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"Batman: Damned #1" Comic Review

Written by James Ferguson

Published by DC Black Label

Batman Damned 1 00

Written by Brian Azzarello
Illustrated by Lee Bermejo
Lettered by Jared K. Fletcher
2018, 53 Pages, $6.99
Comic released on September 19th, 2018

Review:

What does Batman do after the Joker is killed? Well, first he has to figure out if he was the one who put the clown down in the first place. This is where Bruce Wayne finds himself in Batman: Damned, the first title from DC's new imprint, Black Label. We've seen the Caped Crusader in a dark and broody atmosphere before, but never quite like this.

Let's get this out of the way up front. Batman: Damned #1 made some headlines because there's a scene where Bruce rips his costume off in the Batcave and you can clearly see his junk. We're all adults here and it shouldn't come as no surprise that even Batman has genitals. That's obviously not the focus of the book and DC has already adjusted the artwork for digital versions and any subsequent printings to remove it. This “controversy” took the spotlight away from a solid and unsettling read.

Batman: Damned picks up with the Dark Knight in an ambulance. He's bleeding out and he's somewhat incoherent. After escaping, he starts to piece together what's happened with the aid of John Constantine. This adds a supernatural element to the story and one that plays mind games with our hero.

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There are shades of Scarecrow's fear toxin throughout this book. Although Jonathan Crane is never mentioned, the way Batman is acting is reminiscent of the effects of the toxin. This seems like there's a lot more going on though, especially with Constantine's involvement.

The Hellblazer serves as the narrator of Batman: Damned. Letterer Jared K. Fletcher uses this flowing lilt of a font that's only shown in brief sentences. These pop up on the page in key spaces to add just a bit of context or mystery to every single scene. It's a running commentary from someone that knows far more than he's letting on. Constantine holds all the cards and he's enjoying taking the readers – and Batman – along for a ride.

And what a ride it is. Lee Bermejo's artwork is absolutely stunning. He's worked with writer Brian Azzarello before in the graphic novels, Joker and Luthor, and both were equally as incredible. Bermejo may have topped himself with Batman: Damned. There is a gritty realism to his artwork that is perfect for Gotham City. You can practically feel the rough leather of Batman's costume or the grime on the streets as he's running through the night.

The level of detail is amazing. Bermejo adds so much texture to every single image, giving his characters life in such a way that they might just walk off the page.

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Click images to enlarge

There are some flashbacks built into Batman: Damned. The transitions to these are some of the most disturbing aspects of the book. It's like the memory is being forcefully pulled out of Bruce's mind. You don't fully understand the context of what's going on at first, so you're left with this dark and menacing interstitial that slowly becomes clearer.

For example, one flashback is Bruce on a playground as a child. He spins around on one of those manual merry-go-round things and the view of the other boy starts to stretch and fade. This creates a ghastly visage of a child that is absolutely haunting.

Since Batman can't trust his own mind, we're left with a number of chilling possibilities as he explores the path leading up to the Joker's murder. I love stories that play with this idea and Azzarello does a great job with it here. He creates this uneasy mystery that pulls you in deeper with every page turn.

If this is what we can expect from DC Black Label, sign me up for every book that's scheduled. Batman: Damned is a top-notch comic, providing something new for a character that's been around for decades and I'm not just talking about his junk. Batman must not only investigate the murder of his greatest enemy, but he has to rule himself out as a suspect. That's something he doesn't have enough evidence to do just yet, so the great detective soldiers on along a path of madness and the supernatural.

Grades:

Story: Fivestars Batman Damned 1 Cover
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Batman Damned 1 Cover
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Art: Fivestars
Overall: Fivestars

About The Author
Spez Bio 2
Lord of the Funny Books
James has a 2nd grade reading level and, as a result, only reads books with pictures. Horror is his 5th favorite genre right after romantic comedy and just before silent films. No one knows why he's here, but he won't leave.
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