Jean-Paul Valley, better known as Azrael, is a vigilante who formerly operated out of Gotham City. At one point taking the mantle of Batman when the original was broken by Bane, he was forcibly fired from the role and returned to his position as Azrael.
Named after the Angel of Death, 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 that his ancestors had belonged to for generations.
- 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.
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 aggressive 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.
In his role as Batman, Jean-Paul started using a new method of transportation developed by Harold: the Batsubway Rocket. After this new development, Jean-Paul sealed every entrance to the Batcave that he knew about, effectively closing Wayne Manor and driving Robin away. He was also part of the Bloodbath mission launched by Amanda Waller against the Taker.
As Batman, Jean-Paul became unhinged and confronted several minor criminals, crippling them and hurting them beyond comprehension. Jean-Paul brutalized the Tally Man after the criminal tried to kill him, thinking he was the original Batman. Later, Jean-Paul tried to force an alliance with the organized crime by creating a gang war which resulted in his confrontation and brutal defeat of the mercenary Mekros. Afterwards, Jean-Paul stopped the Trigger Twins during a train heist and not long after this, he confronted Mister Freeze at the Gotham Morgue.
Jean-Paul eventually confronted Catwoman as he assumed she was involved in a terrorist attempt, but he couldn't bring himself to capture her as he was oddly captivated by the Catwoman. Jean-Paul chased Catwoman to a building in Gotham and their confrontation attracted the attention of the GCPD. Surrounded by officers, Batman jumped off the building, leaving Catwoman to fend for herself. However, he was summoned by Catwoman, who used the Bat-Signal to ask for his help capturing the real terrorists. Unfortunately, this was all a set-up and Jean-Paul was used by Catwoman to distract the criminals while she prevented the terrorist attack.
After this, Jean-Paul became the target of the latest Joker scheme. Paul was lured into a deadly trap deviced by the Joker inside a filmmaking studio, where he defeated several hired killers and stopped the madman. However, Paul had to be restrained by the GCPD from brutalizing Joker, which caused doubts among the officers and detectives who used to trust in Batman.
After stopping a child smuggling racket, Jean-Paul stopped the serial killer Abattoir from killing his cousin, but was unable to capture the criminal. It was also around this time that Jean-Paul's delusions intensified and after a nearly fatal encounter with The Corrosive Man, he decided to upgrade the Batsuit for further protection.
Jean-Paul later worked to recapture the serial killer known as Abattoir and he crossed paths with Ballistic, who was also looking for the killer. Together, they stopped the Malevolent Maniaxe from getting to Abattoir first and afterwards, Jean-Paul continued the search by himself. During this search, Jean-Paul was attacked by Lady Clay, but he soon learned that she had been forced to do so as Abattoir had kidnapped her newborn son, Cassius. Jean-Paul incapacitated Lady Clay and saved her son, allowing Abattoir to escape. Afterwards, Jean-Paul confronted Cassius' father, Clayface 3 and also incapacitated him, allowing the authorities to lock him and help his son.
Afterwards, Batman was informed by Bullock about a certain super-sniper and Jean-Paul confronted Gunhawk and Gunbunny, but he is no match for their fire power and he ends up outgunned. Immediately after this encounter, Jean-Paul resumed his manhunt for Abattoir and managed to locate the killer's hideout. Jean-Paul chased Abattoir to a foundry, where Abattoir ended up hanging above a vat of molten metal as a result of their struggle. Abattoir asked for help, but Jean-Paul started having visions of St. Dumas and in his troubled state of mind, he decided to let Abattoir fall to his death while a helpless Robin witnessed the event.
When the news about his actions spread, Jean-Paul was confronted by Commissioner Gordon, but Valley was unapologetic, forcing Gordon to break any connections with the vigilante. After Abattoir's death, Valley's mind changed and he assumed a more drastic attitude towards crime. He also designed an improved the batsuit, following the system's command. The new batsuit not only provided further protection after the cape was replaced with metallic wings, but it also featured increased firepower, as he included a machine gun for the bat-shurikens and also a flamethrower. With all this arsenal at hand, Valley was finally able to defeat and capture Gunhawk, who had created a hostage situation at Mercy Hospital.
Eventually, Jean-Paul was confronted in the Batcave by Bruce Wayne, who had fully recovered from his injury and wanted to strip Jean-Paul from the mantle of the bat as he had learned of his harsh methods. Jean-Paul managed to overthrow Wayne and warned him to never return to claim what didn't rightfully belong to him.
After the confrontation with Wayne, Jean-Paul's descend to madness worsened as the hallucinations haunted him constantly and he started a quest to stop Azrael's old enemy, LeHah, who was nowhere near Gotham. As Batman, Jean-Paul went on a brutal spree against criminals in order to find LeHah, while his hallucinations keep haunting him with more intensity, which in turn caused him to become even more ruthless.
His quest to find LeHah, brought Jean-Paul to confront corrupt businessman Penn Selkirk. When Selkirk couldn't provide him the answers he wanted about LeHah, Jean-Paul tried to murder one of his henchmen when he was stopped by Bruce Wayne, who had finally returned to claim the mantle of the bat. Jean-Paul would not give it away easily and the battle of the Batmen started. The struggle attracted the attention of the authorities, but when the building they chose to battle caught on fire, they escaped the place by attaching the Batrope to Selkirk's helicopter, which dragged them to the Gotham Bridge.
The fight continued on the bridge, but Jean-Paul was dowsed in flames because of his recklessness and the use of his flamethrower. After falling to the river, Jean-Paul pulled himself to the surface and realized that Wayne had fallen for his booby trapped Batmobile. He then confronted Robin and Nightwing with his armor Batsuit completely turned red. Nightwing attacked Jean-Paul, but after a long fight, Jean-Paul defeated Nightwing, almost killing him. Upon returning to the cave and thinking himself the victor above all his enemies, Jean-Paul was confronted by Batman, who had survived the explosion. The ensuing fight was short as Batman avoided violence and eventually forced Jean-Paul to remove the armor and face him without the mask. It was then that Jean-Paul admitted his defeat and abandoned the mantle of the Bat.
After his defeat, Jean-Paul lost control of his life and he wandered the streets of Gotham as part of the many homeless people living in the city.
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.
- 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.
- Multilingualism: Thanks to the System, Jean-Paul is able to understand foreign languages.
- Mechanical Aptitude: Thanks to the system, Jean-Paul could design and create objects from scratch, as his batsuit.
- Swimming: Jean-Paul proved to be an excellent swimmer, crossing a turbulent river. 
- Artistry: Bruce Wayne noted the talent of the artist from Jean-Paul.
- Medicine: He learned a lot while working with Dr. Leslie Thompkins.
- 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.
- 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.
- Azrael Recommended Reading
- 259 Appearances of Jean-Paul Valley (New Earth)
- 150 Images featuring Jean-Paul Valley (New Earth)
- 33 Quotations by or about Jean-Paul Valley (New Earth)
- Character Gallery: Jean-Paul Valley (New Earth)
- Batman: Sword of Azrael #1
- Azrael Annual #1
- Batman: Sword of Azrael #2
- Batman: Sword of Azrael #4
- 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
- Detective Comics #667
- Detective Comics #668
- Bloodbath #1
- Batman: Shadow of the Bat #19
- Batman: Shadow of the Bat #20
- Batman #501
- Batman #502
- Detective Comics #669
- Detective Comics #670
- Batman #503
- Batman #504
- Catwoman (Volume 2) #7
- Detective Comics #671
- Detective Comics #672
- Detective Comics #673
- Batman: Shadow of the Bat #24
- Batman #505
- Batman #506
- Batman #507
- Batman: Shadow of the Bat #26
- Batman: Shadow of the Bat #27
- Detective Comics #674
- Batman #508
- Batman: Shadow of the Bat #28
- Detective Comics #675
- Robin (Volume 2) #7
- Batman #509
- Batman: Shadow of the Bat #29
- Detective Comics #676
- Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #62
- Robin (Volume 2) #8
- Catwoman (Volume 2) #12
- Batman #510
- Batman: Shadow of the Bat #30
- Detective Comics #677
- Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #63
- Showcase '94 #10
- 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
- Azrael: Agent of the Bat #75
- Booster Gold (Volume 2) #10
- Booster Gold (Volume 2) #1,000,000
- Gotham Underground #8
- Batman and Punisher: Lake of Fire #1
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