Batman: Damned #2 // Review
In September, DC finally launched their little-hyped (but creator-packed) Black Label line of mature content. The first book was Batman: Damned, the first issue of which sold out entirely… mostly due to the controversy over the content and DC’s subsequent refusal to reprint the book. However, the book was still a remarkable work of art, and one that most fans of pretty pictures and clever writing would enjoy, to say nothing of Batman fans.
The second issue of Batman: Damned has been released, and the book seems to have both pulled back on the controversial content while also pushing the limits in other ways. Brian Azzarello returns as the writer, Lee Bermejo once again provides all the art, and letterer Jared K. Fletcher remains as co-conspirator.
Picking up where the last issue left off, Batman and John Constantine are investigating what happened during what could be Batman and the Joker’s final battle. While it is unlikely that the Bat could have broken his moral code and killed, he remains unsure. A search for answers brings him to the performer Blood, who speaks in rhythm and rhyme. If this wasn’t enough, the Joker may not be gone after all...
Brian Azzarello is once more making some bold decisions with this story, and almost all of them land well. Flashbacks with young Bruce return, spelling out a broken home life for the little Wayne, as does the mysterious stranger from last time. John Constantine once again narrates, his prose as purple as ever. The overall narrative is still just as bizarre and overwhelming as last time, but does feel more disjointed with some questionable story decisions. It remains to be seen if this is a middle-issue problem or the story itself unraveling, though.The art is, as last time, hauntingly beautiful. Lee Bermejo has some serious skills and has no trouble expressing it. Those with digital copies are going to enjoy the ability to zoom in close on this book. Be it the beautiful flashback sequences with Young Bruce, or the gothic modern day, every single page has something to notice or a detail to stare at in wonder. Emotions are easy to read on characters’ faces while still containing a ton of nuance to the kind of emotions felt. Even some of the stranger decisions, like Etrigan the Demon becoming a rapper in a nightclub, work with the fever dream style that is Batman: Damned.
Even the lettering of the book nears the level of art. Jared K. Fletcher has some fun here, using font choice to represent different quality of sounds, and even some pop-art style in the vein of the 1960s Batman TV show for some powerful moments. The narration format of gothic words with no narration box once again helps to absorb the reader into the world; a wonderful choice that only improves the book.
As with last issue, it needs to be stated that this book is decidedly family-unfriendly. One scene near the end of the book features a villain trying to sexually assault Batman, very explicitly. The scene ends with Batman reversing the situation and strangling the offender, but the positioning implies that Batman is doing the same to them as well. The entire sequence is meant to be disturbing, and does so incredibly effectively, but may offend many readers.
With one more issue planned for Batman: Damned, it’s hard to predict where this book will go next. The cliffhanger at the end of this book, controversial as it is, also questions if Batman’s sanity is slipping away. Unfortunately, we’ll have to wait until sometime in 2019 to find out the answer. At this rate, though, the finale just may be one worth waiting for.