Batman Damned #1
Written by Brian Azzarello
Drawn by Lee Bermejo
Published by DC Comics

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The Skinny: It’s not bat-shaped. Disappointing.

“Batman Damned” is an absolutely gorgeous perfect-bound comic presenting some high test Azzarello nonsense. After an as-yet unseen grueling fight in which he has sustained a critical injury, Batman wakes to find himself in the care of smart-ass magician John Constantine. His wounds are healed, but he has no memory of the events, and someone has killed the Joker. Batman goes searching or answers, but he may not like what he finds.
Published under the DC Black Label imprint, this oversized and perfect bound comic is for mature audiences, and it is reflected in the writing and the art. Batman’s brush with death leaves him shaken and out of sorts, and sparks recollections of his father’s past, which is of course more sinister and tawdry than previous incarnations. He is also having dreams of a mysterious, demonic girl, leading to a crisis of faith for Batman. Did he break his one rule? Did he kill? And did he really make it out of the river himself?
Lee Bermejo’s art carries the weight in this comic. Gotham is an atmospheric watercolor hellscape that has never seemed more sinister.Angles are subtly off. Building loom. it’s all very engaging. Azzarello’s story is almost an annoyance by comparison. Narrated by Constantine in a slew of gothy cliches about angels and devils, the nature of redemption, blah, blah blah. It would all flow together nicely if the central figure weren’t Batman, and we weren’t seeing him from the outside. Batman’s central trait, his real super-power if you will, is that he’s prepared for whatever situation he finds himself in. This book where he fumbles around in madness feels off. Consider last year’s DC Metal, in which Batman kidnaps the space devil, albeit in a diminutive form, in order to try and travel back in time. This is a very different take on the character, and what we get of him is kind of thin and insubstantial. Azzarello lets the reader’s preconceived notions do a lot of the heavy lifting here.
In the end, in spite of the high quality production values, “Batman Damned” will be best known for its controversial nudity. In one scene, upon returning to the Batcave shaken and distraught, Batman removes his costume, only to have a vision of it loom over his nude form. It’s a nicely done scene, but Bermejo neglects to fully shadow in Batman’s crotch in one panel, giving the reader a semi-obscured view of his genitals. Uproar and controversy has already ensued, and digital versions have already updated to obscure his bat-junk, as will future printings. This makes the comic a bit of a collector’s item.
In the end, this is an absolutely gorgeous illustrated Batman story, although the story itself feels a bit lacking. You can find it at your local comics shop, or digitally from Comixology.

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