After years of being regarded as Batman’s temporary replacement, Azrael’s new solo series is just the story the Angel of Vengeance deserves. Finally addressing his forthcomings and failures in the past, Jean-Paul Valley hangs up the suit and runs off to a monastery, looking for guidance. The challenges presented to him could prove to be just the thing he needs to master control over the Angel of Vengeance. Built from the foundations of religious fanaticism, Azrael became a figurehead for violent justice and vengeance in Gotham and pushed an unwilling Jean-Paul to the extremes. As one of the darker members of the extended Bat-Family, the Angel of Vengeance struck fear into the hearts of criminals and enacted the will of the Order of St. Dumas. Created for violent extremism, the anti-hero has finally become a trusted ally to Batman, but it’s time for him to find his worth and become the best that he can be.
Most readers know of Azrael as Batman’s replacement after Bane broke his back in the events of "Knightfall," which started at Batman #497 by Doug Moench, Jim Aparo, Dick Giordano, and Kelley Jones. After being asked by Bruce to take over, Jean-Paul takes up the mantle of Batman until Bruce is healed. He wasn’t considered dangerous until a run-in with Scarecrow prompted the System to take over. With Azrael in full control, he becomes unstable and violent, putting many bystanders at risk and even breaking Bane mentally and physically. It all accumulated to an innocent civilian's condemnation to death when the System purposely let a villain die. Finally, Bruce Wayne took back over as Batman after a long battle when Jean-Paul admits his defeat and is left to wander the streets of Gotham again. These events haunt Jean-Paul, pushing him to believe the System is an evil monster that must be put away.
Now in the sanctuary of a monastery, Jean-Paul Valley can pray and meditate on his forthcomings and insecurities, learning to control them and overcome them. He describes Azrael as something called The System – something implanted within him by the Order of St. Dumas when he was a child through hypnosis, conditioning, and more. Sword of Azrael #1 by Dan Watters Nikola Čižmešija, Marissa Louise, and Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou shines the light on his relationship with the System and the events of the past that shaped him into what he is today. Bogged down by his failures, Jean-Paul hangs up his suit and tries to create a life of peace, ignoring the call of Azrael.
The peace didn’t last long, with threats knocking on the door of the monastery at every turn and a new, powerful enemy emerging. Jean-Paul believes that Azrael is something to be controlled and pushed down, never to be used again, resisted no matter what. His relationship with The System is like that of the lion and the lamb, with the Angel of Vengeance creating only violence and pain as he was programmed to do. But with threats comes necessity, and when he picks up the mask, Jean-Paul found that his head is finally clear and he knows the light. Thus Azrael is shown to be capable of progressing his life and leading it into the light if only he forgives himself.
Sword of Azrael is a chance for Jean-Paul to finally see peace between him and The System while redeeming himself in the eyes of past and current allies. Azrael is not to be pushed away or controlled but is to be put on equal footing and create an understanding between the two. Finally free of the role as a replacement Batman, Azrael has a chance at a better and brighter future in a story he deserves.
Sword of Azrael #1 is available now from DC Comics.