19 May 2007

The Friends and Foes of Batman - Azrael

Azrael (Jean-Paul Valley) is named after the Angel of Death. He is yet to appear on the silver screen, TV, or in an animated incarnation.

Jean-Paul Valley, a university student in Gotham City, was unaware that he was the latest in a line of assassin-enforcers for "The Sacred Order of Saint Dumas", a sinister secret society. He had received training and mental conditioning to prepare him for his role since before he was born. He was a test tube baby and his genes were spliced with those of animals. He was brainwashed with "The System," a deep level of psychological conditioning. Valley learned of this upon the death of his father who was also his predecessor. At that time his conditioning was activated and he was called upon to take up the mantle of Azrael. When he was sent by the Order to kill a weapons dealer he crossed paths with Batman. He was shown the error of his ways and he decided to fight with Batman against the criminals of Gotham, rejecting his "birthright" and seeking Batman's help in breaking his conditioning to forge his own destiny.

Valley stood in as Batman after Bruce Wayne was defeated and paralyzed at the hands of Bane. Against Bruce Wayne's orders, Valley fought and defeated Bane. His performance as Batman was influenced by his Azrael conditioning; he grew increasingly violent, allowing the criminal Abattoir to fall to his death, thereby also allowing one of Abattoir's still-living victims to die. Valley also refused to recognize Robin as his partner. After he recovered, Wayne was forced to fight the technologically-enhanced Valley to reclaim his identity. After a prolonged battle on Gotham Bridge, when Azrael nearly killed Nightwing, he was defeated when Wayne tricked him into removing his armor, forcing him to finally realize that Wayne is the true Batman. Disgraced, Valley left Gotham and became Azrael once more.

As Azrael, Valley wore a red-and-gold costume. He sometimes carried a flaming sword, but also used two retractable daggers hidden in the gauntlets of his costume. He unlocked his superhuman skills by tapping into "The System" which placed a serious strain on his mind, and at times seemed to be driving him insane.

In his 100 issue solo series, Azrael battled against the Order of St. Dumas and eventually rejoined the Bat family. He also changed his costume considerably for a time. Azrael was seemingly killed while battling archenemies Nicholas Scratch and Carlton Lehah. However, his body was never recovered.

Villain Profiles:

Ra's al Ghul

Talia al Ghul

The Dark Knight returns in 426 days!

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