By Cullen Bunn, Brian Hurtt, and Bill Crabtree
The devil made them do it. It’s as good excuse as any, but in Cullen Bunn’s new ongoing series The Damned (following up on the two previously published mini-series), it’s the literal truth. In this story the prohibition era is filled with gangsters, gamblers, and racketeers that are all being manipulated by a group of demons. The book is a return to the world of Bunn’s first comic The Damned: Three Days Dead from 2006-2007 and the start of the “Ill Gotten” storyline. It’s a dark look at a familiar time, but under very different circumstances.
After almost ten years since his last foray into this world, Cullen Bunn takes us back to his world of demons and gangsters. It’s a different take on a time when America was being shaped into a modern nation. The creative team effectively immerses the reader in this time period using the dialect of the era and characterizations that feel like they come straight out of an old black and white movie. The main character, Eddie, gives the reader your typical noir inner monologue. What makes him unique, though, is the curse that Bunn has given him and the inner struggle he goes through when having to make use of it. He is one of the damned, but hasn’t lost his humanity yet. Most of the book and dialogue is dedicated to setting up the world and situation, but it’s an interesting world to learn about. Bunn gives us just enough tidbits of backstory and hints at things to come to create intrigue for the reader to want to know more. Compared to his first Damned outing, this version is not as moody or scary in tone, but looks to be a great story nonetheless.
Brian Hurtt’s style is fitting for the prohibition era setting. He gives us sharp square-jawed men that look like they could be friends with Dick Tracy. The ladies he draws look sultry yet cute and even a cursed woman has a certain loveliness to her. The demons have a slight art deco look to them as well; they look like stone gargoyles come to life. His style over the past ten years has changed, but only slightly so. “Ill Gotten” doesn’t quite have the same rough around the edges look that the first installment did. That added more to the horror atmosphere of it whereas his style now fits in with what seems to be a lighter take on the original. Hurtt has done a great job at giving even the background characters believable expressions, if only with a couple of strokes of the pen.The costume designs are excellent and are appropriate for the setting as are the backgrounds. The coloring in this issue is very effective. Crabtree uses monotone surroundings to draw the reader’s attention to the full color subject. The color palette of the book is mostly shades of grey while other colors are very heavily unsaturated. The only scenes that are colored brighter are those set in the opulent Gehenna club with its gold pillars. The statue of Prometheus is a nice addition as it mirrors Eddie’s curse.
Overall the book is really good and has potential to be an outstanding series. Although it is missing some of the grittier darkness of the original, the quality of the story and art more than make up for it. This will be worth sticking along with to see where Bunn, Hurtt, and Crabtree take us.