Writer Brian Azzarello and artist Lee Bermejo create a new dark chapter in Batman’s life with DC Black Label’s first comic, Batman: Damned. The series takes place outside of continuity as an elsewhere series, giving Azzarello more creative freedom. It’s published with a mature rating that allows some unexpectedly packaged scenes that couldn’t be published under the regular DC lineup. Our story begins with Batman gravely wounded and without his recent memory. How he was injured, we do not know. He soon discovers that the Joker is dead. For real, this time. The mystery is, what happened? Batman's mind tumbles through the past and the present as he attempts to put all the pieces together.
Bermejo’s art is full of dust, blemishes, dirt, and blood. It comes off as though drawn in charcoal and maintains realism while also being rough around the edges. The coloring is dark, with a mix of blues, yellows, and greens, giving it a sort of sickly feel, like a black and white comic but with a sense of uneasiness. Lettering is far from typical in Batman: Damned. Jared Fletcher letters the series with an edgy and manic styling that adds additional depth. The narration is told from the perspective of John Constantine, who rescues Batman after a serious injury. Soon after his rescue, Batman runs off from a questioning Constantine to try and discover Joker’s killer.
Azzarello delivers exceptional dialogue that sets the scene of the story primarily through Constantine’s narration. Rather than a polished and clean adventure, Batman: Damned feels like a real to life superhero story that mimics the realism of Nolan’s Batman Trilogy. This approach is reflected not only in the writing but also in the art and lettering. The end result is a very sensible comic, that is reminiscent of Batman: Year One. The comic does have its shortcomings. There are quite a few pages where narration feels rambling, confusing, and doesn’t add anything to the story. I found myself going back and re-reading a few pages over and over again, but being unable to see what the point of it was.
Published with a spine and a binding that feels more like a trade paperback than a single issue, you know DC is putting a lot of love into this Black Label series. Batman: Damned has all the makings to become a timeless classic. I’ve never read a Batman comic so close to equalling Batman: Year One. This issue comes pretty damn well close to it, if not for a few pages of narration. Azzarello and Bermejo have created something that could stand the test of time.