The four-part mini-series, Batman: Europa, has come to an end as the unlikely duo discovered who was behind their mysterious illness. This saga held endless promise and it more than lived up to it in the first three issues but would it end on a strong note?
For three excellent issues, Batman and The Joker have traipsed across Europe in search of a cure for a virus that was set to kill them both within a week. With each passing edition the story grew more mysterious and the dynamic between the ailing pair became ever more engaging. They played off each other so well that readers no doubt wished for a longer story surrounding the two working side by side. What a shame it is then that all this good work went to waste in a mess of a final act.
From a writing standpoint there was just nothing all that good about this installment. It didn’t feel like an epic finale to a story a decade in the making. It didn’t deliver on the promise of what came before it and, more than anything, it just wasn’t worth the investment readers put into this series.
Admittedly there was a slight problem with the script for the first book but that was different, it was too expository as it sought to set up the backdrop to this globetrotting tale. With this forth book the problem is that the story just peters out in a wholly unsatisfying manner.
For the entirety of this run the entire hook has been finding out who was responsible for this virus and why they had brought Bats and Joker together. The right thing to do would have been to either reveal it to be some new, nefarious rogue or to reveal that The Joker was behind it and this was all some elaborate plan to toy with Batman. That would have fit in with what everyone knows about The Clown Prince of Crime and it could have, if done correctly, been a fantastic ending. As it stands neither of these things were done and the big villain turned out to be… Bane.
That’s right, the muscly titan who has only ever been good as a side-character and not the focus of the piece was who Casali and Azzarello decided to go with. It was a complete let down after all this cryptic hype, and it didn’t even really make sense. Why did he do it? We may never know.
To make matters even worse, if that were possible, Bane gets beaten down by Batman just as quickly as he appears on the page. There is no moment of grand victory for him, no suspense as readers wonder whether this could really be it for the dying pair, he just pops up, tells everyone it was him all along, and then promptly gets beaten to a pulp.
The twist in all this? The cure each man needed was contained within the others blood. No idea how that works as they are meant to have the exact same virus but ah well… comic logic. So of course you are supposed to not know whether they will choose to save themselves if means keeping the other around except there is no mystery here as Batman doesn’t kill no matter the situation and Joker isn’t just going to lie down and die anytime soon. So in the end it’s a series of nonsense panels with nothing to offer.
To be fair to the book the art is still on point. Giuseppe Camuncoli and Gerald Parel have been outstanding for the entirety of the series and that continues this time out. There isn’t too much new to say about it except that the pages resemble even more of a fever dream as the trippy lines and colours are used to great effect. This was also the case in the third book but it is more apparent here. Still though that was not enough to save an absolute disaster of a finale.
This book should have been so much more but, for whatever reason, Casali and Azzarello chose to go down a nonsensical and outright foolish route to finish things up. It’s a shame but at least it’s over now, they can’t disappoint you any further.
Score: 1.5 out of 5.
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