Written by Brian Azzarello
Art by Lee Bermejo, Jared K. Fletcher
Edited by Will Dennis, Maggie Howell, and Mark Doyle
Published by DC Comics
Release Date: September 19, 2018

The Darkest of Knights

The modern Batman has always been the literal dark knight of the DC Universe. His role as the bleak shadow that protects the grit of Gotham is showcased more than ever in Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo’s “Batman: Damned”. The first issue examines the meaning of death, one’s purpose in life and all of the convoluted areas in between on this earth. When imagining DC’s Black Label, this fits the bill perfectly even in this books initial pages.

Examining the Purity of Existence

As John Constantine is our “unreliable” narrator in this nightmarish look into the dusk of Gotham City, an injured Batman narrowly escapes his own demise when he learns that The Joker is dead. As he limps his way through his troubled city, Batman and Constantine join forces to try and solve how the most evil being in Gotham met his maker, who or whatever that may be.

Brian Azzarello is no stranger to digging deep into the foul crevices of Gotham’s underbelly (if you haven’t read his and Bermejo’s graphic novel “Joker”, please do so after checking out this book and have a strong drink on hand). In this 50 page journey, Azzarello shines light on both creation itself, what it means to leave this world and how it effects the people around us. Most impressive were the existential moments highlighted by the memories of a young Bruce Wayne and how they align with the constantly twisted thoughts of Bruce’s Dark Avenger. When the reader can truly look into the mind of the hero as he leaps through the skylines, it makes the fictitious adventure feel more real than you could have imagined, even if that vision is filled with hurt and sorrow.

Overall what was the most captivating in Azzarello’s writing was describing what living in this city does to a person’s soul. Considering the Clown Prince of Crime is probably missing one of those, his death still has shaken his arch nemesis to his core, making him question his own views on the afterlife.

The Aesthetic of a Broken Soul

Lee Bermejo crafts a perfect representation of what Gotham means within the DC Comics Universe. The buildings’ rough and chromatic edges make the bustling metropolis feel like it’s decaying. Not because it isn’t thriving, but because of the roaming lost souls that inhabit the city, almost drowning its life force with the danger that lurks in every alley.

If Bermejo’s Gotham wasn’t a fitting world within the Black Label, his brooding Batman, cynical Constantine and dreadful Deadman fit as perfect as a glove. Sure, DC’s Black Label gives the opportunity for more mature content, from partial nudity to foul language. To me, those aren’t the only elements that define this tale to be appropriate for the label. Bruce naked, in the fetal position, cowering below his Batsuit in a damn and darkened Batcave, contemplating how he’s alive, how The Joker is dead and why does he truly feel alone at this very moment. Those are the scenes that bring a mature tone to this character. Bermejo’s rugged edges, sharp expressions and grim exteriors all envelop Azzarello’s thought provoking dialogue and overall horror mystery not seen in the dark streets of Gotham.

Evil Never Dies

Azzarello and Bermejo are a dream team in darkness when it comes to Batman and his mythology. “Batman: Damned” is going to become a classic noir that will be a harrowing essential to this character’s history. I’m excited to find out what happened to Joker, how will this effect Batman and will he and his partner Constantine make it through this strange ordeal on his home turf.

The Verdict: 10/10


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