Why Azrael Represents The Darker Side Of Religion

For Batman, fighting crime is a crusade, but there have been times when Bruce Wayne has been unable to fulfil his duties to Gotham. Other characters have worn the cowl when he’s been unable to, including Jean-Paul Valley. Better known as Azrael, Valley was characterised by his religious fanaticism, part of his conditioning as a member of The Sacred Order of Saint Dumas. With Batman’s help, Azrael was able to overcome the Order’s influence and strike out to find his own place in the world. Azrael a suitable metaphor for religious zealotry as well as for exploring the nature of faith. The Comic Vault is taking a look into his history to understand his motivations.

Agent of vengeance

Valley came from a long line of assassins that carried out the whims of The Sacred Order of Saint Dumas. He was grown in a test tube and engineered to have enhanced abilities. Then, Valley was let out into the world, unware of his true purpose. He became a mild-mannered person, eventually graduating from university in computer science.

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After the death of his father, Valley learned of his family’s legacy and his psychological conditioning known as The System. Valley became Azrael, an agent of religious vengeance. He was sent by the Order to kill a weapons dealer, only to run into Batman for the first time. Although they worked against each other, Azrael was forced to rescue Bruce. Their meeting caused Azrael to reject the Order’s violent methods and he started working with Batman.

Becoming Batman

During the Knightfall arc, Bane broke Bruce’s spine and he asked Valley to fill in for him. The System wasn’t ready to let go of Valley, who continued to show aggressive tendencies. Valley became a far more brutal Batman, crippling criminals and treating his mission as a religious purge. Although he was able to overcome Bane, Valley lost his grip on reality, forcing Bruce to confront him.

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Azrael eventually regained his sanity, focusing his crime fighting efforts on The Sacred Order of Saint Dumas. He assisted the Batman family regularly until his death at the hands of his nemesis Lehah. Azrael remained dead until DC Rebirth, where he was brought back as an ally of Batwoman.

Religion and mental health

Valley is an intriguing character because of his religious ties. His brainwashing is similar to the power that a cult has over certain people. Religion can be used as justification for carrying out terrible acts. When someone believes they have God on their side then it can lead to making questionable decisions.

There’s an interesting contrast between the passivity of Valley and the anger of Azrael. The System created a distinct personality within Valley, making him believe he was the biblical angel of destruction. Valley’s compassion was drowned out by Azrael’s bloodlust. Over time, Valley was able to regain control and tap into the powers that the Azrael personality gave him.

Azrael’s abilities are all enhanced to superhuman levels. In the past, he’s been able to defeat Bane, despite suffering from extreme exhaustion. He’s got the better of Batman and even matched Deathstroke in a sword fight.

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Having faith is a good form of comfort, yet Azrael is a representation of the darker side of religion. Another character that’s connected to her faith is Wolfsbane. Find out how she was able to overcome religious persecution and become a more balanced person.

Author: thecomicvault

A place for superheroes, positive mental health and pop culture references. Unlock your inner geek and step inside.

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