Writer: Jim Starlin
Artist: Bernie Wrightson
It’s not often that we see Batman at the mercy of a villain, but in The Cult, not only do we see Batman beaten and bloodied, we also see him get straight-up defeated. After the psychotic Deacon Blackfire forms a dangerous cult comprised of transients and drifters, he captures and brainwashes Batman in order to add him to his army.
This is an incredibly dark and unforgiving story that completely strips away any of the romanticism from Batman. The violence is pervasive and sick as Blackfire’s cult stakes its claim as one of the most twisted band of foes the Dark Knight has ever faced off against. This is a story that breaks Batman down both physically and mentally, and honestly, it’s jarring to see him so crazed and beaten throughout. There are some genuinely shocking moments during this story, but writer Jim Starlin refuses to sink to comic book clichés to achieve them.
This is an absolutely chaotic read, but it’s also one of the most entertaining Batman books to ever be released. It also begs the question of why artist Bernie Wrightson hasn’t been involved in more Batman books throughout the years. His work here is dingy, filthy, and brilliant.