Published by DC Comics in 1988, Batman: The Cult is a four-issue mini-series, written by Jim Starlin, with art by Bernie Wrightson and colouring by Bill Wray. The book introduces a new villain in the form of Deacon Blackfire – a cult leader who wants to take over Gotham City.
Utilising (and brainwashing) the city’s homeless population, Blackfire amasses an underground army with the capabilities to overthrow Gotham. This puts him at odds with the Dynamic Duo, who must find a way to bring the villain’s reign of terror to an end.
Batman: The Cult was initially published as four single issues, but has since been collected together as one trade paperback.
What happens in Batman: The Cult?
Book One: Ordeal
The homeless population of Gotham are disappearing, and violent crimes are on the rise. Batman believes there could be a connection between the two situations and he investigates.
The trail leads to a sewer, but when Batman ventures below ground he is incapacitated and tied up. When he awakes he discovers he is being held captive by Deacon Blackfire and his cult of homeless citizens.
Book Two: Captive
Batman becomes a pawn for Deacon Blackfire as he sets out his plan to take over Gotham. This plan involves using the city’s homeless population to kill city officials, while he positions himself as Gotham’s saviour.
Trapped under ground, Batman is eventually rescued by Robin but the Dynamic Duo uncover a mass grave in the sewers. Blackfire not only recruits citizens into his cult, he also kills them.
Book Three: Escape
While Batman and Robin navigate their way through Gotham’s sewer system, the situation above ground escalates. Public opinion on Blackfire is divided and various officials are either being killed or seriously injured.
Martial law is enacted in Gotham, with the National Guard sent into the city to calm the situation. But when Blackfire’s followers prove too powerful, the city is evacuated.
Book Four: Combat
Batman and Robin wage an all-out assault against Blackfire’s followers, in order to take back the city. Utilising a specially equipped Batmobile, the Dynamic Duo subdue the majority of the cult members, leading to a final showdown with Blackfire.
Batman is able to defeat the crazed cult leader and order is restored in Gotham. But there have been many casualties and once again, the city has been held at the mercy of a madman.
Is Batman: The Cult worth reading?
Taking cues from the work of Frank Miller, writer Jim Starlin presents a tale which is deliciously dark, filled with duplicity, and steeped in gruesome imagery. Batman: The Cult is often regarded as a fan-favourite story and with good reason – it reads very well and it looks gorgeous.
Artist Bernie Wrightson provided the visuals for Batman: The Cult and paired with Starlin’s writing they are incredible. Wrightson was a master of the macabre, having worked on various horror titles (he also co-created Swamp Thing), and his illustrations in Batman: The Cult are superb.
His artwork is detailed and very imaginative, with characters and scenes that stay in the mind long after the page is turned. And all of the artwork is backed by a mesmerising colour palette, courtesy of colourist, Bill Wray.
Do I think Batman: The Cult is worth reading? Hell, yes!
Hand on heart, Batman: The Cult is a fantastic Bat-tale and a must-read for fans of Batman: Year One or The Dark Knight Returns. The story is perfectly paced, is visually stunning, and is so damn cool!
Has Batman: The Cult ever been adapted for film?
Batman: The Cult feels like it is ready-made for the big screen, but to date it has not been directly adapted into a movie. Aspects of the story were incorporated into Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises (2012), but that’s it!
This story is crying out for an animated feature, so hopefully one day it will happen! If it can capture the visual look and feel of the comic, then it would be something truly amazing.
I hope this information on Batman: The Cult has proved useful. Should you want to read more posts about Batman, please take a look through I’ll Get Drive-Thru, or alternatively check out one of the recommended reads below.