More than 11 years after it was first revealed, Batman Europa’s first issue has finally hit store shelves. While its globetrotting story of a tenuous partnership between the Joker and Batman isn’t particularly shocking yet, it more than makes up for that setup with some truly amazing art.
Spoilers ahead for Batman Europa #1, by Brian Azzarello, Matteo Casali, Jim Lee, Giuseppe Camuncoli, and Alex Sinclair.
In Europa, both the Batman and Joker have been infected by a mysterious virus called “Colossus”—tailor-made for their biology, and leaving them with a week to live. First sent in the direction of Berlin, and then Prague, the Dark Knight and the Clown Prince of Crime are ultimately forced into an uneasy alliance to save both of their lives, whether they like it or not. It’s a premise that’s going to hopefully lead to some interesting back and forth between these two long-time foes, but for now, nothing’s really happening there. But you still need to read Batman Europa for the superlative art of Jim Lee and Alex Sinclair.
The continent-crossing adventure was apparently inspired by Lee’s own year-long trip to Europe shortly before Europa was initially announced, and it shows. Lee draws the most vivid, sweeping, and beautiful shots of cities in this book that it almost feels like a travel guide rather than a Batman caper. It just so happens that the narrator is Batman, and he’s in town to kick butt and save his own life.
After a brief start in Gotham, Berlin is the focus of the story in this first issue, so you get things like the most beautiful panel of the Brandenburg Gate above,and longing vistas of the Reichstag or the Berlin Planetarium. It doesn’t just feel like any old city, it gives Europa a sense of place that changes the vibe of the book completely. It’s a genuine delight to see such a lush and vividly realized location recreated for the comic, if only for the joy of getting to see Batman gliding through it.
Speaking of whom, Lee’s Batman is an equally gorgeous delight to behold. Whether skulking on rooftops and in the shadows, or laying a smack-down on a foe, everything is a pure, visual treat—polished to a sheen with spectacular color work from Alex Sinclair, who’s blotchy ink work gives a wonderfully painterly aesthetic to the book that marries beautifully with Lee’s hallmark sketchy style.
It’s almost a shame that the series will move on without Lee—instead rotating in a series of European artists for each issue to better reflect the changing European locales—because I would do some rather unseemly things to get a whole series like this from Lee and Sinclair. But only time will tell if the rest of Europa and its rotating artist roster can match up to this wonderful first entry.