Batman Europa is a comic that, after eleven years of on and off development, debuted last month and actually managed to live up to the enormous hype that surrounded it. Issue two is now on the shelves and it pales in comparison. Everything that was good about the first one just doesn’t work this time around and everything that was lackluster feels accentuated.
In the first issue the art was worthy of enormous praise and set the book apart from all else, including the numerous other Batman comics available. That really is no longer the case with this latest installment as the beauty and finesse of that art has drained away leaving a decidedly average creation in its place.
The most likely reason for this is the absence of Jim Lee who is something of a shining star in the comic world. His work on the introductory book was superb and gave gravity to the story that was being told. In fact, it was because of this art that Europa received such praise as the writing left a lot to be desired. This excellence is lost in the hands of Giuseppe Camuncoli who has a far less crisp approach and provides a rather uninspired visual experience.
Once more the depiction of lead characters Batman and The Joker is inconsistent. Yes, they look the part, although some odd colouring choices are made, but there are still no satisfactory signs of the virus that is supposedly killing them at an alarming rate. One would justifiably expect to see some real wear and tear by this point beyond the odd patch of mottled flesh but it just isn’t there. All of this means that it once again falls to the writers to drive home the effects of the sickness by having Batman narrate his own fatigue.
The overly obvious nature of the self-diagnosing speech brings the reader out of the experience through repeated use and wears thin very quickly. It is as though the writers, Azzarello and Casali, knew that the artistry would not be up to scratch and so felt forced to make up for it by being blindingly obvious in their script.
This being said it should be noted that the writing did improve quite significantly despite these flaws. The chemistry between Bats and The Joker makes for some very compelling reading and makes one wonder why this partnership hadn’t been explored in this manner before now. The character’s interactions feel natural and neither of them sacrifices any of their core characteristics in order to ‘buddy up’. Joker is still a lunatic in his finest moments and Batman is forever a surly, tormented warrior.
The villain of the piece has yet to be revealed although his voice is heard, or perhaps seen is a better term, for the first time here. It provides potential clues as to this person’s identity but does not go so far as to give it away entirely, there is still a way to go before readers know who is responsible for the protagonist’s current situation. The dialogue itself is a little clunky in places but it does not interrupt the flow of the piece and provides a satisfactory insight into this character.
The main criticism that can be levelled at this installment overall is that, despite having a good deal more action than last time it is still lacking in this department. Nothing about the fighting scenes seems intense despite what the narration tells you and on the whole the entire issue leaves the audience feeling deflated.
Whilst this story is still of some intrigue this issue has done nothing to build further interest, in fact it has made it harder to justify purchasing issue three. This comic can be best described as a massive disappointment and a huge failing on the part of the creative team. The next issue will need to be truly groundbreaking to salvage this series.
Score: 2.5 out of 5.