Sunday, November 3, 2019

Review: BATMAN: Damned #2

DC COMICS/DC Black Label – @DCComics

[This review was originally posted on Patreon.]

STORY: Brian Azzarello
ART: Lee Bermejo
COLORS: Lee Bermejo
LETTERS: Jared K. Fletcher
EDITOR: Mark Doyle
COVER: Lee Bermejo
VARIANT COVER: Jim Lee with Alex Sinclair
48pp, Color, $6.99 U.S. (February 2019)

Mature Readers

Batman created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger

Batman: Damned is a new three-issue comic book miniseries written by Brian Azzarello and drawn by Lee Bermejo.  Published in an over-sized softcover format, it is the inaugural series for DC Comics' new prestige and event publication imprint, “DC Black Label.”  Letterer Jared K. Fletcher is the other member of Damned's creative team.

The central focus of Batman: Damned is that The Joker is dead, and that maybe Batman is the one who killed him... But Batman cannot remember, and there may be some sinister and thus far unknown force that done the deed.  Are John Constantine and Deadman Batman's true allies in solving this mystery?

In Batman: Damned #2, Batman recalls memories of a troubling time in his childhood, and it has something to do with his late mother, Martha Wayne.  Meanwhile, The Dark Knight’s descent into the madness of Gotham City’s decadent underbelly continues,  and that includes a trip to a club called “The Cavern,” where Etrigan the Demon is a hip-hop artist – a rapping demon!  Plus, a number of supernatural DC Comics characters make appearances... while a strange Bat-signal haunts the sky over Gotham City.

Some describe comic books as a storytelling medium of word and pictures, and some call comics and comic books “sequential art.”  I call comics a kind of graphical storytelling in which the story is conveyed to readers via illustrations and graphics that tell a story.

Brian Azzarello writes the story that artist Lee Bermejo illustrates into the comics medium.  Azzarello is one of American comic books' most popular and acclaimed writers of the past 20 years.  In some ways, Azzarello is still coasting on the strength of his breakout and most famous work, the crime comic book, 100 Bullets.  That award-winning comic book is largely the reason that Azzarello gets to write prestige projects like Batman: Damned.

If I were nice, I would describe Azzarello's story for Batman: Damned as pretentious.  I don't feel like being nice right now, so I will call it mostly junk.  Batman: Damned may be one of those death dream narratives in which the protagonist or the character through which the story is told is dying.  His story is really a long period of subjective time that passes in an instant because it is the hallucination of dying man's mind or consciousness.  Probably the most famous example of this is Ambrose Bierce's short story, “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” (first published in 1890).  A more recent and popular example is the 1990 film, Jacob's Ladder, which stars Tim Robbins as Vietnam vet who believes that he has returned home when he is actually dying after being injured in combat.  Nothing Azzarello has done so far in Batman: Damned is anywhere as interesting as that film or Bierce's story.

The member of this creative team that makes Batman: Damned worth seeing (if not reading) is artist Lee Bermejo.  His Gotham City is a hell-scape that hints at the paintings of Hieronymus Bosch.  Much of Batman: Damned's art recalls the best comic book artists who have drawn horror comic books, including Bernie Wrightson and Graham Ingels.  I also see similarities to the comic book art of the great Glenn Fabry, the legendary Brian Bolland, and the sublime Dave McKean.  Bermejo makes Batman: Damned #2 exactly what DC Comics describes – a veritable Grand Guignol.

Batman: Damned #1 became much talked about because of Bermejo's painted depiction of Bruce Wayne's penis in the story.  As good as Bermejo's art is in the second book, I wish DC Comics would have encouraged him to draw another dick – maybe Deadman's.  Batman: Damned #2 would matter more if it contained more comic book character penis

5 out of 10

Reviewed by Leroy Douresseaux a.k.a. "I Reads You"

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