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
Bristling out of the gate and lashing out politically at the issues of our current real world dystopia, Frank Miller has launched another bold view from the grim world of a Batman, * ENTIRE ARTICLE SPOILER ALERT * who comes out of retirement to make a police brutality statement from the opening pages of Dark Knight III: The Master Race.
Rarely have readers been so taken by surprise at the very start of a book.
A young African-American male tries to tell his friend that the "Bat" is back.
And not only that, but Batman is “on their side”.
This statement is met with disbelief.
But the stark visual story that follows does not lie.
The Gotham beat cops chase the skinny young man down, corner him, and though he is not a threat, the starkly white officers open fire on him . . . and Batman swoops down to deflect the bullets.
Batman – from the gritty, but all too realistic DKR through DK3 world – has turned another corner.
The Bat is furious and beats the hell out of the corrupt policemen, making him public enemy number one once again.
One of the most prolific writers of the 20th and 21st centuries, Frank Miller has teamed up with Brian Azzarello to write this incredibly powerful graphic novel follow-up to The Dark Knight Returns and The Dark Knight Strikes Again, and this shocking war on Gotham’s police is begun in the first issue!
Miller has brought back the brilliant coloring of Klaus Janson, and brought on a newcomer but one of the premiere Batman artists in his own right, Andy Kubert, to pencil and ink the comic book.
Miller is so happy with the work and Azzarello's writing that he is already at work on DKIV, the finale of the series.
In an interview with Mr. Miller, Newsarama asked: "Frank, when I talked to Brian [Azzarello] about DKIII, he said that although it takes place three years after the second The Dark Knight Strikes Again, it very much belongs in our current day...was that something that was important to you?"
Miller: "Yeah, at the time, I was living in Manhattan and it was overridden...you know, Dirty Harry was my favorite character in the movies...I was extremely angry. And this all kind of burst forth on the page for me. And DC Comics broke all the rules and let me take one of their known heroes in directions that gave some of them an ulcer. It was really a blessed time." [Read the entire newsarama.com interview here]
A flurry of artists are making variant covers for each issue of the historic piece as well, including Jim Lee, Jill Thompson, and Dave Gibbons, to name a few.
From the early Batman: Year One books, Frank Miller’s Batman has long been more edgy, a bit of a smarter, methodical and, at times, philosophical detective as much as he is a vigilante, but for all of that Bruce Wayne’s Bat persona is also not afraid to use action, or an onslaught of violence, to attempt to right the wrongs presented him by the world’s most unscrupulous city, Gotham.
In the first of the graphic novel trilogy, The Dark Knight Returns, Batman breaks his “one rule” by committing an act of murder, as he snaps and kills the Joker.
What brought the aged Dark Knight to that point of disparagement?
Another Joker murdering spree, dead kids, and thinking of the myriad lives lost due to the Joker being left alive to continually break out of incarceration thanks to a broken system.
The Gotham force and the US government do not look favorably on the Bat. Strife ensues.
The statement: sometimes war is brought upon you and there is no choice but to fight and end it yourself or let the system continue the cycle of innocents subjugated to murderous madness.
This directly links to the new book, Dark Knight III: The Master Race, which is truly reminiscent of the previous theme, and speaks largely of the world’s devolution thirty years after the first book was published in 1986.
Now the Gotham Police force has attempted to end violence by systematically attacking, instead of subduing, and shooting first and asking questions later, rather than assessing threats from the violent and the non-violent.
This is a gutsy statement to call out the police brutality issue at a time in America when many feel their respect for the police needs to extend to blind obedience to a police state, despite police being charged with serving and protecting all of the citizens of their state, not just the wealthy or the white.
This practice of systemic police brutality has been met with stark criticism represented in the news clips Miller brings us in the book: see the eerie resemblance to political correspondent/comedian Jon Stewart, and also the blind support from the racially biased, Caucasian, western media and public, who are also aptly represented in the “fictitious” work.
The society of Gotham is split, as many support the courageous cops, who certainly lay their lives on the line, despite their prevailing views of racism and their “shoot first” mentality.
Frank Miller’s police brutality depiction is frighteningly similar to the real world, as it is today and may, without unified calls for reform, continue into the future.
Batman sat out the fight for years, but seeing no end, he rose up to save the lives of those wrongly targeted for execution, for murder, by a brutal police force.
As Batman is finally caught, closing out the first chapter, the Bat is revealed to be none other than Carrie Kelley, Batman's former Robin.
She tells the commissioner that Bruce Wayne is dead.
Carrie is in the hands of the state now, the Master Race, and we can only fear for her going into the next book.
"Police Brutality Statement: Dark Knight III: The Master Race" was written by R.J. Huneke
Comics News & Reviews: a POWkabamBlog
Artists looking at art. POWkabam!