Azrael: 1980 - 2008
In an attempt to create the perfect successor for Ra's al Ghul, El Penitente spliced genetic traits from animals, world-class athletes and scholars, and Ra’s al Ghul into the fetal clone of the original Jean-Paul Valley, the commander of Ra’s al Ghul's honor guard at the time. Naming the resulting child Jean-Paul Valley, Jr. and training him from birth as a League Assassin, the project seemed to be an astounding success. However, when the child became a teenager, his genetic structure and mind became unstable. Having decided to go a different route for his successor but wanting to salvage the clone for future use, Ra’s al Ghul sent El Penitente and Jean-Paul Valley away to a League compound in South America to have dedicated use of a Lazarus Pit for El Penitente's experiments and for the treatment that the clone needed to stabilize his experimental body. After Ra’s al Ghul’s attempt to nominate Bruce Wayne as his successor failed and several other League plots were foiled by Bruce Wayne in the guise of Batman, Ra’s al Ghul put Gotham City in the League’s crosshairs and recalled Jean-Paul Valley, El Penitente, and three of El Penitente's South American experiments, fashioning them into the Four Horsemen of Gotham’s very own destruction.
However, when the operation was put on hold due to Joker killing Batman’s protégé, Ra’s al Ghul replaced the most unstable of the Horsemen with a resurrected and reprogrammed Jason Todd. In a testament to El Penitente's ability to reform the unstable Jean-Paul Valley, Ra’s al Ghul named the three lesser Horsemen “Lilith”, “Abaddon”, and “Dumah” after apocryphal beings of destruction, Jean-Paul Valley was given the honor of taking the name “Azrael”, the Archangel of Death. Though, the plan fell apart when the second Horseman defeated Batman but allowed the caped crusader to escape capture, derailing the missions of Dumah and Azrael. When Batman returned, Azrael confronted him, eager to kill and replace him…
Jean-Paul Valley: 2008 - 2016
During the Cataclysm of Gotham, Jean-Paul Valley was the final member of the League’s Horsemen, given the name Azrael and the mission to not only kill, but replace Batman. Jean-Paul was meant to be an instrumental part of the League’s rebuilding of Gotham City, but a complication in the League’s plan resulted when Bane (under the name “Abaddon”) failed to capture Batman after defeating him, resulting in the third Horseman going off-course, using his resurrection as a means to usurp command of a biker gang made up of religious zealots called “The Order”, changing his name from “Dumah” to “Saint Dumas” (as a reference to the literally author), and declaring a war on Gotham’s crimelords.
As “Dumas” did so, Azrael watched from the shadows, hoping that Dumas would lure Batman out of hiding, Azrael looked on as Batman defeated Dumas, turned the Order against their master, and discovered the identity of the masked Horseman as one of his fallen comrades. As Batman pursued a fleeing Dumas, Azrael made his move and confronted the exhausted Batman.
Though thrown-off by this Batman’s techniques differing from those he had trained to counteract, Azrael did manage to defeat Batman by making use of a bullet wound inflicted by Dumas. However, after seeing the way in which Batman had inspired Dumas’ Order to turn against their master and pledge themselves to the caped crusader, and realizing that this Batman must have been one of the Batman’s former pupils, taking on the mantle of his fallen mentor, Jean-Paul could not bring himself to finish off the Dark Knight as he knew he would not be capable of fulfilling the second half of his assignment: Jean-Paul Valley knew he would never be Gotham’s champion like the Batman had and simply walked away, leaving an unconscious Dick Grayson to discover Azrael’s mercy when he regained consciousness.
However, a week later, the Batman tracked Azrael down looking for redemption by way of beating on drug dealers and hoodlums. Batman offered Jean-Paul a chance to prove his interest in redemption by leading the remnants of “The Order of St. Dumas”, Jean-Paul saw this for what it was, Batman needed to find a way for Jean-Paul to prove himself worthy of joining their inner circle and Jean-Paul eagerly accepted. Upon taking over the biker gang, Jean-Paul changed the name of the gang to honor the new Batman and the man called Dumas, and so the “Sons of Batman” were born.
Trivia and Notes
- The name "Sons of Batman" was inspired by the influence two of Batman's sons, Jason Todd and Dick Grayson, had on Jean-Paul Valley's life.
- His nickname of Saint is possibly an homage to Jason Todd's time as "Saint Dumas".
- Since leaving the League and becoming president of the Sons of Batman, JPV has taken on multiple girlfriends within his new club, including Bette Kane and Holly Robinson. He also dated Angel O'Day.
- The TV Show Sons of Anarchy was a big influence on Roy's vision of Earth-27's Sons of Batman, and that carried over into making JPV look a bit like the character Jax, as played by Charlie Hunnam, but the SOBs and SAMCRO have much different ideologies.
- In the comics the white and red colors of the armor were the colors of the Michael Lane version of Azrael.
- His Horsemen portrait uses the colors he wore as Azrael.