Ricky Church reviews Batman: The World…
The majority of Batman’s adventures take place in Gotham City, but every once in a while an investigation may take him to some exotic locations across the world. DC’s anthology collection Batman: The World features Batman on several cases in countries ranging from France, Italy, Russia, Japan and more. The unique thing about this anthology, however, is the stories and artwork are done by creators from those countries, giving an authentic feel to the locale. Many of the stories have fun adventures and intriguing mysteries while others delve into Batman’s state of mind and how devoted he is to his mission, making Batman: The World worth a fan’s interest.
The book has quite rich and diverse talent involved with their varying writing or art styles as well as what Batman aspect they chose to focus on. Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo’s opening story frames the rest of the anthology as Batman sends a message out to the rest of the world’s criminals that he will not be restricted to Gotham City should they come to his attention. Azzarello’s dramatic and metaphorical prose fits Batman’s character while Bermejo’s artwork is gorgeous as always, taking readers through many conflicts with Batman’s rogues gallery in exquisite detail. From there, readers are treated to a variety of adventures from writers and artists across the world. Some are mystery-driven while others offer a more introspective look at both Batman and Bruce Wayne, giving a sense of freshness to each story that doesn’t feel like a retread of the one before.
The standouts in the collection are ‘Paris’, ‘Closed for the Holidays’, ‘A Better Tomorrow’ and ‘The Cradle’. Leave it to a place like Paris to focus on Batman’s love life as writer Mathieu Gabella and artist Thierry Martin depict Batman encountering Catwoman in the Louvre of all places for a twisted sort of date night on Catwoman’s part. This is a very entertaining story with a fun dynamic between Batman, Catwoman and a surprise guest with a lot of heart and charisma between the embattled lovers. ‘Closed for the Holidays’ from writer/artist Paco Roca is one of the more unique stories not only for focusing entirely on Bruce Wayne, but for being a very visual-driven story as there is little to no dialogue with Bruce being forced to go on a Spanish vacation and seemingly enjoying himself even as he can’t fully dismiss the need to be Batman. ‘A Better Tomorrow’ from writer Benjamin von Eckartsberg and artist Thomas von Kummant is more of a Joker story than Batman as the Clown Prince travels to Germany for a less-than-typical meeting with climate activists after becoming concerned about climate change. ‘The Cradle’ sees writer Ertan Ergil and artist Etham Onur Bilgiç take Batman on a tour through Turkey as he tracks a secret group across the country in an engaging mystery and history lesson.
While each story opens up with a brief biography of the writers and artists and how their comic careers started, along with the foreign titles they are known for, it is rather unfortunate and disappointing we don’t hear from them in short essays why they chose to be part of the anthology or what Batman means to them. The closest it comes is the ‘My Bat-Man’ story from Russian writers Kirill Kutuzov and Egor Prutov with artist Natalia Zaidova, which seems autobiographical in parts as a young writer and artist become obsessed with Batman based on nothing but a silly piece of merchandise, carrying that interest well into adulthood before discovering he’s actually real. Likewise, the only bonus material is two pages of character design sketches for the China and Japan stories. Batman: The World would have benefitted greatly from more insight from the actual creators and where their love for Batman began.
Batman: The World is a pretty entertaining book with interesting stories unique from each other in tone and style. It is very cool to see how writers and artists from around the world adapt Batman to their own style or cultures, but it is a shame the contributors themselves don’t get to share how their love for the Dark Knight and the comics medium in general have shaped their careers and lives. Many of the writers explore an intriguing aspect about Batman’s character or life while their art collaborators provide some stunning work. Only about half the stories though feel truly memorable, but there is something different for many Batman fans to latch onto in each story. All in all, Batman: The World is an interesting anthology with beautiful artwork, but lacks in both material and character depth in some of the stories.
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