Sword of Azrael 1 Gatefold CoverJean-Paul Valley is one of my favorite characters in comics by a long margin. Created in anticipation of the “Knightfall” crossover trilogy that saw him take over as Batman for a year, Azrael became a hated symbol of 90s grimdark. But Jean-Paul is so much more than that. In fact, Jean-Paul was not only a refutation of Dark Age thinking but became an active example of the alternative. Over his ten-year story, Jean Paul became a unique and interesting character, examining concepts as varied as non-violence, childhood abandonment, addiction, toxic masculinity, and elective family.

Jean-Paul is a very special character in my mind, and yet he doesn’t have a lot of fans. So, if you’ll indulge me a bit, I’d like to take you on a tour of Jean-Paul’s world. If I’m lucky, maybe I’ll make a few new fans and you’ll walk away with a new character to nerd out over. If not, we can at least make fun of this character’s weird history together. So come with me and let’s take a walk.

This week we’re going to take a look at where things started for Jean-Paul, the 1992 mini-series Batman: Sword of Azrael. As in many superhero origin stories, the Jean-Paul of Sword of Azrael isn’t fully formed yet. However, Denny O’Neil’s vision for the character is definitely present and, perhaps more than it knew, Sword of Azrael lays the foundation of the character. Continue reading