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 following his stint as Batman, funded by Bruce Wayne, 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 Man's 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.
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. This was followed by Lane's Azrael appearing in a sort of mini-Bat Family Crossover called Judgement on Gotham.
For a while, there was no word on the future of Azrael in the wake of the 2011 DC Relaunch. However, Michael Lane has appeared in Batman Incorporated #10, where he loans Batman the Suit of Sorrows.
Jean-Paul Valley shows up in Batman: The Adventures Continue, a digital-first comic series set in the DC Animated Universe, even donning the Azbats armor there.
An older, eviler Jean-Paul Valley appears in Batman: Curse of the White Knight, but inspired to become a villainous Azrael by The Joker in a bid to destroy Gotham, and eventually dons the Az Bats suit. In a surprising twist, it's revealed he, not Bruce, is the true heir to the Wayne Family (due to a secret from their ancestors, where Bruce's anscestor murdered Valley's and stole his identity, meaning all family members after him, including Thomas, Martha, and Bruce, aren't actually members of the actual Wayne line).
Azrael provides examples of:
- Adventure Towns: Ossaville (Population 56 less 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.
- The Alcoholic: Brian Bryan. Temporarily, anyway
- 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. (While the Russian Orthodox Church has an eighth deadly sin, it's despair, not faith.)
- 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...
- Character Development: Sister Lilhy turned evil and allied with Faux-Azrael in order to re-found the Sacred Order of St. Dumas.
- Christianity Is Catholic: 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.
- Darker and Edgier: The second series is made of this.
- 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.
- Dirty Old Man: Subverted for Brian Bryan, though he has stated concerning Lilhy, "If I were twenty years younger..."
- HeelFace Revolving Door: Sister Lilhy.
- Innocent Fan Service Girl: Sister Lilhy, oh so much.
- 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.
- Whether there was a legacy post-Flashpoint is open.
- MookFace Turn: 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.
- Oblivious to Love: Sister Lilhy just can't take any of Jean-Paul's hints, so the poor guy just gave up.
- Outdated Outfit: After a fashion. Ludovic Valley's decidedly more crusader-esque costume was one of the factors that contributed to his death.
- Ping-Pong Naïveté: Sister Lilhy, who went from The Chessmaster to Damsel in Distress and back again throughout the course of the series. This applied to Jean Paul to.
- Power Trio: Jean-Paul Valley, Brian Bryan, and Sister Lilhy.
- Repetitive Name: Jean-Paul Valley's closest confident was an alcoholic ex-psychiatrist named Brain Bryan.
- The Shrink: Jean-Paul's friend Brian Bryan initially proclaims himself the "worst psychiatrist to ever practice the healing arts", but he becomes more competent as he helps Jean-Paul deal with the System ( and loses his addiction).
- Sleep Learning: How "the System" works. Or, to be accurate, Subliminal Messages Played While You Are Sleeping Throughout Your Childhood Learning.
- 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.
- Two Guys and a Girl: Jean-Paul Valley, Brian Bryan, and Sister Lilhy, again.
- Will They or Won't They?: Jean-Paul Valley got this with Sister Lilhy a lot.