The mantle of Batman is not just exclusive to Bruce Wayne. Though no other iterations of Batman can truly match Bruce Wayne’s charisma, the mantle has been passed on to different characters. From Nightwing to Damian Wayne, a few different characters have worn the Bat Suit to deliver their own brand of justice. But one character who challenged everything Bruce stood for while wearing the suit was Jean-Paul Valley aka Azrael.
Making his debut in Batman: Sword of Azrael #1, Jean-Paul Valley became a major character in Knightfall. A member of the sinister The Sacred Order of St. Dumas, Valley was the latest in line to become Azrael. After crossing paths with Bruce, he saw the error in his ways and sided with the Dark Knight. After Bruce was broken, mentally and physically, by Bane, Jean-Paul Valley became the new Batman. Despite his unstable condition, he was able to strike terror in criminals using violent techniques. As one of the most interesting characters to become Batman, here are 10 facts you should know about Azrael.
10. The System
A computer science student in Gotham City, Jean-Paul Valley was not aware of his heritage since the beginning. Upon the death of his father in front of him wearing the Azrael armour, Valley was triggered to take up the mantle.
For years, he has been brainwashed using mental programming known as the System. Affecting him at a sub-conscious level, Valley unknowingly had access to generations of knowledge and battle strategies which can only be triggered when he dons the Azrael suit, at the cost of his own independent thinking.
9. Spliced DNA
Jean-Paul Valley might be the most traumatic character to have donned the Batsuit. After his violent ways to dish his personal brand of justice, Bruce Wayne stripped him of his title. Valley’s failing mental health made Batman feel guilty for his condition.
As a result, Bruce gave Valley a small fortune to seek out his origin. With the help of Ra’s Al Ghul, Valley learnt that his genes have been spliced with animals, granting him enhanced abilities.
8. The Sacred Order of St. Dumas
The Order of St. Dumas is a secret society which was created by the Knights Templar during the Crusades. The Order was composed of soldier-monks who chose their first champion named Stephen Forrest Lee, also known as Dumas.
Following the failure of Dumas, the Order split into two groups. One which became the Order of Purity and the other retained the name while adopting violent methods. The new Order chooses a new champion with superhuman strength to become Azrael, their hereditary assassin. The Order has kidnapped a number of great thinkers to hoard knowledge and to use them for selfish purposes.
When Valley crossed paths with Bruce Wayne, he saw the error in his ways and became an ally of the Dark Knight. Under Batman’s tutelage, Valley learnt detective skills and fighting techniques. But during the events of Knightfall, Bruce Wayne was broken by Bane leaving the mantle of Batman open for taking.
As a result, Jean-Paul Valley donned the suit and became the new Batman. As Batman, Valley adopted a much more violent style which was surely effective, but unlikeable. Still under the influence of the System, Valley’s Azrael persona started to come out, making him break Batman’s one serious rule: no killing.
6. Beating Bane to an Inch of his Life
In Knightfall, Bane was able to mentally and physically defeat Bruce Wayne. After the infamous back-breaking act, Bruce Wayne was forced to go into hiding to recuperate. In the meanwhile, Valley became the new Batman and decided to fight Bane.
During their first fight, Valley was defeated squarely by Bane. Enraged after his public humiliation, Valley decided to stop playing fair and fought Bane for the second time. His vicious and ruthless attacks overwhelmed Bane, resulting in getting a brutal beatdown from Valley.
5. Banishing Tim Drake from Bat-Cave
As the brainwashing by the System increasingly started to affect Valley’s mental faculties, his hallucinations became more frequent and severe. In one instance, Valley banished Tim Drake from the Batcave after getting annoyed.
Before he banished the Boy Wonder, Valley also tried to strangle him to death. Fortunately, Tim survived and escaped to tell the incident to Bruce and Alfred. By then, Valley had isolated the Batcave from the Wayne Manor while also managing to lock all entrances.
4. Death and Resurrection
After his popularity due to the events of Knightfall, Jean-Paul Valley was featured in various other storylines. In Batman: No Man’s Land, Jean-Paul Valley is seemingly killed by his greatest foes, Scratch and LeHah.
Despite wearing a bulletproof suit, the Teflon coated bullets were able to seemingly kill him. His suit was recovered but his body was not found for quite some time. But soon, his resurrection was teased when “Jean-Paul Valley Lives!” was written on time traveller Rip Hunter’s chalkboard. Valley was brought back in the New 52 continuity, where he once again defeated Bane.
3. Mental Instability
The brainwashing caused by the System has a permanent effect on Jean-Paul Valley’s psyche, causing him to become excessively violent while donning the Azrael suit of armour.
Due to his mental conditioning, he often sees hallucinations, which affect his rational thinking ability. One of his hallucinations made him believe that he is the true Batman. Thankfully, Bruce Wayne snapped him out of his state by tricking him to take off his Azrael armour.
2. Suit of Sorrows
The Suit of Sorrows was created in 1190 during the Crusades by the Knights Templar. Created by melting the swords and breastplates of the fallen warriors of the Order, the Suit was worn by the champion of the Order.
Years later, the Suit was stolen by Ra’s Al Ghul and was given to Bruce Wayne by Talia Al Ghul. After donning the suit, Batman became significantly stronger and faster, but it also affected his psyche, turning him violent. On Prime Earth, Jean-Paul Valley donned the Suit of Sorrows with a highly advanced Artificial Intelligence implanted inside the suit. The A.I. enables Valley to quickly analyse his opponent’s weaknesses and exploit them at the right time. Yet, having the A.I. inside the suit is enough to drive a normal person crazy, as stated by Lucas Fox.
1. Justice League Odyssey
Jean-Paul Valley aka Azrael is a member of the powerful Justice League Odyssey. Forming an unlikely alliance with members like Starfire, Blackfire, Jessica Cruz, Orion, Cyborg, and other powerful members, the Justice League Odyssey is entrusted to operate in the Ghost Sector of Space.
In the Justice League Odyssey, Azrael often finds himself lost as he mostly operates in the city of Gotham. Yet, the replacement of the original Dark Knight has been able to hold his own against powerful foes despite lacking incredible superpowers like his teammates.