Writers: Matteo Casali & Brian Azzarello
Artists: Jim Lee, Giuseppe Camuncoli, Diego Latorre, Gerald Parel
Colorists: Alex Sinclair, Giuseppe Camuncoli, Diego Latorre, Gerald Parel
Letterer: Pat Brousseau
Publisher: DC Comics
Gotham gets a little boring this time of year. So grab your pointy cowls and passports because we’re joining the Dark Knight on a trip across Europe. We’re planning to hit Berlin, Prague, Paris and Rome. Don’t worry because we have a certain green haired friend joining us along the way.
Batman: Europa was announced in 2014. For reasons as mysterious as Batman, DC didn’t publish the mini-series until November 2015. Good thing it came out, though. This book is a different flavor of Batman that takes him out of his familiar backdrop of Gotham. You get a globetrotting mystery. But here’s the best part— it’s a Batman and Joker team-up.
Right off the bat (pun intended) Batman learns that he’s been poisoned by a virus that’s slowly killing him. So he does what he does best— investigate. As the Dark Knight fights from alley to rooftop to find the baddie who poisoned him, he bumps into an old friend. Turns out the Joker was infected with the same virus and is trying to solve the case, too. Small world, right? Batman and Joker each have half the pieces of the bigger mystery. So… they have no choice but to work together.
Things start out as well as they can when you mix two different flavors of crazy together. Robots, explosions, mystery and blackmail for example. By the halfway point, Joker and Batman are fever dream hallucinations in dirty sewers under France. However, they push on because they have to. Once you get to the last issue, our “heroes” are on their last legs in the Colosseum in Rome. Dying bodies, no willpower, sense of reality slipping and blood dripping out of almost every orifice. The only thing that keeps Batman and Joker going at this point is sheer stubbornness. It’s when Batman is at his most… broken that the main villain reveals himself.
From the shadows of the Colosseum a man emerges. Just a man. At least he is until he puts on his mask. Suddenly Bane is revealed. His plan is two-sided: if Joker dies from the virus then Batman dies, too. The point is to show that Batman needs the Joker and Batman just refuses to let anyone die, even if it is his arch enemy. Yet if Batman chooses not to save Joker, then it’s a win-win for Bane.
There’s so much to appreciate in this mini-series. Casali and Azzarello know the voices of these characters really well. The banter between Batman and Joker is addicting to read. Watching their clashing styles fight to cooperate is chaotically beautiful because you can’t help but keep reading. One of my favorite parts is the internal narration. Batman isn’t a man of many words but the internal dialogue lets you get in his head. It’s endearing to think that Batman thinks he’d feel at home in gothic Paris while he’s trying to fight a deadly virus, his urge to throw the Joker off the top of the Eiffel Tower and solve the big mystery. I haven’t forgotten about the art. So let’s talk about that.
Each of the four chapters, drawn by four different artists, has a different personality. Every chapter’s artwork becomes more haunting the sicker Batman and Joker get. Jim Lee takes us through the dirty alleys and rooftops of Gotham. Giuseppe Camuncoli gives us a tour as Batman and Joker fight robots in the streets of Prague. Diego Latorre guides our not-so-dynamic duo through the sewers of Paris. Tensions rise as Gerald Parel illustrates the final showdown between Batman and Joker and Bane in Rome.
You feel like Bat-Clown team-up will last forever. They work so well together, right? But before you know it, it’s over. Bat and Clown find the cure and are at each other’s throats again. I think of Europa as the red headed step-child of Batman stories. It tends to get overlooked. I read this book if I’m in a Batman rut. It reminds me why I appreciate the character while giving me an interesting story to go with it. I hope you have those bags packed because Batman: Europa is straight up fun as hell and definitely worth a look.