This week, the first chapter of DC Comics’ three-part Batman: Damned arrives in comic stores and on digital platforms. The book is not only a new Batman tale but is also the first comic in a new run of DC’s Black Label imprint – a line of dark DC tales not connected to the main DC Universe.
Batman: Damned is written by Brian Azzarello, with art by Lee Bermejo. The book costs £4.99 and is published on a Bi-monthly basis (the next book is out in November).
Before I discuss my thoughts about the first issue, here’s the synopsis of Batman: Damned #1 courtesy of DC Comics:
“The Joker is dead.
“There is no doubt about that. But whether Batman finally snapped his scrawny neck or some other sinister force in Gotham City did the deed is still a mystery.
“Problem is, Batman can’t remember…and the more he digs into this labyrinthian case, the more his mind starts to doubt everything he’s uncovering.
“So who better to set him straight than…John Constantine? Problem with that is as much as John loves a good mystery, he loves messing with people’s heads even more. So with John’s “help,” the pair will delve into the sordid underbelly of Gotham as they race toward the mind-blowing truth of who murdered The Joker.”
OK, so that’s what the book is about, but is it any good?
The first thing to note about Batman: Damned is just how beautiful it is. Boy, is this a fantastic book to look at – it’s simply stunning.
The artwork is both something you would see in an art gallery and something you would see in a movie – it really is that good. If you buy this book purely because of the artwork then you won’t be disappointed.
However, if you’re buying this book for the story, then you might not be so happy because it all feels a little jumbled. There were times when reading this first issue I felt lost and that’s not something I want from the first issue of a new story.
The tale that is being told here may make complete sense by the time the it wraps up, but for now it’s not quite working. Personally I like to have a clear idea of where I’m going and if it wasn’t for the artwork taking me along, I’d have probably have put the book down before I got to the end.
Batman: Damned isn’t a bad book by any stretch of the imagination, however the story isn’t what it could be and that’s a real shame. The fact that I’ve got to wait two months before I can pick the story back up doesn’t help either.
On the plus side, the inclusion of John Constantine adds a supernatural feel to the book, so I do expect things to take an even darker turn for issue two. This is something I welcome as I like Batman stories which are less super hero focused and take a more Gothic spin.
Speaking of which there’s some great Gothic imagery in this first issue, particularly the final page. I really can’t tell you enough about how much I loved the artwork.
Would I recommend Batman: Damned?
Hmm… that’s a difficult one.
The price point on this book is high and as collectors/readers are aware, following comics is no longer a wallet-friendly pastime. So when a book comes along, asking for £4.99 ($6.99 in the US) an issue, it is a more considered purchase.
Part of me says, it’s too expensive because the story doesn’t quite gel. Another part of me says this is totally worth the money as the art is so strong.
What I would say is if you have a real desire to read this story then dive in, however, if you’re on the fence then I’d recommend waiting for the trade paperback. There’s no doubt that this is a story Bat-fans will come back to in time, but for now I’m not 100% sold on it.
Batman: Damned issue #1 is now available to buy.