It's nice to see Batman get out of the batcave -- get out of the bleak darkness of Gotham City -- every once in a while. And Mark Waid makes good use of the Barcelona setting here, using the architecture and culture of the city as the motor for this nice little (oversized) one-shot.
As you can imagine, this issue doesn't take place in current Batman continuity. It doesn't feature Bruce Wayne in Anthro's cave or Dick Grayson bombing around Spain with Batman's evil little kid as his sidekick. No, this is basically what used to be called an inventory story -- a pretty good inventory story -- that brings back the classic Batman we all know and love. The one who has more than one variety of Batcycle. The one who has secret stashes of costumes and equipment all around the world. The one who acts as a foppish playboy by day and a costumed avenger by night.
The premise of this comic is that Killer Croc has become delusional -- by way of psychotropic enhancements, thanks to the Mad Hatter -- and thinks that he's some reincarnation of the great dragon once slain by the valiant St. George. Basically, the Arkham villains played a trick on Croc, hazing him because he's not part of the Batman Rogue Legends club, and getting him all mixed up in a bunch of serial killings in Barcelona just so he can lure his "Knight" into the open.
So, yes, it's the Batman-as-St. George, Croc-as-the-Dragon situation that was so iconically presented in the Morrison/McKean "Arkham Asylum" graphic novel, but this time it's the basis of an entire story, and not just a Jungian symbol of Batman's final psychological battle. Waid and artist Diego Olmos play it straight, giving us a Batman story with a little bit of mystery, a little bit of detective work, and plenty of action. It's Batman vs. Killer Croc set against the architecture of Barcelona, and it's an entertaining read.
Olmos is a meat-and-potatoes kind of visual storyteller, nothing flashy, but everything presented in a sleekly solid way. Yet he can also do the big moments, the big splash pages, like when Batman glides down over a menacing-looking Killer Croc. A few of the pages seem a bit stiffly posed, and some of the fight choreography looks a bit stale, but, overall, it's a nicely drawn comic.
"Batman in Barcelona" has seen a simultaneous release in America, Italy, and Spain this week, so in many ways this is designed to be some kind of small publishing event. But it's an ambassadorial event, spreading some classic Batman goodness around the globe. As a comic meant for such a purpose, you could do a whole lot worse than "Batman in Barcelona," because this is a cleanly-told celebration of the character, an adventure story about a man trying to be a hero, slaying dragons and saving the day. If "Battle of the Cowl" has left you wishing for a traditional Batman tale, then this one might be for you.