Batman: Damned is a three part miniseries by Lee Bermejo and Brian Azzarello, published in 2018-2019 as part of DC’s Black Label line, aimed at the discerning reader. It’s basically a bloated mess of pseudo-psychological blathering mixed with every esoteric character the extended DC universe has to offer, from Deadman to the Demon to Swamp Thing to Zatanna, with John Constantine thrown in for good measure because how can you do anything remotely cerebral in Gotham City without your token Brit pissing all over your pompousness? Ah, and there’s also a grimy barefoot girl with stringy hair that speaks in black speech bubbles.Â
The book is clearly set out of continuity (a move that previously was milked dry during the Elseworlds glut), because –spoiler alert– Batman thought he’d killed the Joker but apparently has kicked the bucket himself. Oh, and apparently his parents had separated somehow when he was a kid and also were killed together at the same time (you can only rattle the canon so much) but so was Bruce Wayne, but in the end he wasn’t. Or something. And the Spectre also whisps around blowing hot and cold about who’s dead or not.
The story tastes like a stale bourbon that’s been drunk before. And it looks the part, with grimy “painted” art that is clearly aimed at the flesh-and-gore fan without crossing the line too much. And at one point (start clutching your pearls right now) they also showed Batman’s penis (but not on digital, though, so the kiddies are safe). Let’s just say that they were not trying to elicit elaborated or balanced reactions.
Which in turn probably is the reason why they end the splurge with a reference to that milestone of Elseworlds comics, that wagon play of good and evil, Moore and Bolland’s The Killing Joke (setting aside all earlier attempts to drag that book into continuity). Wait, let me rephrase that — they didn’t just reference it, or pay hommage to it, or retcon it. No, they just copied the damned page, as if to say, “See here? Recognise this? So this thing here is basically as good as that thing used to be, isn’t it? Isn’t it? Please?”
Lord, give me strength. Sometimes in a single day you read a book that reminds you of why you love comics so much (Atom Agency, more on that later), only to be hit in the face with this wet herring. Sometimes I don’t know why I bother anymore.