Greetings again. One subject from the last 2 weeks Batman timeline reminded me that I hadn’t yet written in this blog about a subject I was thinking about for a while. Jean Paul Valley, the original Azrael. Jean Paul Valley was a graduate computer science student at Gotham University when we first meet him in issue #1 of the miniseries, Batman: Sword of Azrael (October 1992).
Jean Paul is completely unaware that he is to be the latest in a centuries long line of assassins for the Order of Saint Dumas, a corrupt religious organization whose power rivals the Vatican’s.
Upon finding his father beaten, shot, and dying on his doorstop after an encounter with a rouge Dumas member/arms dealer Carlton Lehah, his father unlocks all of Jean Paul’s hidden memories, including The System, a deep level of psychological conditioning that helps the assassins among other things, become inhuman fighting machines. With his father’s death, Jean Paul is brought into the Order of Saint Dumas and sent after his father’s killer. It’s on this trail that Jean Paul meets Batman, also on the hunt for Lehah. After Batman is captured by Lehah, Jean Paul works with Alfred to free him. Rejecting the ways of the assassin, Jean Paul rescues Batman and accepts his offer to train him as a hero. Jean Paul takes a job as a security guard at WayneTech while learning detective skills from Batman and Robin at night. Jean Paul Valley is most famous because of the Knightfall storyline (1993-1994) (good or bad depends on who you ask. A 15-16 year old me thought it was pretty cool). Jean Paul takes Bruce Wayne’s role as Batman. After months of physical and mental challenges by the man known as Bane, Bane snaps Bruce Wayne’s back, crippling him. With Gotham in chaos thanks to Bane’s very public victory (He throws Batman off a roof into a city street after crippling him), Bruce Wayne decides Jean Paul Valley (and not Dick Grayson, the rightful Batman heir) should take the role. Bruce orders Jean Paul not to confront Bane. Jean Paul disobeys and is almost killed by Bane. At this point, Bruce Wayne has to leave the country (maybe we’ll get into that story one day) and Jean Paul, under the influence of the ever strengthing “system”, total revamps the Batman costume to suit his assassins skills. A more violent Jean Paul defeats Bane in a very public way.
In the following months, with Bruce Wayne out of the country and Jean Paul’s violence escalating, Robin (Tim Drake) tries to keep the former assassin under control, with disastrous results.
Robin wisely then decides to keep out of Jean Paul’s way. Battering and breaking criminals, the final nail in the coffin is when Jean Paul (or Azbats as some fans call him) lets the serial killer Abattoir fall to his death in a steel mill. Bruce Wayne returns, his back fully healed but still in need of retraining, and decides Jean Paul needs stopped. After training with the deadliest female fighter in the world, Lady Shiva, Bruce Wayne returns and defeats Jean Paul with the help of Robin and Nightwing. Seeing the error of his ways, Batman let Jean Paul leave. Wandering aimlessly for weeks, Jean Paul lives with the homeless of Gotham City. Feeling responsible for Jean Paul’s mental breakdown during his time as Batman, Bruce Wayne gives Jean Paul the money and resources to explore his origins. For months, Batman would give Azrael small missions that needed done, most of them outside of Gotham where Batman did not have the time to complete them. Its not until Azrael saves the life of a US senator important to the events of the No Man’s Land storyline (another story we have to get into), that he official becomes a trusted member of Batman’s team. His solo series, originally named Azrael, becomes, Azrael: Agent of the Bat, and receives a new, Batman created costume.
In the final issue of his series (#100), Azrael is shot with Teflon-coated bullets that penetrate his Kevlar. He tumbles into the river with his father’s killer, Carlton Lehah. With his body not found, his death was in question. Until the events of Blackest Night #4 (October 2009). Dead heroes and Villains of the DC Universe were resurrected as evil zombies, including a Azrael. It was confirmed months later that that was indeed the Jean Paul Valley Azrael. R.I.P. Azbats. That’s it for this week. As usual, any thoughts, comments, opinions to:
Until next week, be good. Remember, some heroes may be gone, but never forgotten.