‘Batman: Damned’ has a promising yet aimless start


The cover art for “Batman:Damned” a new graphic novel series. Image by DC.

DC’s black label series has gotten a lot of buzz thanks to “Batman: Damned.” This is a new mini-series of graphic novels that promises to show a darker side of the already gritty hero. The first part of three brandishes an impressive art style and sets up a murder mystery where Batman is the prime suspect in the mysterious death of The Joker.

Batman is aided by John Constantine, a detective who specializes in the supernatural. Constantine’s narration throughout the comic does a lot to convey the themes of the story and the mental turmoil that Batman is going through. This version of the Dark Knight is more vulnerable than usual. It’s an interesting take on a hero that always fights through all manner of pain and keeps his cool.

“Damned” has gotten a lot of attention because of a few panels that show Batman’s exposed penis. The black label is supposed to be like an “R-rating” for certain comics that appeal more towards adults, but besides the brief moments of nudity this first chapter is pretty tame. The levels of blood and violence are average at best and there’s not much in the way of vulgar language or imagery. There are some panels that border on disturbing, though. In truth, the random nudity seems like a cheap way of justifying its own rating.

The art style of “Damned” is by far the most noteworthy thing about it. Lee Bermejo has done a phenomenal job of illustrating Batman’s dark and bleak world. The muted colors, harsh facial expressions and ethereal shading do a lot to create a sense of mystery and horror in the story. There are plenty of Batman comics with an edgier style and Bermejo’s work stands out, even among those.

The main problem this has so far is that so little about what’s actually going on has been explained. There are flashbacks that show a young Bruce Wayne being a haunted by a witch that may not be real. The story begins with Batman being in critical condition, but the reasons why are still unknown. There’s something going on in Batman’s mind that is traumatizing to him, yet there’s no insight as to what it is. This first chapter does a good job of hooking in the reader, but part two needs to have the pay offs that this lacked completely.

“Batman: Damned” has a lot going for it, but story isn’t really one of those things. The supposed shift towards a more mature audience hasn’t really come through either. The art style and overall presentation are very captivating, but not enough to carry the entire three-part story unless things start picking up fast. Despite its confusing beginning, this gets three stars.

Final Score: 3/5 Stars

Ulises Duenas can be reached at [email protected] or @OrionUlisesD on Twitter.