Issue two of Batman Europa nearly killed the four-part series half way through its run. In order to salvage the comic this latest issue needed to do something special and, whilst it didn’t set the world alight, it was leaps and bounds ahead of the previous installment.
The key issue last time was that the art went from being a beautiful spectacle that stood apart from everything else currently on the market to being devoid of any real character and feeling like a pale imitation of what came before it. This was, of course, due to the absence of Jim Lee and a less than adequate replacement.
That appears to have been entirely fixed now though as the art is back to being award worthy in its execution. The entire book, despite being third person in its drawings, feels as though you are looking through the eyes of the protagonists. The use of psychedelic colourings puts readers in something of a fever dream and one gets the feeling that this is what the virus-ridden Batman and Joker are seeing as they descend ever quicker towards their demise.
On the subject of the two leads it must be noted that the colours and lines used to depict their physical decline have also improved here. Due to the fantastical nature of the art this time out none of the characters are exceedingly clear in their representation but what can be seen through the vibrant haze is that both are looking worn and haggard which lends a great deal more realism to the story and is infinitely better than being told through forced dialogue that they are feeling the effects of the virus.
A hat tip must go out to the front cover as, much like that of Lucifer #1, it is an artistic masterpiece. It sets the tone of this instalment perfectly and one has to hope that a poster is made available of this particular piece before long.
With regards to the story as told through the writing it is good news once more. Azzarello and Casali have upped their respective games and it makes for a far more enjoyable read.
Now it should be said that this is not a book to read if you are looking for lots of bone crunching action but nor should it be expected to be as two individuals nearing death so rapidly aren’t likely to seek out unnecessary battles, preferring instead to take a smarter way around. That is exactly what you get in the writing here as Batman and his nefarious accomplice made their way through the catacombs of Paris to get closer to the cure.
The real treat that keeps this book fresh and exciting despite being very light on fights is the dynamic between Joker and Bats. Joker is devilishly dark in his humour as ever whilst Batman plays the role of the straight man to perfection. The two bounce off of one another with wit and dry sarcasm and it makes for an engaging story that is hard to put down.
One very weird choice from the writers is to reveal the villain as they did. He feels like a caricature in his presentation and as such out of place in such a stripped down tale. This isn’t the kind of comic where the more camp bad guys in Batman’s rogue gallery would feel at home and so the decision to show exactly that type of weird, unbelievable villain is odd. Whilst he isn’t as out there as The Riddler or as ridiculous as Mr. Freeze he still jars with the overall aesthetic of this series.
With a lot of work to do to make up for a poor second instalment, issue three of Batman Europa has pleasantly surprised fans with enjoyable writing and exquisite art. With just one more book to go this series is back on track to being fondly remembered by Bat-fans around the world.
Score: 4 out of 5.