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The DCU's Azrael first debuted with the 4-issue Batman: Sword of Azrael miniseries (October, 1992-January, 1993). Created by writer Denny O'Neil and artist Joe Quesada. The reason Azrael was created was to introduce a replacement for Batman during the Knightfall arc. For more information on the characters that have been Azrael, click here.
The original Azrael series was started in February 1995, which featured Jean-Paul Valley trekking around the world as Azrael, funded by Batman, trying to discover his origins with the Sacred Order of St. Dumas. After that, his series kind of flattened out thanks to Jean-Paul being Exiled From Continuity and being turned into a Static Character. After being heavily involved in the Batman No Mans Land arc, the series (now renamed Azrael: Agent of the Bat) mainly showed Azrael's random adventures. The series eventually fizzled out in an anti-climatic ending at issue #100 (May, 2003) with the death of Jean-Paul. Ironically, Jean-Paul just so happened to die at the same time that the Hush arc over in Batman's corner of the DC Universe was about half-way through, which concerned Batman re-evaluating how he interacted with most of his allies and enemies. Except for Jean-Paul Valley, Azrael. Nice.
A new Azrael showed up in a three-issue Battle for the Cowl miniseries titled Battle for the Cowl: Azrael: Death's Dark Knight (May-July, 2009). Written by Fabian Nicieza and later David Hine, drawn by Frazier Irving. It starred Michael Lane, formerly the "Bat-Devil" from Three Ghosts of Batman). Then he got his own series, starting in December, 2009, and ending in May 2011 after 18 issues. Michael Lane's series mostly consisted of Artistic License Religion, Darker and Edgier, and Bloodier and Gorier. This was followed by Lane's Azrael appearing in a sort of mini-Bat Family Crossover called Judgement on Gotham, which involved even more ham-fisted Artistic License Religion.
There is currently no word on the future of Azrael in the wake of the 2011 DC Relaunch.
However, what appears to be an amalgamation of both versions of Azrael has shown up in Batman: Arkham City in a side mission which may lead to a more prominent part in the sequel. Yay! Though his real name is given as Michael Lane in his bio, so, unless it changes with the reboot, the fandom may have to hold on their rejoicing.
- Adventure Towns: Ossaville (Population
56less than 28. Have A Nice Day), the new homebase for Jean-Paul Valley after the Losses arc (73-75), became one of these after ol' Az settled down there.
- Alternate Company Equivalent: Besides the obvious differences, he has a LOT in common with Daredevil.
- AzBats was deliberately designed to be a Straw version of Marvel's Punisher and other ultra-violent heroes. The comparison is especially noticeable in a Batman / Punisher crossover published during his tenure.
- Anti-Hero: Mostly averted with Jean-Paul Valley who ranges from Type 1 to Type 2 at worst, though played straight with Michael Lane, who ranges from Type 3 to Type 4 all the way to Type 5.
- Anti-Hero Substitute: Jean-Paul Valley
- Arch Enemy: Jean-Paul Valley had two; Carleton Lehah and Nicholas Scratch. Averted for Michael Lane, who hasn't been active nearly long enough in order to get a real archenemy, though the Crusader came real close.
- Artistic License Religion: The second series is filled with this.
- According to this book, faith is the eighth deadly sin. Which makes no sense at all when you take a look at Hebrews Chapter 11, in The Bible. Yeah, you'd think they'd want to take a look at that thing before going around bashing Christianity.
- And the Apocrypha is real; they're defined as the parts of the Bible that existed in the Septuagint (the Greek version of the Tanakh as used by Hellenistic Jews) but not in the Masoretic (standard Hebrew text used by Rabbinical Judaism). However, a traditionalist Catholic wouldn't use the term "Apocrypha"; since they're considered inspired scripture in the Catholic and Orthodox traditions, the proper term is "deuterocanon" (secondary canon). (If you're interested in that sort of thing, an inexpensive copy of the NRSV + Apocrypha should hold the full set.) Needless to say, DC takes liberties...
- The Atoner: Jean-Paul Valley after the events of Knightfall, and Michael Lane after his stint as Bat-Devil during Three Ghosts of Batman arc.
- Ax Crazy: Michael Lane, slowly getting even more Ax Crazy as his series winds down to a close. Jean-Paul Valley's Azrael could get pretty Ax Crazy too, though he didn't make a habit of regularly killing people.
- Badass Boast: Most of the Azraels have a penchant for this, combined with a mild case of Large Ham. Geez o'Pete, just look at the quotes at the top of the page.
- Badass Bookworm: Jean-Paul Valley.
- Batman Publicity: Why do you think they renamed Jean-Paul's series "Azrael: Agent of the Bat" at issue 47?
- Big Bad Friend: Michael Lane's assistant, Adrian Paratino, actually works for Ra's freakin' al Ghul.
- Beard of Sorrow: Jean-Paul Valley sported one of these following the Losses arc, though he soon shaved it after a pep talk from Batman.
- Big Brother Instinct: Jean-Paul Valley has this towards Batgirl (Cassandra Cain).
- Blade Below the Shoulder: JPV has two. See Dual-Wielding and Flaming Sword entries below, as well as top-most trope picture.
- Blond Guys Are Evil: Averted, as Jean-Paul Valley was gentle and friendly when not acting as Azrael.
- Brainwashed and Crazy: This happens to Jean-Paul when he's under the influence of The System.
- Canon Discontinuity: Jean-Paul Valley stated at the end of the Batman: Sword of Azrael mini-series that he and his father shared the same name. However, according to Azrael: Year One, his father's name was Ludovic Valley. This could be explained as simply Jean-Paul being mistaken, considering his somewhat strained relationship with his father...
- Chest Insignia: Michael Lane's Suit of Sorrows has a Christian cross on it, though before he took the suit, the cross was modeled after the bat-symbol, indicating the previous owner of the suit.
- Also, Jean-Paul Valley's first costume had the fleur-di-lis on it, and his second costume had a red bat-symbol.
- Christianity Is Catholic: Taken Up to Eleven. Justified in that the Order of St. Dumas was an offshoot of Catholicism and was extremely obscure for centuries. There were only about half a dozen members of the entire religion in the first miniseries.
- Church Militant: With the Sacred Order of St. Dumas and Michael Lane's Azrael.
- Clueless Chick Magnet: Jean-Paul, you dork. Oracle has a stuffed doll of you next to her computer (Check issue 82 of his series if you don't believe me). Huntress considers your team-ups dates. And you have the balls to wonder why you can't get a girlfriend.
- But then again, seeing as how he has a tense relationship with Nightwing, maybe he just doesn't want to tick him off even more by going out with his either of his [Nightwing's] exes.
- The Knightfall novelization explains that he would really, really like to talk to girls, but he didn't exactly have a normal childhood. Anyone who wasn't part of the Order of Saint Dumas was considered unclean by his father, and as himself, Jean-Paul has a crippling lack of social confidence, even after learning the truth.
- Cool Car: Averted for Jean-Paul Valley. Apparently, nothing says "angel" or "agent of the bat" like a navy blue sports car with some slight modifications. According to the "Az you like it" column in the back of Azrael: Agent of the Bat 81, the authors turned down the suggestion that he be given wings (Get it? Wings? Angel?) with the excuse "What? And get rid of his car?"
- Costume Porn: Jean-Paul Valley's first costume and Michael Lane's Suit of Sorrows.
- Darker and Edgier: The second series is made of this.
- Deadpan Snarker: Jean-Paul Valley has his moments...
- Decoy Protagonist: The very first Azrael we see is killed off in the second page for the first miniseries. He son, Jean-Paul Valley, takes up the mantle.
- Deprogram: The System is some form of this.
- Deus Angst Machina / Death by Origin Story: This happened to Michael Lane in a degree that rivals Tim Drake's Deus Angst Machina. His son was hit by a car and died at age three. His wife committed suicide within a year. Only six months after her death, Michael's two siblings (his last living relatives) were murdered by an apparent Satanic cult.
- Did Not Do the Research: Ehh... Denny? Azrael is the name of the Islamic angel of death.
- Christianity doesn't even have an official angel of death to begin with, and if it does... s/he's not named.
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: A lot of people have noted that Michael Lane's costume looks like something out of Assassin's Creed.
- Doing In the Wizard: With Jean-Paul Valley's series, what wizard?
- Completely Averted Trope in Michael Lane's series, where the Suit of Sorrows is only described as "cursed" or "magic."
- Dual-Wielding: Jean-Paul Valley had two flaming Katar-like blades on his wrists, and Michael Lane carried two flaming swords.
- Fan Nickname: Let's see here...
- Flaming Sword: Most of the Azraels had at least one, or a variation thereof.
- The Glasses Come Off: Jean-Paul Valley used to wear glasses prior to becoming Azrael, and still did occasionally afterwards.
- Heel Face Revolving Door: Sister Lilhy.
- In the Blood: Averted for Jean-Paul Valley, who's father was basically an old-school version of Michael Lane, though Jean-Paul did become the new Azrael.
- Innocent Fanservice Girl: Sister Lilhy, oh so much.
- Keep Circulating the Tapes: Unless you count Batman: Sword of Azrael, only two issues of JPV's main series were collected in a trade paperback (issues 15 and 16 in the fairly rare Batman: Contagion). The rest were never heard from again and remain scattered in issue form.
- Downplayed Trope with Michael Lane's series. It got two trades out; the first collected his Death's Dark Knight miniseries and a Batman and Detective Comics annual starring him in a two-part story. The second collected the first six issues. Another trade meant to cover the "Killer of Saints" arc was announced, but later cancelled, and no more were announced after the series was cancelled, unless you count the trade paperback for the agonizingly character-shredding Judgement On Gotham crossover.
- Knight Templar: The Sacred Order of St. Dumas was actually a splinter group of the original Knights Templar.
- Legacy Character: This whole Azrael thing has been going on since the 15th century, apparently, passing from father to son, and ending with Jean-Paul Valley. The same applies for Michael Lane's Azrael, who's is only the most recent incarnation of a line of Azraels who work for Sacred Order of St. Dumas splinter group the Order of Purity. All they need is the Suit of Sorrows and a volunteer. All of the people who wore the Suit of Sorrows were eventually driven insane by it. Heck, it only took six weeks to do the trick for Michael Lane's predecessor.
- Limited Wardrobe: Jean-Paul Valley was infamous for only wearing jeans and T-Shirts in most of his civilian appearances.
- Mask of Power: After a fashion for Jean-Paul- Only his Azrael persona (see Split Personality entry below) has his Badass combat skills, and he can only activate this persona by putting on his Azrael mask.
- Mass "Oh Crap": All of the Azrael's are very good at instigating these. Take this example found in Plus #1, were Azrael (Jean-Paul Valley) teams up with The Question:
- Mission from God: Michael Lane is convinced that he's on one of these, though considering how around the bend he is, thanks to the Suit of Sorrows...
- Mook Face Turn: Michael Lane once worked for Dr. Hurt of the Black Glove, and accepted an offer to become Azrael as his way of atoning for his perceived role in the demise of Batman.
- Sister Lilhy used to work for the Order of St. Dumas before deciding to help out Jean-Paul.
- Naughty Nuns: Sister Lilhy is implied to have turned into this.
- Nerd Glasses: Jean-Paul Valley, though he did look okay in his round glasses.
- Nineties Anti-Hero: Well, with Jean-Paul Valley at least, and only sometimes.
- A lot, actually. Notably one of the first to actually be treated as... bad.
- Ninja Angel Knight Vigilante : Frequently lampshaded in Jean-Paul Valley's early days. In the words of the Hitman:
Hitman: He about half thinks he's an angel... an angel with a Bullet Proof Vest.
- No Social Skills: Jean-Paul Valley suffers from this.
- Oblivious to Love: Sister Lilhy just can't take any of Jean-Paul's hints, so the poor guy just gave up.
- Offscreen Afterlife: When Jean-Paul Valley dies in the final issue of his series, he says "It looks just like the earth." And he was sporting his famous smile, so that's a good thing.
- Averted for Michael Lane, who briefly went to someplace that was obviously meant to be purgatory.
- Oh Crap: Not only are the Azraels good at instigating these, but it occasionally happens to them too. For instance, Jean-Paul is going about in a run-down part of town as Azrael in issue 32 of his series. He's just been fixed up by this old woman, when he realises that he left his car unattended. His sudden realization and reaction to this are priceless.
- Overshadowed by Awesome: Jean-Paul Valley, thanks to "the System," is an incredible fighter, but he lacks the experience and finesse of Batman, making him inferior to him. However, the Caped Crusader has acknowledged that if Jean-Paul could just get his head screwed on straight, he would have the potential to become an even better fighter than him.
- Outdated Outfit: After a fashion. Ludovic Valley's decidedly more crusader-esque costume was one of the factors that contributed to his death.
- Our Angels Are Different: Apparently, the residents of the DC Universe's idea of an angel is either someone dressed up in crusader armor or someone dressed up, well, like in the picture at the top of this page.
- Powered Armor: The final version of the Azbatsuit was this. Can't say much for Jean-Paul's taste in color schemes though, but then again. Also, Michael Lane wears a suit of crusader armor called the Suit of Sorrows, which is made from the fragments of the armor of 100 crusaders slain in battle. It gives him enhanced speed, strength, and stamina. The only drawback is that it will eventually drive him insane, as has happened to all of the people who wore the suit before him.
- Power Trio: Jean-Paul Valley, Brian Bryan, and Sister Lilhy.
- Red Baron: "Azrael, Agent of the Bat!"
- Religion Is Magic: Michael Lane's Suit of Sorrows and his swords? Natch.
- Scary Impractical Armor: Jean-Paul Valley's final Azbatsuit was very much this.
- Servile Snarker: Adrian Paratino, Michael Lane's assistant, is very snarky.
- Sleep Learning: How "the System" works. Or, to be accurate, Subliminal Messages Played While You Are Sleeping Throughout Your Childhood Learning.
- Sociopathic Hero: Sometimes with Jean-Paul, all the time with Michael Lane.
- Split Personality: Jean-Paul Valley again. His Azrael persona is significantly different from his civilian identity of Jean-Paul Valley. As the sect that trained him was a largely medieval organization, he would often take a course of action would could have been more easily accomplished using modern technology. For example, during the Contagion arc, when a deadly plague was spreading through Gotham City, Azrael had to get the recipe for a cure to the hospitals. His solution to this was a mad rush across military lines, and though he succeeded, he discovered upon arriving at his destination that his allies had already sent the cure recipe to the hospitals by email. This is contradictory to the mindset of Jean-Paul Valley, who, being a student of programing, would be completely aware of such a solution.
- A third though less developed personality is Batman. This personality manifested during Jean-Paul's stint at the Caped Crusader, and remanifested near the end of his series. It combined the intellect of Jean-Paul Valley and the bloodlust of Azrael, but lacked the compassion of Jean-Paul.
- Stealth Hi Bye: Jean-Paul's inability to pull this off during his stint as Batman was Commissioner Gordon's first clue that there was a new Batman in town. The below scene doubles as a Crowning Moment of Funny.
Gordon: [...] ...Blame him... My God.
- Suck Sessor: Jean-Paul Valley to Batman during the Knightfall arc. The whole reason it ever happened was to show fans why Bruce Wayne's Batman wasn't a brutal Anti-Hero like The Punisher.
- Take Up My Sword: Jean-Paul Valley when Batman (Bruce Wayne) appoints him as his Suck Sessor after Bane broke Bruce's back.
- Theme Serial Killer: The Crusader (Michael Lane's archenemy) murdered members of the Order of Purity in manners based on the martyrdoms of various Christian saints.
- Tomato in the Mirror: This happened to Jean-Paul Valley a few times, what with "the System" and all.
- Temporary Scrappy: Jean-Paul Valley was promoted as this when he turned into Azbats and the majority of the fans were displeased, though in reality, his character was far from it.
- Tragic Hero: Jean-Paul Valley (a little) near the end of his series, though Michael Lane is this full force.
- Tyke Bomb: Apparently, Jean-Paul was subjected to subliminal messages and other mental conditioning since he was a little kid.
- Two Guys and a Girl: Jean-Paul Valley, Brian Bryan, and Sister Lilhy, again.
- Vitriolic Best Buds: Jean-Paul Valley with Nightwing, and Michael Lane with Adrian Paratino.
- Voice with an Internet Connection: Oracle to Jean-Paul, Adrian Paratino to Michael Lane.
- "Well Done, Son" Guy: Jean-Paul Valley had terrible issues with both his real father, Ludovic Valley, and his adoptive father figure, Bruce Wayne. Indeed, their relationship has been compared to a very athletic father looking down on an intelligent but physically lacking son. On the other hand, Jean-Paul's father issues led him to identify with a lot of the villains he fought.
- Will They or Won't They?: Jean-Paul Valley got this with Sister Lilhy a lot.
- Weak but Skilled: Jean-Paul Valley started out at this back in Batman: Sword of Azrael. He had all the training thanks to the system, but his body was described by Nomoz as "soft and flabby." The remedy for this? A month or two of constant mountain climbing.
- With Great Power Comes Great Insanity: The Suit of Sorrows is said to have driven all of its wearers insane. It only took 6 weeks to take this effect on Michael Lane's predecessor.