Forgive the profanity comic book fans in the UK, but if the latest Batman mini-series is anything, it is bloody fine art splashing across pages, as if they were canvas, as the stark visual meets poetry, for an epic Batman Europa #4 finale.
This opinionated review has spoilers and covers the entire Batman Europa series, which will no doubt be a hot commodity when it hits shelves as a graphic novel collection.
First we have Issue #4 and the surreal impressionistic artwork of Gerald Parel that is highlighted by tight and gritty writing, provided by Matteo Casali and the brilliant Brian Azzarello, who is really at the top of his craft, with the scribing of this European deathtrap and also the bitter future of the Bat in Frank Miller’s Dark Knight III: The Master Race.
The deathtrap has led Batman and his raving psychotic ally, the Joker, to Rome’s infamous coliseum.
The dialogue between the poisoned Joker and Batman continues to evolve, from suspicion to hatred to outright amusement (mostly from the guy with the green hair), for even as their bodies degrade to near death their European surroundings echo the history of some of the world’s oldest places.
The Roman coliseum was the site of innumerable gallons of blood that was spilled . . . for sport.
And so who masterminded the poisoning of both Bruce Wayne and his arch-nemesis?
Who forced the Batman to join forces with the murder spree on laughing gas, the Joker?
And what is the secret of the vicious Colossus virus?
Well hint, hint, Bruce, not only has your strength and agility been drained but so has your brain capacity, because the “Colossus” virus certainly sounds akin to the world’s first premier stadium of the ancient days, and it sounds oddly similar to the description of one villain who proved nearly too much for Bruce once before . . . Bane!
Through the voyages across the old country, the gothic visuals have added emotion and life to Batman and the Joker while they, at each other’s throats, seek the answer to the riddle of their ticking time bomb, a virus set to tear apart their bodies from within and kill them harshly.
The banter is priceless in these books working off the nearly eighty year old love/hate relationship, I mean the Batman and the Joker relationship, in a new way.
The Joker, who continues his killing of innocents right under his temporary partner Batman’s nose, wants to see his Bat dead, but not as much as he wants to live long enough to enjoy the murder.
This twisted view is brought to life by Azzarello and Casali and the perspective is refreshing and innovative, if not a little disturbing.
Through all of the mystery and puzzles, the duo find Bane at the center of a sporting venue, but still they do not recognize him. He had been watching their degradation closely but without his mask on.
Seeing his prey nearly succumb to death, he places the mask on and roars to life as the monstrous physical threat that broke Batman and nearly killed him during the Batman: Knightfall series.
At first I admit, as a reader of these books I was completely taken aback.
Bane? How the hell could he devise this scheme?
Well, actually it makes a ton of sense, because Bane was familiar with the drugs that gave him superhuman strength and agility, and he also nearly defeated Batman before by taking advantage of the hurling of so many villains at the dark knight over such a short time span that he was exhausted when he finally got his back broken by Bane's knee.
Bane worked with scientists for chemical enhancements in the Batman Arkham Asylum video game as well, which has its own intriguing story.
Bane’s Plan B in Batman Europa: poison the hell out of Batman and force him to travel, to work away his strength, and then to either strangle or work with his most hated person in or out of Gotham, the Joker.
As Bane twists the Joker’s arm to spaghetti and prepares to wipe out Batman, the duo seems to find a last breath of adrenaline. Bane admits that by keeping each other alive they have kept the possibility of a cure alive, because each other’s cure rested in the other’s blood.
But then he tells Bruce that the Joker committed murder right in front of him.
Batman can kill the Joker before he dies or let the cure in him live on as he takes the fight to Bane.
What does a dying Batman do? He conjures an age-old distraction to give him a chance.
The bats fly in droves and fill the air, as we most recently saw in the Batman Begins film.
Batman makes his decision.
The last wind is taken in and Batman unleashes all of his frustration and fury and pummels Bane until he falls unconscious.
The final battle set amidst the stunning landscape of Rome and the flurry of bats is epic!
And as much as it pains him, Batman decides to take some of the blood gushing from the Joker into his own body to save himself minutes before death could claim him; Joker likewise takes on some of Bruce’s blood to live on as well.
Bruce Wayne’s conscience is tortured though, because his own life only remains on earth via his enemy's blood and curing the Joker in turn.
The intelligent story is new and dark and carves new ground.
The amazing visuals throughout each of the different artists, starting with Jim Lee and ending with Gerald Parel, made each issue of Batman Europa, from #1-4, so very unique and impactful.
Review Grade: A
“Bloody Fine Art Meets Poetry In Batman Europa #4 Finale!” was written by R.J. Huneke
Artists looking at art.