After his father was shot, Jean-Paul Valley discovered he was a descendant of generations of assassins that go by the name Azrael. Genetically engineered and programmed since before his birth to be a master assassin at the hands of the Sacred Order of Saint Dumas, Jean-Paul assumed the role of “The Angel of Death”.
On his first mission for the Order, Azrael is sent to kill a member who has gone rogue, a weapons dealer named Carleton LeHah. LeHah had also found his way into the sights of Batman, who uncharacteristically was captured by the gun runner. Working with Alfred Pennyworth, Valley was able to track down LeHah and Batman both. After saving the Caped Crusader from the former Order member, Azrael rejects their ways and chooses to follow the moral example of Batman.
Upon returning to Gotham City, Azrael is put into training with Robin, but finds his Saint Dumas programming isn’t so easily forgotten, as he continues to use extreme methods in his pursuit of justice. While Azrael trains to be a vigilante under the Dark Knight, Bane unleashes the occupants of Arkham Asylum on the city, wearing down Batman to the point of exhaustion. When Bane is able to defeat Batman in combat, it falls to Jean-Paul Valley to fill the role of Batman in Bruce Wayne’s stead.
Unprepared for being Batman, Valley’s first forays as the Dark Knight end in disaster. Humiliated, Jean-Paul’s programming starts to take over and the unbalanced hero leans into more violent and harsh methods. Finding success in these methods, Valley starts to believe himself to be the superior Batman, until he goes too far by allowing both a villain and an innocent bystander to die.
When Bruce Wayne returns to reclaim his legacy, Valley is unwilling to surrender the role of Batman. By using his wits to outsmart Jean-Paul, Batman is able to breakthrough Valley’s fractured mind and talk sense into the misguided hero. Valley relinquishes being Batman and returns to his role as Azrael, though Batman soon gives him a new mission to track down The Sacred Order of Saint Dumas and learn the truth about his own past.
Over time, Azrael would disassemble The Sacred Order of Saint Dumas and find himself squaring off against Biis, his father’s killer - Carleton LeHah. Acting as an “Agent of the Bat”, Azrael was instrumental in stopping the “The Clench” virus during the Contagion saga. After Contagion and the following Cataclysm, Azrael also helped manage Batman’s territories during the time when an earthquake caused Gotham to become “The No Man’s Land,” until he was sent on a mission to save a Senator. On this mission he came to blows with a new arch nemesis masquerading as Azrael named Scratch. Scratch and Biis would eventually partner to end Azrael, and though he’d better them in battle, Jean-Paul Valley apparently paid the ultimate price and lost his life in the fight.
During the Battle for the Cowl, during a time when Batman vanished and various protéges fought each other for the right to replace him, an organization called The Order of Purity recruits a former police officer named Michael Washington Lane to be their version of Azrael. Recruited to stop the Sacred Order of Saint Dumas’ latest Azrael who has lost his mind, Lane is given armor called The Suit of Sorrows along with two blades, The Sword of Sin and The Sword of Salvation to stop the Order’s Mad Assassin.
In the post-Rebirth reality, Jean-Paul Valley is once again the wielder of Azrael’s fiery blades. In this incarnation, Azrael’s abilities are tied more closely to his battle armor, The Suit of Sorrows. Acting as an assassin for “Mother,” the leader of The Sacred Order of Saint Dumas, Azrael wiped out black market tech dealers to acquire their innovations for the Order’s gain. Bane, Robin, and Red Hood encounter Azrael when they try to find the headquarters of The Order. While Azrael defeats Bane, he learns about his own history and manipulation at the hands of Mother. When the Order uses the tech Azrael had acquired to take over the world, Azrael turns on his masters and partners with Nightwing to take Mother down.
When the Bat-family next encounters Azrael in Gotham, he’s on the run from soldiers from the paramilitary organization The Colony. After freeing him from the Colony, he accepts Batman’s offer to join his growing team of vigilantes. When Luke Fox and Jean-Paul Valley begin to research the A.I. that drives the functionality of the Suit of Sorrows the AI transfers itself into a new body and takes on the form of Ascalon. In an effort to purge the more homicidal aspects of the A.I. from Azrael’s armor, Luke Fox adds an additional A.I. to the system modeled after Batman’s behavior patterns.
When the Source Wall is destroyed, Azrael begins hearing a new voice in his head calling him to the depths of outer space. He joins a team of heroes on a quest through the Ghost Sector, a newly established section of space that is home to the planets freed at the end of Justice League: No Justice. Joining Azrael on this cosmic quest are Cyborg, Starfire, Green Lantern Jessica Cruz and a newly reborn Darkseid.