***WARNING: Spoilers lay ahead for Batman: Europa #1.***
By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder
Considering how long Batman: Europa has been in development (it was originally announced in 2004), you’d think they’d have taken the time to iron all the kinks out of it.
Europa brings Batman and The Joker together again. But this time, our arch rivals have a common enemy. Both are infected with a deadly virus that will kill them within a week. But can Batman do the unthinkable and team with The Joker? He may have no choice if he’s to survive.
Quick history lesson: Europa is Jim Lee’s brainchild. Having spent a year in Italy with his family, Lee wanted a way to work on DC characters with European creators. Thus, Europa. Since 2004, this four-issue miniseries has had a few false starts. But now all four issues are solicited to hit the stands by January. All four issues have layouts by Giuseppe Camuncoli, and each feature a different penciller. Lee drew this issue, and by God, he got me right in the feels.
Batman: Hush is a sentimental favorite of mine. It’s the story that got me to start picking up comic books every week, as opposed to only reading trades. So seeing Lee return to these versions of Batman, Joker, and Alfred is very special. Mind you, this is a scratchier style than we usually see accompany Lee’s pencils. His stuff usually looks very crisp, with an abundance of line work to show. That’s not the case here, and it takes some getting used to. But good art is good art, and Lee is truly one of the masters of the dynamic superhero comic. It’s just a shame this is it for him on this story.
But while the art is marvelous to look at, the writing is where we run into problems.
Casali and Azzarello try and start the issue on an intense note, with Batman and Joker both bleeding and on the verge of death. The implication is they’ve just been in a fight. But while I hate to come off childish about this, the narration from Batman comes off as downright homoerotic (not that there’s anything wrong with that). I’ll give you some of the dialogue here. Tell me it doesn’t sound like there’s a certain subtext…
“I never thought it would end like this. Him. Me. Our blood on each others lips. … Believing he could go this far is easy. Me, though? I’m another story. But this time I’m ready to go all the way. And do it.”
Throw in the fact that on the cover The Joker’s hand appears to be over Batman’s crotch, and you’re giving a lot of ammunition for the less mature fanboys to use. What I’m wondering is how this didn’t occur to anyone involved in the creative process. I’m looking at you, editors!
Taking Batman to actual locations outside the United States is hardly a new concept. But Europa promises to take him to a variety of European destinations. Issue #1 takes us to Berlin, and future issues will bring us to Prague, Paris, and Rome. Considering our writers spend just a tad too much time romanticizing Berlin, I’m concerned not only about how much time they’ll spend doing that in other locations, but about how contrived all the traveling may seem. I understand the point of this story is to put our main characters in different environments. But keep in mind that Batman and The Joker are supposed to be working together here. This partnership should have a hard time lasting four minutes. The notion that it could last long enough for them to travel across Europe together makes me afraid this is going to come off like a very dark version of Planes, Trains and Automobiles.
Still, even if it does turn out to be a stinker, Europa is an excuse for Jim Lee to get some more time with Batman. It’s tough to complain about that.
Image 1 from comicvine.com. Image 2 from techtimes.com.
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