As Batman’s descent into the madness of Gotham City’s decadent underbelly continues, he must try to exorcise some of his demons…and who better to help than the Demon, Etrigan himself. And where there’s demons, there’s also a Deadman, a Spectre, an Enchantress and a host of other supernatural friends and foes—it’s a veritable Grand Guignol!
Inherently, a Dark Knight will always be a Dark Knight. While we have had our patches of light in the Caped Crusader’s career (i.e. Batman 66′ and The Brave and Bold universe), at his core, Batman is the darkest and most tortured soul of the DC universe and this title is the poster child for that truth. Many a story has explored what Gotham City would be like if Batman never dawned the cape and cowl, but this universe does the exact opposite, a city were Batman is excelling at his job, a dark broken city, tortured by the underbelly it hides. The art of the book depicts a city so gothically beautiful in its architecture but so broken and dark both beneath and above, and that truly separates this book from the millions of Batman titles that float around, allowing its own narrative and a hard hitting story.
Still reeling from the Joker’s death in the first issue, Batman is consumed with learning if this tale is true and will do anything to find out. Constantine is a welcomed addition to the comic and compliments well the dark and wary streets of Gotham with his own brand of Justice. One of the more memorable moments was the origin of the “Do Not Kill” rule. A young Bruce Wayne fires a cap gun in his mother face, heartbroken she begs Bruce never to do that, never to pick up one of those things, never to hurt anyone like he pretended to hurt her – truly a captivating moment.
Being dark for the sake of being dark is never good, it comes off as pedantic. One of the more harrowing scenes depicted Harley Quinn baiting Batman to sadistically beat her, and in a moment of distraction she drugs him and attempts to rape him as a twisted coping method for the loss of Joker. The final moments of this exchange have Batman leap back to consciousness and begin to strangle Quinn in a moment where we should assume he kills her. Cliffhanger endings are great but not when they are predictable, and this one is. The even darker twist felt like a one up of the entire book which was not needed – a strong story, artwork that amazes, and a constant strong narrative was all that was necessary.
It’s been a long time since a title has garnered so much public attention from both comic fans and the public. A quick search of Batman: Damned #1 will have the book on auction sites as high as $300-$400, making it one of the most expensive modern books in history. While no one will be paying that much for #2, it surely holds its own as a strong sequel to the massively popular first half and has the reader excited for so much more to come!