Azrael, “Batman’s Replacement,” Finally Gets the Story He Deserves


Attention: spoilers for Sword of Azrael #1 are ahead.

After years of being considered a temporary replacement for Batman, Azrael’s new solo series is exactly the story “Angel of Retribution” deserves. Finally, turning to his achievements and failures in the past, Jean-Paul Valli hangs up his suit and runs away to a monastery in search of guidance. The challenges presented to him may be exactly what he needs to gain control of the Angel of Retribution. Built on the basis of religious fanaticism, Azrael became the figurehead of violent justice and revenge in Gotham and drove the unwitting Jean-Paul to the extreme. As one of the darkest members of the extended bat family, the Angel of Retribution struck fear into the hearts of criminals and carried out the will of the Order of Saint Dumas. Created for violent extremism, the anti-hero has finally become a reliable ally of Batman, but it’s time for him to find his worth and become the best he can be.

Most readers are aware of Azrael as Batman’s replacement after Bane broke his back in the events of The Knight’s Fall, which began in Batman #497 by Doug Mench, Jim Aparo, Dick Giordano and Kelly Jones. After Bruce asked him to take over, Jean-Paul assumes the mantle of Batman until Bruce recovers. He wasn’t considered dangerous until a run-in with a Scarecrow forced the System to take over. When Azrael is in full control of the situation, he becomes unstable and violent, putting many passers-by at risk and even breaking Bane mentally and physically. It all boiled down to sentencing an innocent civilian to death when the System intentionally allowed the villain to die. Finally, Bruce Wayne has become Batman again after a long battle, when Jean-Paul admits defeat and is left to wander the streets of Gotham again. These events haunt Jean-Paul, pushing him to the idea that the System is an evil monster that needs to be disposed of.

Now, in the sanctuary of the monastery, Jean-Paul Valli can pray and reflect on his upcoming events and insecurities, learning to control them and overcome them. He describes Azrael as something called a System—something implanted into him by the Order of Saint Dumas when he was a child, through hypnosis, conditioning and more. “The Sword of Azrael No. 1” by Dan Watters Nikola Chizhmeshia, Marissa Louise and Hassan Otsman-Elhau shed light on his relationship with the System and the events of the past that shaped him as he is today. Mired in his failures, Jean-Paul hangs up his suit and tries to create a peaceful life, ignoring Azrael’s call.

The peace did not last long, threats were knocking at the doors of the monastery at every step and a new strong enemy appeared. Jean-Paul believes that Azrael is something that needs to be controlled and suppressed, never used again, resisted no matter what. His relationship with the System is like that of a lion and a lamb, when the Angel of Revenge creates only violence and pain, as he was programmed. But with threats comes necessity, and when he lifts the mask, Jean-Paul discovers that his head has finally cleared and he knows the light. Thus it is shown that Azrael is able to develop his life and lead it to the light, if only he forgives himself.

Azrael’s sword is a chance for Jean-Paul to finally see peace between him and the System, redeeming himself in the eyes of past and present allies. Azrael cannot be repelled or controlled, he must be put on equal rights and create mutual understanding between them. Finally freed from the role of Batman’s replacement, Azrael got a chance for a better and brighter future in the story he deserves.


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