- What if... what if I had a chance to maybe do a lot of good... for a lot of people... make up for so much... what if I had that chance and all it would cost... is my life? Suicide is a sin against God. Killing is a sin against God. So if God wants me to do good... why is he asking me to do both?
- -- Michael Lane
Death's Dark Knight is an Azrael storyline written by Fabian Nicieza and illustrated by Frazer Irving, published as a tie-in to Battle for the Cowl. Michael Lane is introduced as the Order of Purity's new avenging angel Azrael, following his previous appearances as the villainous Bat-Devil. This is the first Azrael storyline published since Dennis O'Neil's conclusion to the original Jean-Paul Valley series in Full Circle. It's followed by The Eighth Deadly Sin which is reprinted in the same collected edition, leading into Nicieza's new series debut Angel in the Dark.
The Order of Purity begins looking for a new Azrael when their previous agent Abraham Arlington is driven insane by the Suit of Sorrows. Adrian Paratino, Felicidad Gomez, Garret Day and Leland McCauley decide on Michael Lane as their candidate when Lane confesses to Father Day that he helped kill Batman. Lane agrees immediately although it is clear through interactions with his sister-in-law Jenny that he still suffers from PTSD with the deaths of his father, wife, child and siblings. They explain the history of the Order of St. Dumas and give him equipment including the Suit of Sorrows, Sword of Salvation and Sword of Sin. His first battle happens immediately when Talia al Ghul and her League of Assassins send the Seven Men of Death to reclaim the Suit of Sorrows, killing McCauley on sight. Lane dons the suit and fights off Hook, Merlyn, Razorburn, Shellcase and Whip with the Sword of Sin although when he turns around Talia stabs him with the Sword of Salvation. Despite this, he gets up again and takes down all of the assassins. Michael and Talia reach a stalemate, and she allows him to have the suit instead of her son Damian after explaining how it drives men to insanity. Harvey Bullock, Jamie Harper and Peter Farelli investigate the crime scene and Farelli is shocked when he recognizes Lane on a traffic camera. After visiting Arlington in an insane asylum, Lane goes to see his mother Barbara in her nursing home and asks for advice. That night Azrael sneaks into the Batcave, where Nightwing confronts him with a sword and swears that he'll pay for his crimes. Nightwing and Azrael sword-fight, although they reach an understanding when Nightwing realizes it was Arlington and not Lane responsible for the cop-killings. Despite this, Nightwing still uses the cave's defenses to knock Azrael out and then has his memory chemically erased of the cave's identity. Later, Nightwing visits Talia and insists that she allow Lane to operate using the Suit of Sorrows or he'll come after her. Farelli covers for Lane with Bullock, but speaks to Lane later and insists that he won't risk his pension or job for him. Michael's sister-in-law Jenny visits his apartment still grieving about their mutual loss, and the two of them have sex. Ra's al Ghul is seen discussing Lane with White Ghost and it's revealed that he's been secretly manipulating the Order of Purity to have Azrael serve him instead of them. Returning to the Order, Michael asks why he shouldn't just kill them and they respond by setting him up in Leland McCauley's Brownstone. In his next outing as Azrael, Lane is shown to be ultimately non-lethal but still brutally violent as he cuts off a murderer's legs for kicking an old man to death.
Links and References
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