“WE’LL ALWAYS HAVE PARIS” – 6.5/10.
Europa has proven to be a fascinating mini-series so far, both in terms of the narrative and the art work. For those unfamiliar with the story, Batman and Joker have both been infected by the deadly Colossus Virus. Forced into an uneasy alliance, their search for a cure takes them across Europe. Having previously chased the shadow of their unknown tormentor across Berlin and Prague, issue 3 finds the unlikely duo in Paris with their condition worsening and time running out. With Jim Lee and Giuseppe Camuncoli having provided the artwork for issues 1 and 2 respectively, Diego Lattore takes the helm for issue 3. The result is different to say the least.
As the virus ravages their bodies, both Batman and Joker struggle to maintain a grip on reality, obviously Batman is more severely affected by this than his companion. Regardless of this the men are forced to become more dependent on each other, with each man saving his mortal enemy at some point in the story. Lattore’s artwork reflects the mental state of our protagonists; it has a jagged, hallucinogenic feel to it. Lines and colours move away from the subjects, trailing across the panels. It reminds me somewhat of Dave McKean’s work on Arkham Asylum, although the effect is far less successful here. Truthfully, I am not a huge fan of the way that Lattore draws either of the main characters but it certainly gives the issue a unique feel.
The interaction between Joker and Batman lends a fascinating dynamic to Europa, throughout the decades they’ve often managed to interact peacefully, they’ve even worked together, but it’s never felt like this. This is a true partnership in every sense. The conversation between the two is almost playful, it’s clear that Batman despises his ‘partner’ but they do function as a double act. Joker even refers to Batman as his ‘straight man’ at one point, although he accuses him of not being particularly good at the role. As with previous issues, the story mostly involves Batman and Joker bickering in front of famous landmarks whilst chasing leads. After a few red herrings and the odd dead body they finally find themselves confronted by the architect of their suffering.
The antagonist appears as a blend of both men; equal parts insanity and intellect. I am going on the assumption that this is a new villain created by Matteo Casali and Brian Azzarello, I didn’t recognise him as anyone from the canon, but then again it’s not immediately clear if this is legitimately how he looks or if his appearance is a result of Batman’s hallucinations. His motivations also remain a mystery, granted taking out two icons in one fell swoop is its own reward, but hopefully it goes a bit deeper than that. It’s still not clear how he managed to infect both men, an impressive feat in itself. Plus the possibility remains that this is just an avatar or minion of some kind and the true villain has yet to be revealed.
Issue 1 of Europa was undeniably impressive, featuring stunning artwork from Jim Lee and an instantly gripping story. Sadly, subsequent issues have failed to maintain the momentum. That’s not to say that they haven’t been enjoyable though, but it feels like the best way to enjoy Europa might be in one full reading once the trade has been released. I’m curious to see where the story goes from here, it will be interesting to see how much longer the alliance between Batman and the Joker lasts. I had assumed Jim Lee would return to close off the story, however it is Gerald Parel who will provide the art for the final chapter of Europa. It’s safe to assume that all questions will be answered in the final issue as our heroes make their way to Rome in pursuit of the ‘Bat-Joke’.
POINTS OF INTEREST
- I wasn’t too sure about the gathering of Joker groupies. Had Joker arranged this for Batman’s benefit or do those people just hang out there all the time?
- There is an inescapable feeling that Joker is having the time of his life. Could it be that he has staged the whole thing to force Batman into this alliance?
- How are the men travelling from city to city? I’d quite like to see a panel of Joker sleeping on Batman’s shoulder in the Batwing.