Written by: Jim Starlin, illustrated by Bernie Wrightson, Bill Wray and John Costanza
Year of Publication: 1991, originally published as Batman: The Cult issues 1 to 4 in 1988
Number of Pages: 208 pages
Genre: Grpahic novel, superhero, crime, horror
Summary: Batman is investigating a bizarre series of crimes targeted at the criminals of Gotham City, many of whom are mysteriously disappearing in violent circumstances. His investigation leads him to the mysterious and charismatic preacher Deacon Blackfire who has set up a base in the sewers of Gotham and is recruiting an army of the homeless and the disenfranchised.
However Blackfire captures Batman first. Held prisoner, Batman is starved, drugged and brutally tortured both physically and psychologically. Almost totally broken down he comes under Blackfire's malevolent influence.
As Blackfire's plans for Gotham become clearer, Batman has to face his worst fears and nightmares if he has any hope of saving the city.
Opinions: The 1980s were kind of a watershed for Batman. With the collapse of the Comic Code, which had heavily restricted the content of American comics since the 1950s, creators were able to write books for an adult audience and had greater freedom in their depiction of darker themes and violence. The Batman series took full advantage of this new freedom in such stories as Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns and Year One, Alan Moore's The Killing Joke and Grant Morrison's Arkham Asylum, and this series The Cult, which often seems to be unjustly neglected.
Right from the opening this chilling psychologial drama, originally published as a four part mini-series in 1988, depicts Batman in his weakest state. Plagued by horrific nightmares and hallucinations and sadistically tortured the story explores some of darker areas of Batman's psyche. In a way, Blackfire's purge of the criminal element of Gotham isn't too different from the Dark Knight's own crusade, however unlike Batman, Blackfire is more than happy to kill. Of course, the impact is not just on Batman himself as the whole of Gotham City is brought to it's knees by Blackfire's brutal army. Robin features heavily in the story and here he really comes into his own, becoming more than just the side-kick, which he is often depicted as.
This was quite controversial on it's first publication due to it's depictions of violence. The level of violence is high for a Batman book but it is justified in terms of the story that is being told. The art is effectively dark and moody.
This is a must-read for Batman fans.