Jean-Paul Valley (Azrael)

azraelfilmIt looks like Gotham has found its own Dragon Balls, as Professor Strange has finally discovered a way to bring the dead back to life. In Pinewood we saw that the first successful attempt from Strange to resurrect the dead was operated on Theo Galavan, always portrayed by James Frain, but in this week’s episode, Azrael, the revived bad guy dons quite a familiar armor, becoming the show’s version of a popular comicbook character (or an alternate one at least). Gone completely mad after his resurrection, Galavan now hears voices in his head prompting him to purify the world, and he takes upon himself the name Azrael, originally belonging to the Angel of Death. A religious fanatic and a mass-murderer, Azrael is released by Strange to cover his own escape… and while GCPD have their hands full with the psychopathic villain, we’ll take a look at the original version of the character, who has a much different backstory.

Jean-Paul Valley didn’t know it, but his entire life had been decided and programmed since before he was born. He was the son of Ludovic Valley, member of the 500-years old sect known as the Order of St. Dumas, which gathered the followers of the rogue Templar Knight Dumas who had abandoned his first order to fight evil through more effective (and brutal) means. The Order guarded an advanced technology, battled the followers of the demon Biis, and used for their secret crusade the wealth coming from the legendary Treasure of Salomon, found and stolen by Dumas himself. When Ludovic, who acted as the Order’s warrior, assassin and protector known as Azrael, impregnated a woman, the fetus was taken away from her womb, and raised in an artificial uterus from the Order’s scientists. During the “pregnancy”, the fetus was genetically engineered to become an unbeatable warrior, and his DNA was mixed with animal one so that his body could deploy abilities far superior to normal humans’ ones. The fetus grew up into a baby, and eventually the baby was born, the perfect warrior, engineered and crafted to become the next Azrael following his father. Jean-Paul, of course, didn’t know anything of all this, and lived his life azraelcomics1as an orphan, growing up in Gotham City with no knowledge at all about his parents or the Order of St. Dumas. The Order, on the other hand, didn’t forget about him at all, and kept an eye on him during all his life; in particular Jean-Paul, as a boy first and as a teenager later, was constantly under The System, a technologically advanced network aimed to brainwash him at a subconscious level, a psychological conditioning that would have kept the dormant agent ready for any emergency, even if he didn’t even know who he truly was. With Ludovic growing old, it was only a matter of time before the Order of St. Dumas would have needed a new, younger and stronger Azrael, and The System ensured them to be able to recruit a perfectly trained protector whenever they needed him.

In the meanwhile, Jean-Paul Valley had become a brilliant student, and was attending Gotham University in the course of Programming. His normal life was put upside down forever the moment a bleeding man in a red and yellow costume entered his apartment, claiming to be his father: the years of subconscious conditioning triggered, and Jean-Paul instantly knew that the man was telling the truth, even recognizing the Order’s symbols on his vest. Ludovic was dying, wounded in battle by Carleton LeHah, a member of the Order who had become a heretic and was now serving the demon Biis (who he had taken the name of). Ludovic Valley gave his son the instructions and the money to reach Switzerland, where the Order of St. Dumas was located, and then ordered him to dispose of his body after his death, so that the family’s secrets would have not been discovered by someone outside the Order. Jean-Paul, still confused, did what he was told, and used the money to travel to the Swiss Alps, where the Order was waiting for him: he was welcomed by Nomoz, a weird man who had been appointed as his master in the last part of his training. Actually, the “training” wasn’t a proper one, as everything Jean-Paul needed to know was already azraelcomics2inside his head, on a subconscious level. Nomoz used hypnosis on Jean-Paul to unlock what The System had already implanted in him, and in a matter of days the simple student from Gotham became  a ruthless and determined assassin, fully aware of his sacred mission of eradicating evil from the world. The boy later underwent an intense physical training, in order to shape his body so that he was able to put at use the martial arts’ knowledge he had been implanted with. When the process was complete, Jean-Paul Valley received his Azrael armor, cape and mask, as well as a pair of Battle Gauntlets that would have become his trademark weapon. The first mission the new Azrael received was to hunt down and kill the man who had murdered the previous Azrael, Carleton LeHah, who now worked as a weapons dealer: now a pitiless killer, Azrael immediately left to follow his orders. There was nothing left of the young man he used to be now… maybe.

Jean-Paul Valley was once a normal Gothamite kid, with a life looking exactly the same as many others of his peers; when his mental conditioning activated, nothing of his former self remained, and he is now a killer machine totally bent on annihilating evil from the world, blindly following the goals of the Order of St. Dumas. As Azrael, he’s a master martial artist and swordsman, able (and willing) to kill with any kind of weapon; genetic engineering gave him enhanced strength, speed, stamina, agility, durability, reflexes and senses, making him the ultimate warrior since his birth. Extremely intelligent and intuitive, equipped with the Order’s most sacred weapons (projectile blades, a flaming sword and other fire-based weapons), Azrael is the living embodiment of the Angel of Death, ready to bring vengeance on whoever attempts to stop the Order of St. Dumas and his mission. Somewhere in his twisted psyche, however, Jean-Paul Valley still exists, fighting for control against the Order’s brainwash…