In 1920s America with soul-trafficking demon cabals standing in for organised crime families, cursed fixer Eddie is tasked with locating a kidnapped arbitrator tasked with brokering a shaky truce between his employers and a powerful rival. As unease and distrust threaten to erupt into an all-out gang war, Eddie mush search into the shadowy recesses of the criminal underworld to find the answers he seeks, even if it gets him killed. However many times.
Despite the demonic twist to the setting, The Damned is first and foremost a gangster tale. The underworld of macho criminals, glamorous women, cowardly informants and indulgence of endless vice is presented in all its seedy glory in a perfect realisation of the Prohibition era; remove the supernatural elements and the story could easily be a subplot of Boardwalk Empire. As a result, it’s very much a character-driven story.
Despite being physically unintimidating, Eddie is a force to be reckoned with even when facing the most dangerous opponents. The full nature of his curse is never explicitly spelled out, but it becomes apparent that if someone touches his corpse, they suffer his death as he is returned to life. And as is often the case with characters for whom death is a minor inconvenience, Eddie has a habit of regularly getting himself killed in variously gruesome ways. This also has the upshot of making him completely unflinching in the face of demonic power, not just from his curse making him functionally immortal, but also because after having been subjected to the worst that infernal powers have to offer, they no longer have anything with which to truly threaten him.
Three Days Dead is an interesting enough introduction to its world of soul bartering and infernal machinations, but aside from the demon dealing aspects it’s not much more than an archetypal gangster noir that offers little more than what any fan of the genre will be widely familiar with. It’s only in the horror aspects that the story properly comes alive, such as a cursed man who has been transformed into a serpentine monstrosity or Eddie’s forays into the real of the dead, hounded through a mist-shrouded purgatory by a mad creature with glowing red eyes. The Damned is an entertaining comic, certainly, but also ultimately indistinct.
DAMNED VOLUME 1: THREE DAYS DEAD / AUTHOR: CULLEN BUNN / ARTIST: BRIAN HURTT,
BILL CRABTREE / PUBLISHER: ONI PRESS / RELEASE DATE: 21ST MARCH 2017