By Josh Davison
[*Mild plot spoilers for Batman: Damned #1 below!]
Batman awakens in the back of an ambulance. One of the first responders is cutting off his mask, and the Dark Knight strikes back and escapes the ambulance. He passes out in an alley, and we jump back to Bruce falling from a bridge. He pulls himself ashore and is met by John Constantine who treats the broken Bat. The Joker died in Gotham City tonight, and Batman must discover who killed the Clown Prince. He may have the help of John Constantine whether he likes it or not.
Batman: Damned #1 is the inaugural DC Black Label title, brought to us by Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo. Technically Batman: White Knight is a Black Label title too, but that was decided after the series concluded.
In any case, Batman: Damned is aiming to be something darker and more menacing to match the Black Label moniker. It certainly achieves that. This book is cold, dark, and without humor.
Well, it has very glib humor. Constantine narrates the whole affair, and he is as smug and cynical as we like him to be. He makes a lot of wry observations, which is to be expected. Unfortunately, they sound like the observations a broody teenager would make about the nature of the soul and religion. They’re not so melodramatic as to kill the tone, but don’t expect any memorable or profound lines from Johnny boy in this comic.
Batman himself is rendered almost the passive subject of his comic. He doesn’t speak much, the only perspective we get from him are hallucinations and flashbacks, and he doesn’t even get the chance to slug anyone after the ambulance scene.
Oh, we also see his penis.
Speaking of visuals, Lee Bermejo is in full form in this comic. This book is downright gorgeous and are the most distinct and memorable detail of the book. No panel is wasted. The detailing evokes the pseudo-noir architecture and visual identity of Gotham City. The Bat’s costume looks great, and the atmosphere is thick enough to cut. The color work is grim and distinct to boot, leaving ample additional personality on the page.
Batman Damned #1 is a $6.99 book, and I’m not a fan of the “prestige” format—the physical book seems made for a younger audience than the Black Label is suited for. However, it’s something interesting from two talented creators who play off one another well. The book hasn’t grabbed me outright yet, but it’s still interesting and visually stunning enough to recommend. I’d suggest checking it out.
Batman: Damned #1 is from writer Brian Azzarello, artist Lee Bermejo, and letterer Jared K. Fletcher, the cover comes courtesy of Bermejo with a variant from Jim Lee and Alex Sinclair, design is from Steve Cook, and editorial work comes from Editorial Consultant Will Dennis, Assistant Editor Maggie Howell, and Editor Mark Doyle. Batman is from creators Bob Kane with Bill Finger. Publisher DC Comics is behind this book, and you can purchase it today at $6.99.