Batman & Azrael: KnightsEndPosted: 09/08/2014
Batman’s replacement Azrael eventually goes crazy. To be fair, Azrael (real name Jean-Paul Valley) was always a bit crazy, but allow him to build a mecha-Batman suit fueled by delusions and hallucinations, and the fall happens far quicker than Bruce Wayne expected. Remember the DC event One Year Later when Batman, Nightwing, and Robin traveled the world for a year and he left Two-Face in charge of Gotham City? As brilliant as Wayne is, his decision-making skills occasionally need some adjusting. In Detective Comics #677, written by Chuck Dixon and drawn by Graham Nolan, as well as Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #63, written by Denny O’Neil and drawn by Barry Kitson, our original Batman attempts to correct his mistake of allowing Azrael to inherit his title.
Azrael’s father religiously brainwashed him in the assassin cult of St. Dumas, so his insanity isn’t really his fault. Still, a crazy Batman is a bad Batman.
A short list of what Azrael needs to answer for: he let a murderer fall to his death, he let a hostage die, he almost strangled Robin to death, he stopped working with the police, he blocked off Wayne Manor, and other general brutality. Except that all that has happened lies solely on Wayne’s shoulders — Batman should never have picked him in the first place. So, in quite possibly one of the calmest Batman moments, he confronts his Gundam successor, talking to Azrael much like one would an unruly preschooler.
Like all good superheroes, words fail as fists must be raised. And as insane as Azrael acts, no one has more experience dealing with insane people as Batman. I mean, Arkham Asylum exists solely to house the entirety of his rogues gallery. Though it should be noted that Batman also solves crazy people problems less with therapy and kind words and more with punches and batarangs.
Batman doesn’t hate Azrael, he just feels bad for him. Less growling and more pity. I know discussing “power levels” of fictional characters amounts to arguing about whose imaginary friend is stronger, but Batman holds a firm advantage in speed. And if Nightwing teaches you anything, speed usually matters more than power. That and how can the traditional, disciplined Batman possibly lose to the ultimate ’90s version of himself? Seriously, stop drawing Azrael’s feet and give him a mullet and we’ve just created the perfect ’90s superhero caricature. He has spikes on his legs. How can he drive the Batmobile with spikes on his legs?
I like the dual meaning behind Azrael keeping his mask on. Obviously, he uses it to see in the dark, but it’s a beautiful representation of Azrael’s desperate identity. When we ask whether Batman needs the existence of Bruce Wayne, here’s the perfect example of the emotional drain-circling that comes from an identity wrapped solely in fighting crime as a giant bat.
Religious symbolism! I’m saying Batman is DC’s Jesus. But this Aryan madman’s quest has just begun. His solo series branching out of this event lasts for a 100 issues. I’m always a sucker for redemption stories, and Batman lets Jean-Paul Valley find his own peace. Just far away from Batman.
On that note Batman leaves Gotham City again, letting Dick Grayson take over the Batman for the first time. If you wonder why Wayne chose Azrael instead of Nightwing to fill his costume’s shoes, so is Nightwing. You can read that awkward conversation in a previous article. Next time, more Azrael!