His greatest enemy is dead, but how and why? Batman attempts to locate the murder with some unconventional “help” from man of magic, John Constantine. But the truth which is uncovered may not be the truth he is looking for, and Batman is damned if he knows where the hunt will lead. Batman: Damned #1 from DC Comics is on sale September 19th, 2018, under the DC Black Label imprint.
Writer: Brian Azzarello
Art: Lee Bermejo
Letterer: Jared K. Fletcher
Design: Steve Cook
Cover: Lee Bermejo
Alternate Cover: Jim Lee & Alex Sinclair
Editor Mark Doyle
Publisher: DC Comics
Release Date: September 5, 2018
Cover Price: $6.99
Previously in Batman Damned: The DC Black Label imprint is a division of the publisher which looks to bring some of the brightest creators to some of the greatest super-heroes. With stories set outside of current continuity, it gives creators the freedom to spin tales that take the heroes places they may have never been otherwise.
MURDER MOST FOUL, MYSTERY MOST BIZARRE
You can imagine regaining consciousness in the business end of an ambulance with police and medics surrounding him is not the way Batman envisioned his night going, but due to a lack of memory, he’s not really sure what he may have envisioned. Bleeding out from multiple stab wounds, his pulse skyrocketing, a pair of medical scissors cutting away his mantle, Batman knows only that he must escape. Using one of his caretakers as a battering ram, he does just that, and that is how the Batman finds himself on the run, wounded and passing out from blood loss in an alley, calling for the only friend he has ever trusted to help him. But even as visions of a fall from a high place and long-dead parents fill his unconsciousness, it is a different reality he wakes to. As he regains consciousness for a moment, he sees not his faithful butler arriving with help and sarcasm, but a faithless grifter, one who deals on a side of the darkness which Batman rarely accepts.
John Constantine, that irreverent soul with the knack for pissing off all the wrong mysterious forces, fills the Dark Knight in on what little of the situation he knows and a television news report does the rest. The Joker is dead, his body discovered down from a river-spanning bridge, a bridge which Batman was on that very night. Who killed the Joker is a mystery, as much a mystery as what Batman’s involvement was. Another mystery is who the dark woman that fills his vision of childhood events, long forgotten, is. Batman is all about mysteries and he sets out to solve this one, no matter to which dark corner of the night it leads. The answers he gets may not be the ones he wants, but they may very well be the ones he needs. You see, the visions hint at a very different Thomas and Martha Wayne, and how it all ties into the Jokers death may be the key to everything.
A DARK AND BEAUTIFULLY EXECUTED TALE
The DC Black Label imprint is meant to be a showcase for some of the best talent in the comic industry, delivering new stories which attempt to weave a more mature tale of your favorite heroes. They are non-continuity based and are given freedoms not allowed on the standard monthly titles. As the first title out of the gate in this endeavor, Batman: Damned has a lot to live up to. I think this first issue starts it out excellently
Brian Azzarello (100 Bullets, Hellblazer) is a writer not afraid of taking a mature slant to a story. Many of his most lauded works, from the classic Jonny Double to 100 Bullets, to even his Sgt. Rock, can delve into a dark underbelly of a world many of us will never see. He opens up these worlds and, like a tour guide with a bad accent, takes you into them, all the while holding your hand and letting you know that while it is sometimes painful to see, it is real. In this first issue, he masterfully takes what could have been a simple, middle of the road tale about the death of the Joker and the mystery surrounding it and veers off the safe road to plunge into some dark path not on the map. Returning to a character familiar to him, he throws John Constantine into this mix, and in doing so turns the tale into one of dark magic and veiled secrets. He has sprinkled the tale so far with a few of the most recognizable names in the supernatural DCU, and sharpen them to an edge that makes them recognizable but recklessness which hints at danger unknown. His tale is so much more than a simple murder, and he wants you to worry about exactly where it may lead.
Azzarello brings a past collaborator to his dark endeavor with the talented Lee Bermejo (Wednesday Comics, Suicide Squad). Bermejo, primarily known as a cover artist, brings a photo-realistic style which still contains enough of a flair to make to work for the situations he illustrates. Heavy, dark shadows and realistic backgrounds and perspectives give him a flair few other artists can obtain. His world looks real but also as if it could contain heroes and magic and madmen. One of the most striking points of his art is his Batman design. It looks as if it could function as an actual, real-world battle uniform, but still incorporates those elements which have us believe that there is more than a man under the hood. His Constantine is one who seems to have lived with magic too long, and the cost has taken a toll on him. He is haunted, haunted by what he has seen and what he has done. It adds such a level of foreboding to the story, it makes you fear for everyone involved.
BOTTOM LINE: AN EXCELLENT ISSUE WHICH SETS A DRAMATIC STAGE FOR EVENTS YET TO COME.
This book is beautiful. The tale being told, the hints at such a dark history, the pacing, the images, it all combines and just makes for a wonderfully disturbing book. There are surprises to be found in these pages; references to other Batman stories, and even a Superman tale, that lead you to believe things are not what they seem, but I won’t reveal my theory. Besides, with John Constantine involved, when is anything as it seems. It’s a dark, psychological take on Batman and his past that is for adults.
And as a bonus, you get to see some Batman equipment which may have never been seen in a published DC Comic, leave a comment if I’m wrong.
BATMAN: DAMNED #1 is a dark tale of mystery, murder and magic that will entertain you and leave you wishing it could place its spell on you again.