Layouts: Giuseppe Camuncoli
Pencils: Jim Lee
Colors: Alex Sinclair
Letters: Pat Brosseau
Issue 1 of 4
In doing some background research for this review, I was surprised to learn that Batman: Europa has had such a tumultuous development history. Perhaps I should not have been, given issue artist Jim Lee‘s penchant for playing fast and loose with deadlines (All-Star Batman, anyone?). Still, it’s here now, and after having read it, I can safely declare that this issue was worth the wait.
Ostensibly inspired by a European vacation Lee once took, Batman: Europa #1 openly bears its admiration for America’s neighbors across the pond. The Dark Knight is forced to leave Gotham after discovering that he has been infected with a necrotic virus, called Colossus, that will see him dead within a week. He takes off for Berlin, and once he arrives readers are treated to lovingly rendered depictions of Germanic landmarks including the Brandenburg Gate, Checkpoint Charlie, and the Berlin Planetarium. IGN criticized this issue for being languid in pace, but I am inclined to disagree. Giuseppe Camuncoli‘s layouts are predominantly full of large rectangles, which serve as miniature canvases for Lee’s pencil work and Alex Sinclair‘s colors. They are serviceable for the action sequences depicted in this book, but prove to be much better suited for the quieter, more exploratory scenes in the middle of the book. There, Lee is given the breathing room to fully demonstrate the strengths of his architectural draftsmanship and ability to tell stories by whispering rather than screaming. As Batman stalks a crooked businessman through the twilit Berlin streets, he is predominantly portrayed in the background– a quiet hunter stalking his prey…or dare-I-say-it, an actual detective at work. The decision to not stuff the book with punches and kicks also allows for my favorite moments in the issue — two cheeky references to V for Vendetta and Watchmen.
That all said, this mini-series’ debut is not without its flaws. Several times throughout the story, characters reference the external decay Colossus inflicts upon the body. Sinclair’s ethereal colors, while a great boon throughout most of the story, prove to be a weakness here, as that necrotic cue is externalized as only a gentle discoloration rather than the repulsive palette shift it should have been. Perhaps this is a product of the virus being in its early stages, but then again, Colossus is supposed to be a fast-acting virus. By the end of this first issue, Batman is at least two days into his symptoms, yet looks like he’s simply suffering a minor fever.
The script, penned by Matteo Casali and Brian Azzarello, is also not much to write home about. Azzarello’s trademark bite is missing here, instead replaced by a monologue that never seems to end. Casali’s bibliography is relatively thin, and it appears as though he’s been allowed to take the reins here, much like Azzarello has reportedly taken the lead on Dark Knight III from Frank Miller. This is, of course, speculation, but if Casali is the lead here, he’s done a serviceable job despite this one glaring flaw. While the writing itself left me feeling adrift, the concepts introduced throughout the story have me excited. Most notably, the issue climaxes with a team-up that has surprisingly remained relatively unexplored throughout Batman’s history.
Ultimately, Batman: Europa #1 is a strong start to the mini-series. Less monologue and more dialogue would serve this series well moving forward, but to be frank, that criticism applies to A LOT of comics. According to DC’s solicits, a new penciler will replace Lee on each of this series’ subsequent issues. This is tragic because in the end, it’s easy to look past the scars in Europa‘s visage due to the overwhelming beauty of Jim Lee’s lines paired with Alex Sinclair’s gentle colors. Still though– a strong foundation laid by Camuncoli’s layout duties on all four issues and the concepts introduced by this first issue’s script should serve Europa well in the weeks to come.
Long live the Dark Knight, even if he only has a week to live.