- It's a long story... actually, it's not. A secret religious order asked me to serve as God's sword of justice. They gave me a Brownstone. They gave me an ancient suit of armor and two swords -- one to make the guilty face their sins, the other to make them long for salvation.
- — Michael Lane src
Born in Gotham City to parents Mitchell and Barbara Lane, Michael Washington Lane graduated from East End High School. He received a football scholarship to Gotham University, where he played as a linebacker for the Nighthawks until his scholarship was revoked sophomore year for beating his coach unconscious. Enlisting in the Marine Corps, he served two tours of duty in the Iraq War before returning home as a beat cop in his old neighbourhood. Lane married Chanté Coles and they had a son they named Henry Mitchell Lane, although Henry was hit by a car at age three and his wife committed suicide after this. His older siblings Marion and Gwendolyn Lane were murdered in ritual by a satanic cult, which led him to finally have a mental breakdown.
Three Ghosts of Batman
Before his string of tragedies, Michael was selected for a joint Military and GCPD experiment that was designed to create someone who could take over for Batman should anything ever happen to him. Michael and two other police officers with military training were put through a series of experiments by scientist Doctor Hurt, which improved their strength and reflexes. The effects of the experiment combined with his personal tragedies made him go insane. Along with the "Bat-Cop" and "Bat-Bane," who also experienced adverse mental effects of Doctor Hurt's program, Lane, named the Bat-Ghost, and later Bat-Devil, plagued Batman for a short while, haunting him for the inadvertent destruction of the three men's lives.
Lane acted as an agent of Doctor Hurt during the Black Glove's master plan to eliminate Batman. He was piloting the helicopter during Hurt's attempted escape from Arkham Asylum, but after losing control of the helicopter, the vehicle exploded and crashed into the water.
The Order of Purity selected Lane to be their new Azrael after previous agent Abraham Arlington was driven insane by the mystical Suit of Sorrows. His priest Father Day approached Lane with Adrian Paratino, Felicidad Gomez and Leland McCauley after Lane admitted in a confessional to helping kill Batman. Lane agreed to take the mantle, and was immediately forced to use the suit when they were attacked by the Seven Men of Death. As Lane fought them off with the Sword of Sin, Talia al Ghul stabbed him with the Sword of Salvation. Lane recovered and fought Talia, who revealed the secret curse of the Suit of Sorrows to him. Lane then confronted the Order, who in turn showed him what the suit did to Arlington. After a final conversation with his mother, Lane decided to go to the Batcave and confronted Nightwing During their fight, Nightwing stunned Lane and knocked him unconscious. Lane woke up in his apartment and found the Suit of Sorrows with both swords attached to a note from Nightwing, allowing him to operate in Gotham. The Order gave Lane Leland McCauley's Brownstone as a home and base of operations and Azrael started working back in Gotham.
The Eighth Deadly Sin
His first team-up involves a series of kidnappings by the villain Amon of La Saligia, an evil-worshiping cult who intend to sacrifice children and release an eighth deadly sin. Batman suggests they work together when Robin is kidnapped. Robin escapes and they fight back-to-back taking down Saligia, while Batman works with the Question to deal with their mind-controlled slaves. In the aftermath Batman criticizes Azrael for severing a man's hand and ignoring the kidnapped children, but Azrael tells Batman that no one can judge him but God.
Angel in the Dark
While protecting nuns from Blackgaters he gets information about a serial killer attacking clergymen, but lets the man go after learning his victims covered up child molestation. The White Ghost attempts to test him on behalf of Ra's al Ghul, but Azrael turns this around and forces the Ghost to complete his own challenge. One of his former buddies from the Marine Corps began murdering Iraqis as a serial killer, and Lane was forced to put him down when none of his friends would take action. Batman and Robin take down a Religion of Crime sect and learn that Jenny is responsible for killing Marion and Gwen, but it was revealed that she did this while brainwashed. Ragman stops Azrael from attacking an innocent suspected terrorist in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict when their violence spills into Gotham. Lane begins reading the Book of Purity to learn more about his predecessors Geoffrey de Cantonna and Henri Ducart, and begins to believe that the Order of Purity will eventually kill him. The Order begins to suspect he is going mad while he is taking down the kidnappers Hide and Go Seek, and Angela Hawkins briefly becomes his psychiatrist but is revealed to have been hired by someone using him as a pawn.
Let Him Who is Without Sin
When the La Saligia cult begins killing victims again, Azrael is sent to Paris. Ra's al Ghul sends the White Ghost again to tell him if he wants to keep the Suit of Sorrows he has to earn it. Saligia members Amon, Daystar, Fly Lord and Tanimin attack him to announce that he will become host to the forgotten eighth deadly sin of faith. Azrael is given the name Ermine to embody the black void of pure faith, and White Ghost tries to fight Saligia but is defeated. Paratino and the Ghost are barely able to stop Azrael from killing the Pope in Vatican City before Ghost can talk him back to rationality. Together they slaughter the remaining Saligia members and Lane reaffirms his faith in the tenets of Christianity.
The Killer of Saints
Father Day takes Azrael to London when a metahuman serial killer called the Crusader begins killing Order of Purity members. Crusader beats Azrael and moves on to his next victim, while Day explains that he is after the real Shroud of Turin which scientifically disproves the resurrection of Jesus Christ. They travel to a man named Father Grieve in Scotland who is the Order's Keeper of Secrets and explains that they value truth not faith, believing in a dual God of the spiritual world and God of the material world independent of doctrine. The Crusader is explained to be an agent of the Vatican dedicated to destroying evidence against the Catholic church, and he arrives to torture Grieve for the Shroud's location. Azrael uses the Sword of Sin to show Crusader that he is violating God's will. Grieve tells Azrael that the Suit of Sorrows was designed for the descendant of Christ who the Shroud will reveal, and Azrael kills him then leaves.
Paratino has the Suit of Sorrows repaired by his secret benefactor Ra's al Ghul, allowing Hans Gerlicht to modify it. This modification amplifies the voices in Lane's head and he finally snaps, going on a violent rampage that ends with him stabbing Batman. The next morning he's found dead at the Church of the Holy Redeemer, having committed suicide and crucified himself. It was explained that Peter Farelli assisted him by nailing him to the cross, and Farelli turns evidence over to Harvey Bullock and Josie Mac explaining Azrael's actions. His corpse is stolen from the morgue by Ra's who explains that he will rise in three days. Michael is haunted by Grieve in Purgatory, but he is able to leave after Cantonna tells him the suit will not control him anymore. It was explained that Gerlicht designed the suit to work as a walking Lazarus Pit resurrecting Lane. Batman still worries that Lane will become the anti-Christ Bat-Devil as seen in visions of the Bethlehem future, and he invites Azrael to join Batman Incorporated. Azrael declines as he fights against sin not crime, and he stabs Batman with the Sword of Sin to show him that his destiny is still open. Batman leaves content that Azrael is their ally, but Lane is still haunted by the ghost of Grieve.
The Tears of God
Lane continues to question his teachings as the Shroud of Turin proves that Jesus Christ had no resurrection, but Michael himself died on the cross and came back three days later. The modifications to his suit have also made him more powerful as he can now call on the abilities of any warrior who has ever worn the suit. Batman enlists him to help Batman Incorporated by going after the Brothers of the Sword in Afghanistan, a terrorist group using a metahuman boy named Fireball. Fireball is believed to be the reincarnation of Malak al-Maut, the Islamic Angel of Death, and they do battle but neither can defeat the other. Ra's al Ghul arrives and explains that he has manipulated them into this position, where he plans to use Angels of Death to create a new world by destroying the old one. Azrael returns to Gotham and says goodbye to his family before confirming with the ghost of Father Grieve that it is his responsibility to burn Gotham down.
Judgment on Gotham
Azrael arrives in Devil's Square and announces that he and his Angels of Death will judge Gotham City. Batman, Catwoman and Red Robin are asked to find one righteous man in Gotham or Crusader and Fireball will destroy the city. They test the heroes beginning with Red Robin, who is forced to run a gauntlet across the city so he can rescue Mayor Hady. Despite this, he fails his test because he does not believe in God. Catwoman is challenged next and Sister Zero helps the Angels, although Catwoman fails her test when she refuses to sacrifice her sister in the name of God. Their last test is against Batman, who is shown his own sins. Catwoman brings Jenny and her kids to reason with Michael, and they convince him to turn the swords on himself so he can see the truth. Michael realizes that his actions are not God's will but Ra's al Ghul has been manipulating him. Azrael has Crusader stop Fireball from destroying Gotham with a force-field, and they fly off together to repent for their sins.
Angel in the Dark
In one possible future, the Suit of Sorrows eventually drives Michael Lane insane six months after he begins wearing it. Peter Farelli turns evidence on his activities over to Harvey Bullock and Josie Mac. They go to arrest Lane, but instead find that he has committed suicide by crucifixion in the church where he began his super-hero career. This vision does come to pass and it was explained that the Suit of Sorrows told Michael to kill himself. However, in three days he resurrects as Ra's al Ghul has converted the suit into a walking Lazarus Pit.
Batman in Bethlehem
Damian has taken the mantle of the Batman some 10 to 20 years in the future and is seen pursuing this third Batman "ghost" who has been systematically murdering Gotham's ganglords (including Professor Pyg, among others), claiming to be the son of the Antichrist come to begin the end of days. He is eventually killed by Damian, who throws him out the window of Hotel Bethlehem. This "Batman" uses the basic costume, seemingly upgraded with either Firefly's or Heatwave's flamethrower. Like the "Bane" ghost, his face is completely hidden by his mask (goggles and a metallic plate conceal his eyes and mouth). However, in the present when Batman is stabbed with the Sword of Sin he sees that this is only one possible future for Azrael. It is equally possible that he might become Gotham's savior, as these events are his choice not his destiny.
Michael Lane is a devout Christian and a strict believer in the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. Despite having a calm outward persona, he is shown to have had violent tendencies from a young age. In later life as a veteran this translates into him being cool and serene in combat situations, although he still suffers from Post-traumatic stress disorder. He is not immune to temptation or human weakness, as shown by his affair with his brother's widow. By his own admission, he has broken every one of the Ten Commandments.
- Mental Illness: The large amount of tragedy in the life of Michael Lane, combined with extensive use of the Suit of Sorrows, significantly damaged him mentally, until he was almost completely insane. But after his resurrection, Michael regained most of his mental capacities, but not all of them.
- Following the conclusion to Azrael's series, history is changed when Flashpoint reboots the DC Universe into The New 52. In the new Prime Earth timeline, Azrael is apparently erased from history. He can still be seen in a panel depicting members of Batman Incorporated from the Hydrology storyline, which was illustrated before the reboot and had to be altered. This panel shows him fading away alongside other things that have disappeared from continuity including Tim Drake in his original Red Robin costume and Lady Blackhawk. However, the apocalyptic Batman in Bethlehem future where he has been killed by Damian Wayne is still shown to happen.
- Michael Lane's first appearance was entirely in silhouette during a dream Bruce Wayne has about the Three Ghosts of Batman. In this dream, Damian Wayne tells him that the third ghost is the worst of them all. His first full-appearance is in the post-apocalyptic Batman in Bethlehem future. He does not make an appearance in present day mainstream continuity until several months later.
- Azrael: Death's Dark Knight
- Azrael: The Eighth Deadly Sin
- Azrael (Volume 2)
- Batman: Judgment on Gotham
- 36 Appearances of Michael Lane (New Earth)
- 107 Images featuring Michael Lane (New Earth)
- 25 Quotations by or about Michael Lane (New Earth)
- Character Gallery: Michael Lane (New Earth)
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 1.2 Azrael: Death's Dark Knight #1
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 Batman #672
- ↑ Batman #681
- ↑ Azrael: Death's Dark Knight #2
- ↑ 5.0 5.1 Azrael: Death's Dark Knight #3
- ↑ Batman Annual #27
- ↑ Detective Comics Annual #11
- ↑ 8.0 8.1 Azrael (Volume 2) #1
- ↑ Azrael (Volume 2) #2
- ↑ Azrael (Volume 2) #3
- ↑ Azrael (Volume 2) #4
- ↑ Azrael (Volume 2) #5
- ↑ Azrael (Volume 2) #6
- ↑ Azrael (Volume 2) #7
- ↑ Azrael (Volume 2) #8
- ↑ Azrael (Volume 2) #9
- ↑ Azrael (Volume 2) #10
- ↑ Azrael (Volume 2) #11
- ↑ Azrael (Volume 2) #12
- ↑ Azrael (Volume 2) #13
- ↑ 21.0 21.1 Azrael (Volume 2) #14
- ↑ Azrael (Volume 2) #15
- ↑ 23.0 23.1 23.2 Azrael (Volume 2) #16
- ↑ Azrael (Volume 2) #17
- ↑ Azrael (Volume 2) #18
- ↑ Batman #708
- ↑ Red Robin #22
- ↑ 28.0 28.1 Gotham City Sirens #22
- ↑ Batman #709
- ↑ 30.0 30.1 Batman #666
- ↑ Flashpoint (Volume 2) #5, see excerpt
- ↑ Batwoman (Volume 2) #2
- ↑ Batman Incorporated (Volume 2) #5
- ↑ Batman #665
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