Review by J.T. Johnson
WRITER: Brian Azzarello
ARTIST: Lee Bermejo
“Batman: Damned” Book One marks the first release for DC Comics’ new Black Label imprint. The idea behind this imprint is that creators will be able to tell more mature stories that exist outside of the normal DC continuity. Book One gives writer Brian Azzarello a chance to tell a slightly different kind of Batman story and thankfully, he turned to his frequent collaborator Lee Bermejo to bring this alternate storyline to life.
The book starts off with Batman in the back of an ambulance, injured and unsure about where he is. He eventually escapes the ambulance but his wounds cause him to pass out and he is eventually found by John Constantine. The sarcastic Brit nurses Batman back to health through magical means and when Batman wakes up, he learns that the Joker has been killed but no one knows who did it.
Batman then goes back to the Batcave for more information but none is there. From here, he disguises himself as a homeless person and has flashbacks from his childhood that somehow involves Enchantress. No doubt that this will eventually lead to why Constantine is interested in Batman for this particular story.
The book’s story is a decent start, but I do hope that Azzarello knows where he is going and that we’ll understand quite a bit more with the next book. So far, all Azzarello has set up is the fact that Thomas Wayne in this reality was a womanizer, the Joker is dead and if you want to get your Bat-Dick fix, then this is the issue for you because we see Bruce Wayne’s old chum quite a bit.
Beyond that, though, I have nothing but infinite praise for Bermejo’s artwork here. I loved the “Joker” book he did with Azzarello back in 2008 and the realistic and gothic artwork is once again on full display here. This is also a great style for any book centering on John Constantine who also narrates the book as well which I thought was a decent departure from hearing the same ole Batman Narration that occurs in most of his books.
I’m not sure where this story is ultimately going and, for now, Azzarello seems content on keeping the readers in the dark. I was a little disappointed that Constantine didn’t have more to do with this first book, but it looks like Batman and Constantine will definitely be joining forces once they’ve found a defiled statue of Jesus in a church. Most think that it means that the Joker is still alive, but if the teaser for Book Two is any indication, a certain Joker henchman will be making her appearance when Book Two is released in November.
I’ve seen a lot of reviews knocking this book for not doing a whole hell of a lot story-wise, but I felt that this story expertly set up a darker, more adult story. I do hope that Azzarello does more to explain what the hell is going on in the next chapter, but for now I’m just glad that I’m along for the ride as I anxiously await Book Two!