In my review of the first issue in this new series, I mentioned creators Azzarello and Bermejo delivered an intriguing premise, but didn’t offer much in the way of answers. After delving into Batman: Damned #2, the broader story begins to take shape, while leaving other questions to linger.
Batman is convinced the Joker’s alive. And, following Constantine’s tip, he heads to a local nightclub looking for someone with information about The Joker’s location. The person in question is none other than the demon Etrigan. And, as sinister as the story began, it takes a notably darker turn in the issue’s second half.
Bruce delves deeper into the occult in Batman: Damned #2, and plenty of weirdness abounds as a result. To be honest, I found it a little hard to follow the first time through, but on a second reading, the book felt much more straightforward. Adult Bruce feels much more controlled here, compared to the desperate animal of the last issue. However, you get the impression that it’s a rather thin façade, and you really feel the weight of the situation closing in on him.
The subplot introduced in book one about Bruce’s childhood is further developed here, too. It’s an interesting take on the Wayne family dynamic, which is portrayed as idyllic in just about every other interpretation.
I take issue with some of the writing, though. First, I feel like Azzarello might have tried a little too hard in service of a darker tone. It’s like every character is going out of their way to be grim, and it comes across as overly-edgy at several points. Compare it to the Dark Nights: Metal event, which had a deliberately grim and dark tone as well, but it didn’t feel as forced.
Then there’s Constantine who, as in the previous issue, is more a narrator than an active player in the plot. He rambles throughout most of Batman: Damned #2, providing color commentary, but little of actual substance. The narration wafts back and forth between psychoanalysis of Batman and philosophical musings, some of which…simply doesn’t work (“Focus on the task…at fist”).
As with the previous issue, Lee Bermejo’s artwork shines in Batman: Damned #2. Bermejo has a mastery of balancing the beautiful and the grotesque. In fact, just about any panel in the book could stand on its own as a grotesque work of art.
I found the facial detailing in this volume especially striking. It really gives you a sense that just about everyone in Gotham has gone off the deep end.
The colors tread that same fine line between beautiful and horrific (or maybe even both). Bermejo employs a wide palette, from intense, fiery tones to dark grime, helping envelop you in the work.
Batman: Damned #2 is a solid second chapter of the story. We’re piling darkness upon darkness, to the point I’m worried that Azzarello may get lost in the weeds. Either way, Bermejo’s artwork is a treat.