Written by Brian Azzarello
Illustrated by Lee Bermejo
Published by DC Comics
In September, DC Comics’ kicked off their Black Label imprint of edgy and provocative stories with Batman: Damned.
A subpar narrative and gorgeous artwork paled in comparison to the power of “Batwang.” It was a definite misfire; however, the second installment improves upon its predecessor, to a degree, for a more entertaining experience.
Brain Azzarello augmented the mystery that doesn’t ask who killed the Joker, but asks if Batman did the deed.
A flashback to Bruce Wayne’s childhood explicitly reveals why it is personally important to him that he didn’t commit the act. Everyone knows Batman’s no-kill rule. However, the artwork and script worked wonderfully in tandem to produce a poignant explanation.
Lee Bermejo’s illustrations of Batman ravaging through Gotham City’s underbelly gives the feeling that Batman is going to hell if he can’t clear his name. The hellfire of it all coupled with Deadman, Etrigan and other magic users hanging around certainly gives that impression. Why they’re concerned with Batman teetering on the edge of madness is not directly asked and will hopefully be answered in the third and final issue.
Unfortunately, John Constantine’s narration is once again the book’s biggest weakness. The “is he there” or “is he not there” deal is an annoying subplot. His dialogue is unnatural to the point where it took me out of the story several times. Also, just like the last issue, the cussing sounds like someone who is saying the F-Word merely because they can.
Going back to Bermejo, his artwork is the heart and soul of this book. Harley Quinn tries to kill Batman to avenge her beloved Mister J. It goes much deeper than revenge, as Bermejo stunningly captures the sadness and madness of Harley’s sorrow. The final page teases the answer to Batman’s guilt or innocence. It could be a smokescreen, or it could be the genuine article. Besides the flashback scene, Azzarello’s narrative doesn’t leave much confidence for a satisfying answer.
Batman demands a lot when it comes to storytelling. Each month, his comic books are often the highest selling title.
As amazing as Lee Bermejo artwork is, a strong narrative is essential to making any Batman book a success. Azzarello is an accomplished creator, but the idea of an uncensored and murderous caped crusader, in this setting, has not translated well to the printed page. Besides one moment of brilliance, the story is hampered by the execution of supernatural elements at play.
It was a better outing, but there is still a lot of room for improvement.