Thursday, February 12, 2009
Batman #686 - Whatever happened to the Caped Crusader?
Written by Neil Gaiman
Art by Andy Kubert, Inks by Scott Williams
Colors by Alex Sinclair, Lettering by Jared K. Fletcher
Published by DC Comics
Taking a page out of Alan Moore's "Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?" (Superman#423 & Action Comics #583), Neil Gaiman takes a shot at a "final" Batman story with the two-part “Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?”. It is the death of a Batman, but it’ not the modern day version who’s recently been through "Batman R.I.P.," "Last Rites," and Final Crisis. No, the Batman that is dead in Gaiman’s version is more of an indeterminate Silver Age take on the character, with the setting and characters mostly matching the period (although. Barbara Gordon is seen in a wheelchair).
Throughout the issue, Bruce Wayne and an unknown woman (I have my suspicions who he is talking to) watch his funeral take place, with each person giving a different (and conflicting) version on how the Batman died. It’s sort of like Rashomon, but with that patented Gaiman charm. It's 48 pages of sheer Silver Age (or Bronze Age, depending on your tastes) goodness with a mythic – or Twilight Zone feel, a perfect blend of Gaiman at his dreamy weirdness (the bartender at the Dew Drop Inn is named Joe – “I was here at the start of it all...I’m not going to miss the end,” and the characters – for all their animosity, are shown as colleagues, each with an inner nobility).
Every villain in the Bat-gallery shows up to pay their "respects," rolling up in their perfectly-themed cars: Two-Face has a two-sided car, Joker has his Jokermobile, Catwoman has her "Catillac." Even in a fully occupied room, Andy Kubert's attention to detail is seriously top notch -- you can readily tell who's who. And if you can't, Gaiman makes sure you can with spot-on dialogue. Through the story, Gaiman covers many eras of Bruce's life and does it flawlessly, offering two very unique (and controversial, to be sure) takes on how two of the people who loved Batman the most “killed” him.
Kubert's pencils are complemented very well by Scott Williams' inks. Nothing is over-rendered, and the panel layout is simple and you don't have a headache trying to read the issue and figure out what’s going on (see "Batman R.I.P"), let alone which panel happens before another. There are a plethora of ways to interpret this story, but nothing will be final until the next part which will be in Detective Comics #853.
For those who were turned off by what happened with the character in “Batman R.I.P,” You owe it to yourself to come back for this story. It’s a good Batman story, to be sure – perhaps one of the best we’ve seen in years, but it’s also good comics. It’s Gaiman playing in modern myth with Kubert. It’s classic Batman meets classic Gaiman.