One of Gotham City’s most overlooked inhabitants, DC Comics’ Azrael has been both an ally and an enemy of Batman, having undergone many costume changes over the years. The Angel of Death is a vigilante and assassin who traditionally wears the Suit of Sorrows – armor created during the Crusades that corrupts the wearer, making them more violent (although an alternate story has the suit equipped with an AI which improves combat technique but trains the But while it may seem that a character specifically related to clothing is less likely to change their look, Azrael has become a master of reinvention.
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Created by Denny O’Neil and Joe Quesada – apparently with contributions from Peter Milligan – Azrael’s ties to the Order of St. Dumas saw him trained as a strategist, tactician, and warrior fit to compete (and a moment replace) Batman himself. But Azrael’s journey has been filled with twists and turns, most marked by a change in appearance. Outside of comics, Azrael made his screen debut in Gotham and also appeared in the game 2011 Batman: Arkham City and 2015 Batman: Arkham Knight. In the comics, he’s often seen wearing a heavily armored exoskeleton costume, though the color scheme often changes.
First appearance in Batman: Sword of Azrael # 1 in 1992, Azrael is typically the alter ego of two characters: Jean-Paul Valley and his son, Jean-Paul Valley Jr. His initial outfit consisted of a white helmet with gold details. He wore a white tunic with fleur-de-lis style accents and a red cape. But in the four issues of the series that featured him, Azrael changed his look for the first time. Azrael’s next look, from Sword of Azrael # 1 blanket, reappearing in Sword of Azrael # 4, is the predominantly red outfit with gold epaulettes on both shoulders, a gold chest plate, and a black and red mask replacing the white and gold helmet. The Red Cloak remains, as does its blades, which are paired with igniters, making them more lethal. His cloak is encircled by a medallion which indicates his allegiance to the Order of Saint-Dumas.
Azrael as Batman
Azrael’s most famous story is the 1990s arc known as the “Knightfall”. This story placed Jean-Paul Valley Jr. in the role of Batman, alongside Robin, while Bruce had to be smashed by Bane. Passing the baton on to Jean-Paul turned out to be a very bad idea, as taking on the role of Batman ultimately revealed just how mentally unbalanced he was. He initially wore the traditional batsuit, but after suffering defeat at the hands of Bane, he created a costume that would become a signature costume for him in the future. This costume debuted in Batman # 500 and he’s a lot more armored than the costumes Batman had worn so far.
This costume has a very robotic and mechanical look, although it is mostly metallic. He brings back the gold pauldrons Azrael previously owned and combines them with Batman’s color scheme. The idea was that Azrael was a new version of Batman, instead of an agent of the Order of Saint-Dumas as he had been before – although his training with the Order was what led him to not fill Bruce’s shoes. Batman tricked Jean-Paul into getting rid of his bulky new armor, persuading him to surrender after he got too brutal in his vigilantism.
Azrael: Bat Agent debuted in 1994 and ran for hundred numbers. Throughout it, Azrael comes up against multiple enemies while fighting to define his dueling characters of Azrael and Jean-Paul Valley. He started the series in a costume similar to the one he debuted in, without a helmet or mask. It kept the red and gold color scheme it had before. He brought back the armored suit he wore while working with the Batman and Robin involved #ten, but that didn’t last for the rest of the series.
To help him fight his old training, Jean-Paul Valley took on a new costume in Azrael: Bat Agent # 50. This one has retained the armored look he seems to prefer and while keeping a red signature he has paired it with a new white element. Her mask also changed, allowing her hair to flow freely. He moved away from the Templar look as he became more of a hero, growing in compassion the Order had tried to suppress. A fiery adventure in which he rescued Batgirl, aka Cassandra Cain, led to a shortening of her hair, which was still visible as part of her costume – a trend in the gritty, gritty heroes’ aesthetic of the time.
Popular demand brought back the iconic red and gold outfit, as Jean-Paul found one of his oldest costumes and began donning it, although this one also lacked much of the Templar symbolism present in his appearance. ‘origin. He would use this costume to fight a second Azrael of the Order of Saint-Dumas. Towards the end of Azrael: Bat Agent, Jean-Paul Valley wore a variant of the “Knightfall“armored suit, but this time in red and gold, combining the worst aspects of his past. Those looks would continue to define Azrael, and later the costumes were more likely to take inspiration from the armored suit or the Templar costume.
Azrael: the dark knight of death was a three-issue miniseries from 2009. He saw a new Azrael arise – a man named Michael Lane, in a white tunic-like suit with red elements. DC’s Renaissance Era made Azrael’s Mask more like armor, while its appearance in Tales from the Dark Multiverse: Batman Knightfall imagined a fusion of the most famous costumes of Azrael and Batman. Jean-Paul Valley quickly returned to the mantle, and has been largely in red tunics and red and gold armor ever since. He recently appeared as a member of Justice League Odyssey, in similar armor to his batsuit, but more compact and mixing gold and red, where he fights another Azrael who is allied with Darkseid.
Like many heroes, Azrael experimented with a relatively cohesive theme, with different iterations of costumes streamlining her more recognizable characteristics. Her original red and black mask is now considered the character’s default look, and her use of a flaming blade also tends to guide design decisions around her costume. What will happen to him next – and what he will wear – is unknown, as Justice League Odyssey led directly to Dark nights: death Metal, and the overhaul of the entire DC multiverse. A fan favorite hero, Azrael is sure to reappear soon, possibly in yet another reinvention of one of the coolest costumes in comics.
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