The former replacement Batman returns - reluctantly - in Sword of Azrael #1 preview

Sword of Azrael #1 variant cover art
Sword of Azrael #1 variant cover art (Image credit: DC)

Jean-Paul Valley, AKA Azrael, AKA Angel of St. Dumas, AKA the one-time more violent replacement Batman, is back as the star of his own limited series.

Sword of Azrael #1 cover (Image credit: DC)

The August 2 debuting Sword of Azrael #1 is written by Dan Watters and illustrated by Nikola Čižmešija. If that creative team sounds familiar, it should - Watters and Čižmešija paired on the 'Sword of Azrael: Dark Knight of the Soul' three-part serialized story from Batman: Urban Legends #8-10 that leads into the new Sword of Azrael six-part series.

And despite picking up the sword again, Jean-Paul is doing so reluctantly. But hey, this is comic books. Retirement, like death, is usually only a temporary gig.

"The warrior angel of St. Dumas returns!" reads DC's description of the new series. "Jean-Paul Valley does not want to be Azrael ever again. All it has brought him is pain, violence, and misery. He has sequestered himself away at a monastery in Europe to find peace. But when a young woman who claims to have the same System programming that made Jean-Paul into Azrael arrives at the monastery, he won't have a choice but to don his violent mantle of Azrael once more to protect her from the deadly assassins who wish her harm."

Here's a preview of the first issue: 

Azrael is of course best known for his stint as an unhinged and violent Batman when he replaced Bruce Wayne in the 1993-'94 'Knightfall' story arc after Batman's back is broken by Bane. 

The character was first introduced in the '92-'93 limited series Batman: Sword of Azrael by the legendary Batman writer-editor Denny O'Neil and Joe Quesada, who of course went on to become Marvel Comics editor-in-chief. 

DC promises the series will redefine what it calls one of the Batman world's "most iconic and fierce characters."

This all sounds like a potential new Azreal to us ... and perhaps a new relation to Jean-Paul, given the Azrael title and the damaging psychological conditioning known as The System inflicted by the Order of St. Dumas is a long-time hereditary role in the Valley family.

Sword of Azrael #1 will feature a cover by Čižmešija and variant covers (all seen here) by  Josh Middleton, Claire Roe, and Quesada and Tomeu Morey.

Sword of Azrael: Dark Knight of the Soul #1 cover (Image credit: DC)

And in case any Azrael fans missed the Batman: Urban Legends serialized story, DC is collecting it in the 40-page one-shot Sword of Azrael: Dark Knight of the Soul #1 also by Watters and Čižmešija with a cover by Čižmešija and a variant cover by Juni Ba. 

"The Angel of St. Dumas's faith is challenged!" reads the description. "Azrael has returned to Gotham City after a long time away, unsure of his purpose and having his faith constantly challenged by demonic developments in the city. The arrival of the new antagonist the Poor Fellow will change Azrael's future forever."

Here's a look at six pages from Dark Knight of the Soul #1:

Sword of Azrael #1 and Sword of Azrael: Dark Knight of the Soul #1 both go on sale August 2. 

Azrael's replacing Batman during 'Knightfall' is still regarded as one of the biggest changes to Batman in his 80-plus-year history.

I'm not just the Newsarama founder and editor-in-chief, I'm also a reader. And that reference is just a little bit older than the beginning of my Newsarama journey. I founded what would become the comic book news site in 1996, and except for a brief sojourn at Marvel Comics as its marketing and communications manager in 2003, I've been writing about new comic book titles, creative changes, and occasionally offering my perspective on important industry events and developments for the 25 years since. Despite many changes to Newsarama, my passion for the medium of comic books and the characters makes the last quarter-century (it's crazy to see that in writing) time spent doing what I love most.