cover image Batman: Damned

Batman: Damned

Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo. DC Black Label, $29.99 trade paper (176p) ISBN 978-1-4012-9140-2

This eccentric outside-of-continuity tale from DC’s newly launched mature readers label plunges deep into the angry psyche of its flagship hero. Following Batman’s umpteenth confrontation with the Joker, which seems to culminate in the psychotic clown’s demise, the stabbed hero awakens in a police ambulance. Upon escaping, he is joined by urban mystic John Constantine, who leads him on the mayhem-laden trail of an apparently not dead Joker, while simultaneously guiding him on an odyssey through memories of Batman’s childhood traumas stemming from his parents’ dysfunctional marriage. He encounters several of DC’s occult mainstays, including reimaginings of the Spectre, the Demon, and Swamp Thing, all leading toward a surprise ending. Azzarello (the 100 Bullets series) has previously written both Batman and John Constantine brilliantly in their respective milieus, but the fusion here of Batman’s costumed crime fiction and Constantine’s mystical-meets-the-mundane flavor does not quite gel. What results is a horror quest spliced with “Batman on the couch” examinations of his control-through-fear m.o. Bermejo’s painted art is moody and macabre, but ultimately serves to gloss a script that needed fine-tuning. It’s not a disaster, but it’s also not a good entry point for newbies to its universe; this volume’s recommended strictly for completists dedicated to Batman’s eight decades of tropes and enamored of DC’s roster of other magical players. [em](Sept.) [/em]