genetic engineering, he has greater strength than a normal peak level human; he is known to hurl large stones, steel altars, and other heavy objects estimated to weigh one or two tons. This enhanced strength is at first only available to Azrael and not Jean Paul.
At first his costume was a necessary trigger for "The System" to impart him with his enhanced strength, reflexes and speed. Right at the end of his solo series however, his strength, speed and reflexes went into meta human levels and he no longer needed his costume to access "The System." At this time, he is able to lift tree trunks and large boulders weighing an estimated 7-8 tons.
As a computer science post-graduate student, his knowledge and expertise with computers surpasses those of Tim Drake's and is closer in range to those of Oracle, the former Batgirl. He is often described as being an instinctive genius, though he is neither as smart nor as quick as Bruce Wayne. In addition, he has a rather limited knowledge base with which to apply what would or could be a considerable intelligence.
The skills granted to him by "The System" are considerable, giving him access to acrobatic and martial arts skill rare for the most seasoned athlete. This makes him a highly skilled combatant. In addition to these talents, his skills were honed by training with Bruce Wayne and thus possibly as skilled as Batman, although his lack of experience and finesse would make him the weaker of the two. However due to his physical capabilities in junction with his skill has allowed him to defeat Batman, Bane, Nightwing, and even be offered being the leader of the League of Assassins by Ra's al Ghul.
All of Azrael's Lego pieces can be unlocked for creating him in the character creation in the console versions of LEGO Batman: The Video Game, while he is an unlockable character in the DS version.
Azrael makes an appearance in the online game DC Universe Online.
Batman: Arkham City
The Michael Lane version of Azrael appears in the game, however his character seems to be an amalgamation of Jean-Paul and Lane's, as is his costume. As part of the Order of St. Dumas, he warns Batman of impeding doom for Gotham.
Jean-Paul's Batman suit is available as an extra skin for Batman.
- John Paul Valley was featured as Batman in Kenner's Legends of Batman line as "Knightquest Batman." It was later given a red repaint as "Ultra Armor Batman." A different figure of his blue Batman armor was also released as "Knightsend Batman."
- Kenner released a 13-inch figure of John Paul Valley as Batman.
- Azrael was featured in Kenner's Batman: Knight Force - Ninjas line.
- John Paul Valley was featured as Batman in Hasbro's DC Superheroes line.
- John Paul Valley was featured as Batman in DC Direct's Knightfall line of action figures.
- John Paul Valley's Batman helmet was featured in DC Direct's DC Gallery line.
- Azrael was featured in Mattel's DC Superheroes line of action figures.
- John Paul Valley was featured as Batman in Mattel's DC Universe Classics line. A red repaint was later released in a two-pack with a classic Bruce Wayne Batman figure.
- John Paul Valley was featured in McFarlane Toys' DC Multiverse line as both Azrael and Batman.
- John Paul Valley was featured in the HeroClix figure game.
- A Batman: The Animated Series-style figure of John Paul Valley as Batman was featured in DC Direct's Batman: The Adventure Continues line.
- Prime 1 Studios created an ultra-detailed figure of John Paul Valley as Batman.