Mateo Casali & Brian Azzarello (w), Guiseppe Camuncoli & Jim Lee (a), Alex Sinclair (c)
Batman: Europa is a story of Batman racing against the clock, trying to defeat an illness that will kill him in a week’s time. In this attempt, he is brought to Berlin where he discovers the Joker is dying from the same illness. The two set out together to discover who infected them so they can save their lives and, presumably, go back to killing each other. There are a lot of talented people with their name on this book. Enough that the casual reader may even ask themselves what story could be so important that it enticed so many people to come together. Unfortunately, anyone who did not notice the book credits two different writers and two different artists will quickly notice it before getting halfway into the book.
Batman has some fantastic lines herein, the sort that harken back to Frank Miller’s bitter, brawling Dark Knight. However the narrative, though supposed to also be supplied by Batman, seems far more uncertain and academic and not in a way that provides depth of character. In fact it more closely resembles a DVD commentary recorded many years later when you can hardly believe the person you are listening to is the one on the screen in front of you. Strong dialogue seems reserved exclusively for Batman, though, as Alfred’s contributions are contrived and reminiscent of some of the flimsier moments from the sixties television show. When Batman says he doesn’t get why someone would take the time to engineer a virus with which to infect him and install a virus on the Bat-computer warning him about it, Alfred quickly chimes “Get it? Like a joke?” Then it’s decided without further consideration that the Joker is involved. It’s funny how a bit of bad dialogue can quickly make you look away from an abysmal plot hole.
Giuseppe Camuncoli and Jim Lee are both excellent artists in their own regard. Camuncoli’s uses a few lines to create dramatic facial features against reasonable simplicity. Lee adorns his work with gracious lines and strategic hatching. The two together do not work. From panel to panel, one artist stands above the other. At least that’s true half the time. The other half is an inconsistent product that fails to engage. Both artists are at their best when their work is well-inked, making their unique styles pop. However here we have a fuzzy, colorful alternative that doesn’t belong in gritty world of Batman.
The question the reader is left with is not what will happen in the next issue, but why this project was not scrapped. It seems that a book was pitched and when the project stalled and a new team had to intervene to salvage it. Batman: Europa is obviously not going to kill the Batman, not that Bruce Wayne is Batman these days. Pairing him with Joker would certainly be more interesting if they were driven by a shared interest more unique than simply not wanting to get sick and die. At the five-dollar price tag and with so many names attached to the work, the book fails to deliver.