Batman: Damned is the first original release from DC Black Label, an imprint of DC Comics. The purpose of this imprint is to showcase stories that are not part of main continuity and are more flexible in matters of content. This line is meant to have mature stories and subject matter. The line will consist of original limited series and previously published material.
Batman: Damned is written by Brian Azzarelo and illustrated by Lee Bermejo. The two have collaborated previously on the tiles Luthor and Joker for DC, now they create their vision of a Dark Knight tale. This is a three issue limited series. Issue one was released on September 19th 2018.
Batman: Damned is the story of Batman as a suspect in the death of his longtime nemesis The Joker, who was found dead on a bridge in Gotham City. Batman’s path will cross with supernatural detective John Constantine to solve this mystery in a combination of crime and occult.
The moment I pick up my physical copy of the book, I was instantly impressed with the quality of the book as a whole. It has a nice cover design and the paper quality is good as well. I wish it had a hardcover like the 2-part, The Dark Prince Charming, but I’m sure that is a reason those books cost $12.99 at release and this one $6.99. Just a preference and not a complaint at all. I like the larger format as it reminds me of the prestige format of titles like Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters. While I’m certain this will read much better once it is collected, I am excited to read these individual issues since this is the physical format it will initially be available in.
Now to speak on the book’s content.
Batman: Damned is a very atmospheric book. It might be easy to say that because it’s almost second nature to visually interpret Gotham City, but Bermejo’s art is outstanding. If you never read Luthor or Joker (I haven’t and will correct that soon), you are in for a treat from the jump. It’s sharp, it’s beautiful, it’s horrifying. Gotham isn’t just a city, it’s almost an otherworldly dimension. Since the supernatural factors into this story, that is probably intentional. His rendering of familiar DC characters who I won’t spoil is outstanding. The book is worth it for this artwork alone in my opinion.
However, I have to admit I wasn’t overly thrilled with Azzarello’s story for this first issue. It isn’t bad by any stretch, but I found it a little thick to get into what he was setting up besides the death of the Joker. There is some good material that takes a look at Bruce Wayne which is always interesting to me, but I guess I’m unsure of what the book is going to ultimately be about. It could be a combination of the crime elements, supernatural and psychological, but with it being only 3 issues, I was expecting just a little forward motion.
Overall, I will say issue one of Batman: Damned is still a quality purchase for me. Beautifully drawn, but hopefully issue 2 will move things along and make the direction a little more clear for me. However I’m still on board with this story and what DC Black Label can offer. And I can’t wait to see Azzarello and Bermejo’s take on one of my favorites, Harley Quinn.