Back in 2004, DC Comics announced Batman: Europa, a miniseries with art by pencil god Jim Lee that would take the Dark Knight and the Joker out of Gotham and across the Atlantic. Years went by. Children were born that learned to walk and talk. Twitter was invented. The book never came out. Now it’s here.
Written by Matteo Casali and Brian Azzarello, with art by Giuseppe Camuncoli, Jim Lee, Alex Sinclair and Pat Brousseau, Batman Europa is classic-recipe, late-period Caped Crusader. Bruce Wayne’s still Batman, Alfred still has two hands and the Joker has not cut his own face off.
The story opens with a hell of a first page...
... then flashes back to a sequence where Batman learns that he’s dying from something called The Colossus Virus and only has a week to live. A fraught conference with Alfred and some World’s Greatest Detective Work later, Bruce is off to Berlin.
The main draw of Europa is that it’s a high-level Batman adventure that’s also a pulp travelogue. Azzarello and Casali’s description of the once-split German city throbs with two-fisted tension, even though it’s describing long-ago historical events. The prose makes the appeal of the place feel immediate, casting Berlin as a place where Batman would be at home.
Batman learns that he’s not the only Gothamite that made the trip to Germany and soon encounters the Joker amidst signs of his archfoe’s handiwork. But it turns out that the Clown Prince of Crime is also infected by the mysterious illness, too. Crazy as he is, Joker doesn’t want to go out wasting away because of someone else’s messed-up plans. Whoever’s gunning for both Batman and Joker have given the mortal enemies distinct but interlocking bits of information, which means that they’ll have to go on a continent-wide road trip and work together to find a cure.
Now that Jim Gordon is the new robo-suit Batman and Bruce Wayne lives an angst-free life with a clean-slate brain, Europa has the unintentional effect of evoking nostalgia for the Batman status quo of a few years ago. It’s a good-looking book, though, and it’ll be fun to see the Dark Knight pounce and glide his way through Europe’s most beautiful cities in the series’ remaining issues.
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