Amidst all the absurd controversy surrounding Batman: Damned, DC’s first ‘DC Black Label’ comic book and similar controversies with other comic books, we forget everything else about them. Brian Azzarello is a phenomenal writer with a big track record. I have no doubt that when offered a limitless medium to write a Batman comic book, he couldn’t refuse. This comic book has really fallen into a dark hole all over the internet, and for how much I’ve heard about the comic’s scene in question, I know very little about the comic book itself and what it entails. I wasn’t going to review this comic. Most elseworld Batman comics don’t interest me, even if they’re good. There’s a massive over-saturation of them on the market and while they all might offer something new to the plate, I’m just not that into Batman as a character. That being said, this comic book deserves to be reviewed fairly, and while I’m sure Azzarello isn’t particularly bothered by the uproar that’s surfaced around this first issue, I think it’s unfair how it’s been received and how its been flying off the selves for the wrong reasons. Kudos to the creative team for doing something brave, but I’m going to review this comic as I would any other.
Batman’s injured, and an injured Batman is a desperate Batman. That makes for a pretty dangerous vigilante. Alfred is off the grid and all his tech is down, so Bruce is stranded, barely functioning on the streets with no backup, and in his desperation he’ll take down anyone and anything that gets in his way as he limps back to the Cave. John Constantine, our dark DC comic mascot, comes to save Bruce nearly dead in an alleyway. We soon learn the Brit is our narrator, but we’re still a little foggy on why exactly he’s here. Formalities aside, Bruce learns soon after that The Joker is dead, thanks to Constantine’s knowledge about Gotham and his apparent near omnipotence of current events. The Bat’s not so sure, and despite his injuries he’s out to find out exactly what’s going on in the city as it seems to be tearing itself apart. Constantine and friend’s hanging around Gotham is cause enough for concern, but patternistic killings around the city cause Bruce to begin to unravel something perhaps too big even for him.
There’s a couple of noteworthy things about Damned #1. The writing and the art coexist beautifully. DC has a hard time sometimes making something R rated. It’s a path they keep traveling down unnecessarily, especially with their animated movies, and they seem to chalk an R rating down to heads exploding and lots of swearing. I think that’s lazy and terrible. Azzarello does a really respectable job of making something heavier themed without trying too hard. This is a ruthless Gotham and an experienced Batman. On top of that, the Justice League Dark with all their underbelly methods are sticking around. There is room for these kinds of mature themes in the Superhero comicverse, and this is how they should be. The story itself is interesting, though a little too cryptic and stylized for my taste. It reminds me a bit of a Tom King style with its psychological drama and mysterious writing style. The comic often flashes back to Bruce’s past, and it never breaks pace. All of these things come together to make a pretty enjoyable story and set up an interesting elseworld DC universe. This comic didn’t deserve the ridiculous controversy around it, but I’m glad it’s selling at least.
(3.5 / 5)