The Damned by Cullen Bunn

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The Damned, Vol.1: Three Days Dead by Cullen Bunn is the kind of independent comic book that reminds us why the independent market is so important in the wave of popularity that comic books are once again enjoying. It is now, when the market is so hot, that the big publishing houses, DC and the Evil Empire (Marvel), flood the shelves with big name titles that lack depth and story. So instead they come up with gimmicks, like embossed or variant covers and characters changing their race, sexuality or sexual orientation in a effort to garner attention. All gimmicks. when what they should do. All they need to do really, is tell a good story.

The Damned by Cullen Bunn is just such a damn good story.

It is during the prohibition, when gang warfare was fought on the open streets, that our tale takes place. But behind the criminal organizations is a far more evil trade taking place. It is not illicit booze that these two gangs trade in, instead it is the trade of mortal souls. Two gangs, each run by powerful demons control the soul trade in the city, between them lays an uneasy peace. A deal is about to be brokered to end their war and consolidate power. Only the bookkeeper tasked with the deal is taken hostage along with a ledger that could destroy both families. Each one thinks the other is behind it. Hoping to keep the peace and find the bookkeeper, the demon Big Al has one last resort. He must resurrect the Damned.
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Eddie is a corpse, laying in a ditch, his throat slit open. But Eddie has a curse, he just cannot die. Only that isn’t actually true, Eddie can die, he just can’t stay dead. For Big Al, Eddie is the perfect answer and he brings Eddie back to find the bookkeeper, stop a gang war and maybe stay alive long enough to consolidate all the power of the demon underworld for Big Al, until its time to send Eddie back among the Damned.

This is Sam Spade meets Sandman Slim. The supernatural element is not overplayed, this is mystery, crime noire. The demons are simply part of the tale, a darker version of the criminal underworld. Eddie must navigate them as deftly as he does their human counterparts, never really knowing which one is the real danger. There is a mystery here, both normal and paranormal. There is greed and lust and larceny. And yes, there is a femme fatale, because it just wouldn’t be noire without one.

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This is one of Bunn’s earlier works. He is now pegged to helm one of the new X-Men releases and yes he has sold his soul to the Evil Empire. Hope he is being paid well for it. Hope he doesn’t forget his earlier audience and his independent work. Because this is something that Marvel just wouldn’t get. Make it bloodier and racier and Vertigo might snap it up, but Marvel, nope this is outside the box for them.

Maybe that’s what makes it so good.

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