Written by Brian Azzarello
Art by Lee Bermejo
The 2nd chapter of the much anticipated dark graphic novel Batman Damned is finally here after a short delay to rework some of the books artwork to avoid the same controversy the first book faced after they briefly showed Bruce Wayne naked in the Batcave. That one panel distracted most people from what was otherwise a terrific and amazing story, so I’m glad with this second issue they decided to keep the nudity out so it wouldn’t be a distraction here.
This second issue starts off shortly after where the first book left off, where we see Batman and John Constantine looking down over Gotham city wondering whether the Joker is truly dead or if it’s all one big prank. The dialogue between Batman and Constantine really shines well here as writer Brian Azzarello truly understands both characters quite well and gets the way their love hate relationship works. It’s very clear that John knows much more about what’s going on here than he will ever lead on. He acts as a sort of spiritual guide here for Batman, as he seems to be laying down a trail of clues for Batman to uncover and discover on his own, and Batman being the dark brooding knight that he is can only take so much of John’s run about way of talking. But since this story hits so close to home with Batman, he puts up with John as he seeks the truth to Joker’s death and to the greater mystery of a dark conspiracy that has haunted Bruce since he was a boy.
I can’t possibly say enough about how much I love the artistic style and design of Artist Lee Bermejo’s work. Every panel is visually breathtaking and the dark gritty setting fits this story like a glove. A perfect blend of beauty and terror that captures the raw emotions of every character with amazing detail. The time spent working on these pages truly paid off as I am again blown away by the gorgeous final product we received, which reinforces the opinion I had about the first book, that this series is the best looking books of 2018 without a doubt.
Adding to the unique presentation style of the stories narration we saw in the first issue, we are now treated to the entrance of Jason Blood aka Etrigan the Rhyming Demon of Chamalot, who in this story appears as rapper J Blood who is seen spitting hot fire as his lyrics amp up the crowd of his nightclub “the Cavern”. Batman confronts J Blood seeking knowledge about the Joker’s death and alleged resurrection, which J Blood responds to by rapping a verbal assault of lyrics at Batman, telling the Dark Knight, the Joker isn’t here. Things then get rowdy and Batman quickly becomes overwhelmed and outnumbered. Just in time, Boston Brand aka Deadman shows up to help Batman, as Boston seeks to warn Batman from an occult conspiracy that has haunted Bruce since he was a child.
We see another glimpse into the state of Thomas and Martha Wayne’s marriage and are shown that things aren’t all smiles and rainbows, but instead it appears things are rocky. It’s likely Thomas Wayne is cheating on his wife, and Martha knows it’s true as she hired a private investigator to follow Thomas. In this section of the story we see how seeing this all unfold effects young Bruce Wayne, and we witness what is likely the reason Bruce has a no gun use policy as Batman, as it was something he promised to his mother when he was a boy. I thought that was a nice moment that explains in a quick and meaningful way why the Dark Knight chooses not to use guns even against his most violent of enemies.
As the issue nears its end, we see a Joker shaped bat signal in the sky, as bullets ran down on the GCPD from atop a nearby building. It would seem that the Joker is still alive, but after a quick fight against Batman we soon see that it’s not the Joker, it’s Harley Quinn in disguise. She is so torn up about the Joker’s death that she tempts Batman to kill her. This act lowers Batman’s guard enough which allows Harley to inject Batman with something that slows him down. It’s here where the issue becomes more adult, as Harley then unzips her suit and straddles Batman and licks his face. I feel like this may very well be apart of this issue that was reworked and softened by DC Comics as a reaction to the way people handled seeing Bruce Wayne’s penis during the first issue.
I personally have no problem with either form of adult content as that’s what DC’s Black Label marketed itself as: a dark, gritty, more adult line of comics, written and drawn by DC Comics finest artists, and I feel like that is what has been delivered here in both issues, although I will admit I’m glad changes were made because I think the focus should be on the great story and beautiful art, and not focused on what appears in one panel of a book.
Ultimately I think we were given another amazing and gorgeous chapter of what I feel is the best looking series of 2018. The narrative style of John Constantine is by far one of my favorite parts of this series. I just love the way John speaks. He has a way of getting my mind deeper into the story, connecting me more with what’s going on in the pages. From Ertigan’s lethal rhymes as rapper J Blood, to Batman’s adult encounter with Harley Quinn, it’s hard to pinpoint what my favorite part of this issue was as there’s many standout moments, but I guess I’d have to say the the overall mystery and occult conspiracy that has surrounded Bruce’s life since he was a boy is what intrigues me most here, and it’s why I recommend this series as a must read of 2018.
I give Batman Damned #2 a 9 out of 10