written by: Cullen Bunn
art by: Brian Hurtt
published by: Oni Press

Imagine the idea of a Road to Perdition, except literally. A world of Prohibition era mobsters squabbling over territory, playing chess game over merchandise, and vying for power – a criminal underworld run, apropos enough, by demons. That is the world created by horror writer, Cullen Bunn, with The Damned. Brian Hurtt (Queen and Country, another fave book) delivers art reminiscent of Matt Wagner – a perfect blend of clean lines and moodiness – infusing each character with personality.

“Three days … a long time to be dead.” –Eddie

Eddie is cursed: he can die, but can be brought back. Repeatedly. Along with the scars from his previous demise. A wise-cracking bastard among bastards, Eddie is kind of like a Raymond Chandler version of John Constantine; except, you know, for that whole “walking dead” thing.

The idea of supernatural forces behind the various powers that make and break nations is an old one (see the Book of Daniel chapter 10). Depending on your eschatology, Hell is already empty – with no demons having any interest in being there before their appointed time – which does bring up the issue of what the demons might be up to. Eddie works for Alphonse “Big Al” Aligheri, one of many demons operating the mob families. In this world, the crime cartels control soul-trafficking in the city, fueled by indulging our various sins: greed, lust, self-indulgence, hate. Eddie has been hired to solve a mystery for his boss, the disappearance of a key player in the ever tenuous alliance he is trying to forge in order to consolidate his power.

“All I really want are some answers.”

Let’s face it, many of us often feel as if this life, our current existence, is Hell on earth. As if we are The Damned. Our chain-smoking hero has a long list of people who want to see just how far his curse stretches; not to mention him paying for his own self destructive behavior. There is no shortage of folks will to prey and profit on our weaknesses. Granted, like Eddie, it might be time for one of those end of self conversations – where we eventually run out of people to blame for why our life is the way it is and stare into the mirror at the cause, and possible solution, to our problems.

The Damned is a moody romp and let me tell you, for the $3.50 cover price you get 48 dense pages of work – quite the bargain these days. Bunn has an ear for tough guy dialogue, and a feel for action pacing, while Hurtt’s art alone is worth the price of admission. A blend of two of my favorite genres, gangland epic and horror, I hope this title gets extended well beyond its initial six issue run.

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