Batman: Damned Sells on Controversy, Not Story

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Batman Damned #1

BATMAN: DAMNED #1. It's the first book from DC's "Black Label" imprint. It's the book with the singular event everyone's talking about. It's the book that's trending on eBay because of a singular, unimportant image.

It's not the book that's selling because people are talking about the story. That's possibly because the story is dense, hard to follow, and nonsequential in its telling. So let's go there.

The story begins with a narrator who tries to get too cute with allegory and puns. It takes us a few pages to figure out that the one telling the tale is John Constantine, which forgives the omniscient narrator aspect of it all, given his particular place in the DC Universe. Batman is in an ambulance, wounded, and being taken to the hospital. He awakens and it's not good news for the crew in the back, whom he attacks before jumping out, taking a police officer with him. Seeking help from Alfred, he instead is discovered by Constantine, who takes him to a motel room and patches him up.

Supposedly, according to television accounts, The Joker is dead, having fallen from a bridge where Batman had also been. But who killed The Joker? That's what Batman is trying to find out, but he has to battle his way through a sequence of childhood memories, where he not only sees some new supernatural being who looks like a young Enchantress from the SUICIDE SQUAD movie, but also a progressing tale of infidelity on the part of his father, Thomas Wayne.

The non-dream sequences are actually harder to follow, sequentially, than the dream portions, as they skip about without connective tissue. Batman is chasing a homeless man for information, and then suddenly he's naked in the Batcave asking medical questions of his computer. He'd be better off getting the info from Alfred, because presumably Alfred would know that 120 over 86 is not a heart rate but is actually blood pressure. He probably wouldn't have Bruce weigh in at a whopping 270 pounds, either.

Convoluted narration, Zatanna (presumably) as a street performer, homeless people speaking in mispelled homophones ("...with my own TOO eyes!" How does that even equate to a different phonetic emphasis?) all combine to make BATMAN: DAMNED a hot mess of a story written by Brian Azzarello, jumbled up among beautiful pictures rendered by Lee Bermejo.

3.0 / 5.0