Overview: In Batman: The World, writers and artists from around the world take Batman on a series of adventures in their respective home countries.
Editor’s Note: Due to the anthology nature of this collection, we will feature a synopsis and analysis for each short story, rather than breaking up the synopsis and analysis. Spoilers are sure to be revealed.
Story #1: “Global City” by writer Brian Azzarello and artist Lee Bermejo
Synopsis: The first story in Batman: The World begins as pearls fall to the pavement in Crime Alley, Batman talks about how he was born in a brilliant flash that seeped blood throughout the city. As Batman battles Penguin, he talks about how he sees Gotham City as his wife and that he’ll do anything to protect her, save for firing a gun.
As he battles rogues, Batman outlines that, as in many relationships, he eventually grew bored. Batman wandered. Yet, he realized that maybe Gotham wandered from him, that she had outgrown the Batman. Gotham seeped around the world, and in return, Batman ventured around the world. He became the world’s protector.
Analysis: For what this story is, an opening to a volume celebrating Batman around the world, it’s a good summation and intro to what readers are about to dive into, using poetry to tantalize and ensnare readers. It’s simple, short, to the point, and beautiful. On its own, it makes no sense, but as a prologue, it fits within this anthology.
Most importantly, Lee Bermejo’s art is absolutely breathtaking. Seeing Bermejo get a chance to have Batman square off against Penguin, Joker, Man-Bat, Bane, Poison Ivy, Catwoman, and Harley Quinn all at once is a gift unto itself. Bermejo’s designs are spectacular, and readers can get a real sense of what stories and representations in media inspire his designs for these characters. Penguin, for example, feels like an amalgamation of the Arkham video game series, Batman Returns, and the upcoming portrayal by Colin Farrell.
Story #2: “Paris” by writer Mathieu Gabella and artist Thierry Martin
Synopsis: Catwoman breaks into an art museum in Paris. As she searches the museum, she finds Batman waiting for her. Batman implores her to leave, telling her that she shouldn’t steal or linger at this museum any longer.
Catwoman brushes Batman off, and the two spar, with Catwoman ultimately fleeing. Batman pursues. Whenever he catches up to Catwoman, the two fight, and Batman is extra careful not to damage any of the priceless works of art from the museum.
There’s a reason why Batman insists Catwoman leaves. The new curator is someone different, and she will be very upset if she finds them in the museum. In walks Wonder Woman, and Catwoman lets slip that she knew Wonder Woman was the curator. Catwoman surprises Wonder Woman and steals her lasso, ultimately using it to get the truth out of Batman. He loves her, until the day he dies.
Batman asks Wonder Woman where would be a good place in Paris for them to dine. Wonder Woman tells Batman that it’s not the price or menu that counts.
Later, Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle have a romantic night in Paris.
Analysis: This story is cute and surprising, purposely misdirecting readers so that the ending celebration of Batman and Catwoman’s romance lands. In reviewing the second story in Batman: The World, I should have known better, as this story takes place in Paris, which is the perfect setting for a romance story.
The art, while a vast departure from Bemerjo’s art in the previous story, fits the fun, adventurous vibe. Character designs are simple, and this works well for Batman and Catwoman, who both rock their grey suits. Wonder Woman, however, looks a little too blocky, and her sudden, vibrant appearance of red, blue, and gold disrupts the flow of white, grey, and black this story was going with up until that point.
Overall, it’s still a fun and heartwarming tale, one that’s perfect for Bat/Cat fans across the globe.
Story #3: “Closed For The Holidays” by writer and artist Paco Roca
Synopsis: Bruce Wayne arrives in Spain. He’s on vacation, spending some time away from Gotham and from being Batman. An audio recording from Alfred plays, telling Batman that it’s good to get away to help ease the stress, anxiety, wounds, and panic attacks that Bruce has been having lately. Alfred orders Bruce to see the beach and live life just a little bit.
Bruce does as he’s asked. He sees the beach, dines out, and enjoys the nightlife in Spain. Eventually, he starts to gain weight and becomes bored. Bruce looks at a photo of his parents, which pushes him to drink. Soon, Bruce can no longer sleep, so he pulls down his suitcase and takes out his Batsuit.
Another audio recording from Alfred informs readers that Alfred noticed that the Batsuit was gone.
In the final two panels, Batman takes flight in Spain.
Analysis: The art in this story is disarming. It makes readers focus on the whimsy and joy of Bruce Wayne’s vacation destination. With Alfred’s audio recording ordering Bruce to relax, we, as readers, are lulled into relaxation mode as we watch Bruce enjoy the first few days of his sabbatical.
Eventually, Bruce tires of it, and we see it wearing on his face. A sadness overtakes Bruce, and he starts drinking and can no longer sleep. In one of the final panels where he dons the Batsuit, Bruce can be seen smiling.
This is who he is. This is what, ultimately, helps Bruce find peace. At least, that’s one interpretation of this disarmingly complex story.
Story #4: “Ianus” by writer Alessandro Billota and artist Nicola Mari
Synopsis: In Rome, Batman has his final encounter with Ianus, a villain with two faces — one that looks to the future and one that looks to the past. As Ianus lays dying, he curses Batman for wrecking his life, for telling Ianus as a boy why Batman wears a mask. Batman wears a mask because it’s a way to change one’s face while being resigned to their true face.
Ianus dies, and Batman flashes back to an earlier encounter with Ianus, one where he tried to convince Ianus that the boy still had a choice to make. After their battle in this memory, Batman flashes back even further, to when he talks with a young boy named Cesare. Cesare is destined to become Ianus, and he tells Batman about the story of Janus, the Roman god of two faces and how life moves in a circle.
Batman tries to convince Cesare that he has a choice, that the tragedy that befell his family doesn’t define him. Cesare tells Batman that his costume changes, but those eyes are the same.
Even further back in time, Bruce Wayne awakens next to Julie Madison in Rome. He can’t sleep, so he goes for a walk. By walk, Bruce means dressing up as Batman. It is here where Batman fails to stop a criminal from murdering Cesare’s father. It is here where Ianus, ultimately, would be born.
Analysis: The fourth story found in Batman: The World is a sad, dark, layered story that both tells the life story of a tragic villain and serves as an allegory for Batman’s never-ending war on crime. Through Cesare, the boy who would become Ianus, we are told the circle of violence that keeps Batman the same, despite the many changes of his suit over the years. Batman is always grieving his parents, always serving as a response to the violence that created him, caught in this cycle that never seems to end.
Such is the nature of comic books, but in this tale, it’s also a tragedy of someone losing himself and not believing in a way out. Though Batman tries to convince Cesare over the years that Cesare has a choice, like Batman, Cesare refutes that claim.
The art is beautiful and haunting, and though the allegory isn’t necessarily new, it’s nice to see it retold through the fable of a Roman God.
Story #5: “A Better Tomorrow” by writer Benjamin von Eckhartsberg and artist Thomas von Kummant
Synopsis: In the Bavarian Alps, two climate activists from an organization called “A Better Tomorrow” drive out in the snow to meet a man named Steingartner. This man is a CEO and a known polluter who has skirted the law.
Along the way, they come across someone in a demon costume. The costume is of a percht, and it’s a nod to local folklore regarding demons. More demons surround the car, and the climate activists are taken into a lodge.
Inside the lodge, the activists are greeted by Joker, who tells them he likes the idea of demons hurting those who have wronged Mother Nature. One of the activists tells Joker that the clown dressed his men up as winter demons, who are banished by the bells of good demons.
Joker introduces himself, then tells the activists that he wants to help them. He offers them a gift. It’s Walter Steingartner tied up with a bomb strapped to him. Joker offers the detonator to the activists, asking who is going to be the one to press the button. One of the activists refuses to commit murder and is promptly killed for this refusal.
Joker paints the other activist to look more like him, telling her that he knows about her past and that she should stop taking her pills.
Suddenly, Batman enters. Batman takes down the Joker and grabs the detonator. After he leaves, the activist gets a text from Joker that tells her that there’s always a second bomb. There’s a link in the text to activate it.
Steingartner appears, telling the activist that he heard everything. As he threatens to put her away, she pulls the trigger, killing him. The activist looks into the explosion, a Joker smile painted on her face.
Analysis: The art in this story is absolutely stunning. You can feel the winter chill in the air, and the almost lifelike coloring that blends both a sense of reality and magical realism. It’s incredible work and should be commended for its uniqueness.
The story, however, is a little on the nose. The idea that Joker is a mischievous demon tempting people, and in this case, an activist, to his side is a nice touch, albeit not necessarily unique or new. The road to how we get there, with all of the exposition about climate change and how horrible Steingartner is comes across as a little hammy and overt. There’s little left to subtlety, which is a shame. It’s almost as if, as readers, we’re being bludgeoned over the head with the themes.
It’s a noble effort with some missteps.
Story #6: “Red Mass” by writer Stepan Kopriva and artist Michal Suchanek
Synopsis: The next story in Batman: The World is in Prague during the peak of the Cold War, Batman chases a psychic by the name of Che Kim Koval. Koval used his powers to get people to commit suicide after leaving everything to Koval in their last wills.
Koval is hiding here, but he’s also working with a man by the name of Dr. Hudec. Dr. Hudec works for the Soviet Union, and he’s built an amplifier that’s connected to a whole host of psychics that will amplify Koval’s powers. Koval will then use his amplified powers to create mass suicides in Western Europe.
Batman tracks down Koval and Hudec and puts a stop to their machine. He brings Koval back to Arkham and hopes that Hudec has learned a lesson.
At this story’s close, Batman talks about the need for justice without ideology or mind control behind it. He notes that it matters that Koval is locked away, that Koval is being kept from harming the public by an unbiased institution free of demagoguery.
Analysis: This is a fun, short little caper where Batman gets to put his detective skills to use in order to track down and stop a mass suicide. The subtext here is about ideology and the power to control people falling into the hands of demagogues. While the setting is the Cold War, which makes sense for a story that takes place in Prague, the subtext is one that can resonate everywhere because, as the story in Batman: The World points out, there is something wrong in all of us.
The coloring is of particular interest here as, when Batman is tracking down the compound where Koval and Hudec are working, everything is cast in a shade of blue. In the lab, everything is cast in red, assumedly to encapsulate the Soviet Union’s color as it pertains to Hudec’s goals of destroying Western Europe. Once justice is served, a blue shade once again casts over everything.
Story #7: “My Bat-Man” by writers Kirill Kutuzov and Egor Prutov and artist Natalia Zaidova
Synopsis: A boy growing up in Russia recounts tales of the “Bat-Man” with his friends. Given a gift of a Batman pencil by his father, he creates all sorts of fantastical tales with “Bat-Man” saving people, traversing the stars, and slaying dragons.
As the boy grows, so too do his drawings. Batman also evolves, and he begins seeing highlights of Batman’s adventures. While waiting for a train, he sees Batman chase down a criminal. This Batman yelled in Russian and disappeared.
As the artist grows, he sees Batman’s adventures from abroad where he fights Russian enemies. He watches as Batman takes on new life in Knightfall, Red Mist, and with the Batman Who Laughs. This is not a Batman that he recognizes.
As an old man, he sees Batman once more taking down a man with a flamethrower. In their final encounter, Batman once more speaks Russian to the man. This sparks something in him, and he in turn hands a pencil to his granddaughter. This pencil is Wonder Woman-themed.
Analysis: This is arguably one of the best stories in Batman: The World, as it’s one of the best examples of conveying the power an idea, like Batman, can have on people all across the globe. As readers, we all have our own interpretations of Batman that we carry with us, and our interpretations differ from each other. At the end of the day, it’s all Batman, and it’s a gift — one that inspires and motivates us.
This story is a sweet sentiment that encapsulates these ideas through the life of an illustrator. As he grows, so too do the drawings. The style changes with time, taking inspiration from a variety of Batman’s biggest stories. It’s really cool, and the changes flow effortlessly.
There’s so much heart in this story. It’s like a love letter to the character, as well as to us, the readers — wherever we may be.
Story #8: “The Cradle” by writer Ertan Ergil and artist Ethem Onur Bilgic
Synopsis: In Gotham, Batman tracks down a man behind illicit shipments of weapons that have been intercepted by Batman and Commissioner Gordon. Bane’s also on the man’s trail, and Batman threatens the man with this information.
The man begs Batman to protect his family. Batman demands to know who is funding these shipments. Before losing his life, the man tells Batman to go to the cradle of civilization, to the “first sun.”
In the Batmobile, Batman tells the Bat-Family to protect this man’s family. Nightwing chimes in that they have Bane stalled. Alfred sets up a private flight for Bruce Wayne, while Batman deduces that he must fly to Ankara and go to the sun disk.
In Ankara, Bruce finds a verse that sends him toward two eagle statues. On the first one, he finds a USB, which he uploads to the Batcomputer and calls in Barbara Gordon for help in breaking the encryption.
In Istanbul, Bruce tracks the other drive and decides to grab it at night, since it’s too crowded during the day. As Batman, he grabs another USB drive. Suddenly, he’s assaulted by two assassins dressed as eagles, named Dawn and Dusk.
Batman pursues them, ultimately getting the drive back. When paired with the first drive, the Bat-Family is able to break the encryption and unlock shipping routes, but it’s a ruse. These routes are old and meant to stall Batman. He busts Dawn and Dusk, but the real threat is still out there.
There’s another court known as the Court of Eagles, and they have been working in partnership with the Court of Owls all this time.
Analysis: This is a fun, globe-trotting adventure for Batman where he has to use his master detective skills, along with Alfred, to help crack the case of these shipping routes. Buried within his sleuthing are details about Turkey, about the cradle of civilization and the many sights and ancient structures it holds. It’s like a mini-history lesson enveloped in a Batman tale.
One of the best parts of this story is that it tries to loop back into the greater Batman canon. The end of the eighth story found in Batman: The World adds to the Court of Owls narrative, creating a separate court known as the Court of Eagles that serves as the Asian counterpart to the Owls.
Story #9: “Defender of The City” by writer Tomasz Kolodziejczak and artist Piotr Kowalski
Synopsis: In Warsaw, Bruce Wayne reflects on the beauty and history of the city, noting that it is eight hundred years old but was rebuilt only decades ago.
Five days earlier, Bruce talks to Alfred about Warsaw’s extremely low crime rate. He notes that there are cases where technology is being used to expose crime as it’s happening, which could be used to benefit Gotham. Bruce says he must meet the woman, Anna, behind this.
After installing a tracking device on Anna’s car, Bruce meets her as a representative of Wayne Enterprises. He wants to purchase her company, Warsaw Tech. She rejects his offer, telling him she doesn’t want Gotham or the criminal element that Gotham stands for, in Warsaw. Just then, she gets a call and has to leave.
Bruce tracks her movements as Batman and sees that she’s scouting out criminal activity far out in the woods. The woman is caught by the criminals, but Batman acts, saving her.
The next day, Anna accepts Bruce’s proposal.
Analysis: The story seems to theme itself after an idea of isolation and protectionism, but it doesn’t go so far as to make a definitive statement about it. Ultimately, it’s pretty bare-bones and arguably one of the weaker stories in Batman: The World as Batman just saves this woman’s life and she changes her tune as to whether or not she’ll sell to WayneTech.
It’s not bad, but compared to other stories in this anthology, it can’t hold its own as well.
Story #10: “Funeral” by writer Alberto Chimal and artist Rulo Valdes
Synopsis: While on a business trip in Mexico City, Bruce Wayne believes he sees a woman being attacked outside of his car window. He orders his driver to stop, but he loses sight of the assault. The woman is gone. The partner riding with Bruce tells him that he may have seen a ghost.
Later, Bruce goes back out as Batman. He hears something calling to him, telling him of how this city, made of light, has a very dark soul. It’s an ancient city, one where each building has been many things in previous lives.
Inside an old building, Batman finds blood and tracks it to a man on the phone, talking about a need to bury a body. Batman takes down the man and turns him over to the police. Yet, the specter of a woman still talks to him, leading him to dig deeper, to unearth the ancient city below Mexico City.
Batman digs deeper, reaching down into the center of the Aztecs’ ancient city. He finds the body of another young woman and gives her a funeral, with the spirit watching him.
Analysis: We’ve seen this story before, one wherein a spirit leads Batman to uncover a past crime, with the whole point serving to show Batman as an allegory for justice for both the present and the past. It’s a wonderful sentiment, one that resonates with the idea that Batman can stand for anyone and everyone.
However, it’s the art that truly shines here. It’s absolutely gorgeous and arguably some of the best artwork in this anthology. The design of Batman, especially, is like that of a specter or some kind of demon — all jagged angles and pointed ends. There’s a mystique to this story that has no equal.
Story #11: “Where Are The Heroes?” by writer Carlos Estefan and artist Pedro Mauro
Synopsis: Lucius Fox meets with business partners down in Brazil. WayneTech was supposed to expand down here, but after a year, there has barely been any movement. Both Lucius Fox and Bruce Wayne suspect foul play.
Bruce listens in while Fox meets, singling out one of the associates, a man named Santos. As Batman, he busts Santos and strikes fear in him, knowing that it’ll help make sure the money goes to the right place, but he knows it won’t last. There are no caped heroes in Brazil. The true heroes are in the schools and on the ground, those struggling to provide for others. Batman will be watching them.
Analysis: In the eleventh story in Batman: The World, we recall an older depiction of Batman, one more in line with Denny O’Neill’s interpretation. This Batman is more empathetic, as we see when he busts a young hood, he understands the hood’s plight that led him to crime. There is a systemic crime here, and it’s harder to root out. It’s only through the teachers and the providers that it can be done, so Batman will keep a watch on them.
This is a great sentiment and a personal favorite interpretation of Batman. I love Batman as the all-knowing father figure, watching us and understanding that sometimes the root of our evils is the world around us. That resonates well here, and the creative team uses it to counter comments about politicians promoting violence and chaos.
Story #12: “Muninn” by writer Inpyo Jeon and artists Jaekwang Park and Junggi Kim
Synopsis: In Gotham City, a man, operating as a fence, kills his wife and then himself, leaving his daughter an orphan. That’s the story the GCPD runs with, but the man’s sister, Dr. Min, doesn’t believe that’s the case.
At WayneTech Korea, Dr. Min calls in the Batman after a device used to scan the girl’s mind falls into the wrong hands. A man named Saba has it. After Batman admonishes her, she says it was originally created for Alzheimer’s patients.
Batman takes a new suit out to the field, heading to Seoul to find Muninn. Finding some thugs, he beats them down and makes his way to Saba. Saba disables Batman, and it’s revealed that Dr. Min set him up. Batman is actually wearing Muninn, and he’s shown a memory from the girl. Min’s brother fell out of a window after being threatened by Batman, who steps out of a red gas cloud.
Dr. Min threatens to release Batman’s secret identity to the world, but Batman deduces that this memory is false. That red gas was a fear toxin, and the daughter was visualizing Batman as her fear because her father was a fence.
Saba reappears, and Dr. Min powers up Batman’s new suit. He stops Saba. Min apologizes, and Batman tells her that memories can be false, which is why they can’t be used for criminal investigations. He also tells Min that she can tell the daughter that her father has been absolved.
Analysis: This story is great! It’s full of twists and turns, and the art is phenomenal. The colors and the style are bright and vibrant. When Batman engages “combat mode” on his suit, everything morphs into black and white. There’s a two-page panel in combat mode that’s so cool to look at, as well as making wonderful use of the limited space to tell a story that’s overflowing with suspense, mystery, and action.
The design of Saba is also worth noting. He’s demonic and very much a physical threat to Batman. Saba’s wild hair shrouds the villain, masking his face in a way that makes him seem almost unpredictable.
This story is everything readers could want in a Batman story, which is a testament to the South Korean creative team working on Batman: The World.
Story #13: “Batman And Panda Girl” by writers Xu Xiadong and Lu Xiatong and artist Qiu Kun
Synopsis: Bruce Wayne tries out a hot pot restaurant in China after Alfred’s recommendation. There, he meets a server who is the granddaughter of the owner of this thirty-year-old restaurant. She’s the top martial artist in the area, and she performs while serving.
Bruce chats her up, and they talk about her love of Batman.
The next day, Bruce face-times with Alfred, who tells him that the whole street the restaurant was on has been bought by Wayne Enterprises. Sometime later, businessmen from Wayne Enterprises enter the restaurant, close it down, and start busting up the place. They even step on the server’s Batman action figure.
Later, the server dresses up as Robin and makes an assault on Wayne Enterprises. Once inside, she’s chased by the goons that trashed her grandfather’s restaurant. Batman arrives, wearing a new suit of armor that’s more indicative of the culture.
Batman and “Robin” fight their way through these goons, and Batman threatens to contact Bruce Wayne.
The next day, the restaurant reopens at Bruce Wayne’s behest. It’s saved, and Bruce arrives. There, he meets the server, Kiki, who is appreciative of him saving their livelihood.
Analysis: This story is cute. The art is bright and bubbly, and the character of Kiki, “Panda Girl,” is so full of energy and goodwill. You can’t help but see why Bruce was charmed by her. Ultimately, that’s what this story is about – meeting the local culture and embracing it. In this story found in Batman: The World, this happens in a variety of ways. First, Bruce tries and enjoys the hot pot Alfred recommended to him. Then, he alters his suit to reflect more of the cultural style. Lastly, he pushes back against his own company to save the restaurant.
It’s a story about pushing back against homogenization, but it’s also one that continues with the overall theme of Batman as a character that’s reinterpreted as a hero for everyone.
Story #14: “Batman Unchained” by writer and artist Okadaya Yuichi
Synopsis: Police are upset at a newspaper that everyone is reading because it highlights all of the good deeds Batman is doing. First, they try to stop people from buying the newspaper, but they ultimately realize that they need to stop the artist.
The police pursue the artist, who flees. While running away, the artist runs into Batman, who tells him to stop drawing Batman illustrations. Batman doesn’t want to see this man in jail, nor does he need the praise. The artist tells Batman that he should be able to draw whatever he wants, so long as it’s not hurting anyone.
Batman ultimately relents and agrees to help the artist. The artist escapes, telling Batman that he’s a true hero.
Analysis: This final story found in Batman: The World is drawn in a fast-paced manga style. It’s a quick, action-packed read, though the story seems a little random? While they explain why the police are after the newspaper and its artist, this doesn’t seem to make much sense. Batman, too, seems out of character, but there’s so little to go on, his few brief statements are hard to get a read on.
The art, however, is fun, and Batman’s design is exceptionally cool, even if the story itself comes across as pale in contrast to the rest of this anthology’s offerings.
Editor’s Note: You can find this special release and help support TBU in the process by purchasing this edition digitally either through Comixology or Amazon, or as a physical copy in a hardcover form at Amazon.