Batman #686 and Detective Comics #853
Story by Neil Gaiman and Art by Andy Kubert
We all know that Batman isn’t really dead. But it’s nice to see a death of Batman story turned into a sweet Neil Gaiman confection. You can read “Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?” now as there are fully stocked shelves with the story appearing in Batman #686 and Detective Comics #853 at your LCS.
None of the villains are particualrly menacing. They’re more like little marionettes dancing around in a fairy wonderland. We go through numerous scenarios of how Batman could have died including the most implausible case involving Alfred being the Joker. But, quickly and with style, we learn that these are only scenarios. This may even all turn out to be a bad dream.
As befitting a Gaiman tale, childhood and slumberland play a pivotal role. We see Bruce Wayne and his mom share great joy in the reading of a bedtime story. This scene takes on greater and greater significance as the story progresses, as it shines light on the deep recesses of Batman’s mind, and brings us full circle to a surprising ending of sorts. What’s not to like? Add to that the lush and intricate art work of Andy Kubert who does yoeman service as he brings to life various Batman eras in styles from each period.
However, I think that Gaiman piles on too many scenarios for how Batman could have died but maybe that goes with the territory. The point is, in this story, that it really doesn’t matter how you die but that someday you’re going to die anyway. And that’s something profound for anyone to mull over, especially if you’re Batman. An opportunity is lost in moving this promising theme forward since the Batman in this story is endlessly saying that he’s not a quitter and he’s there to save his city making him sound more like a third rate politician than an inspiring legend. It’s as if Gaiman gets caught up in a spin cycle where he feels obligated to reverence. He even has Robin pretty much say that Batman died for our sins.
All in all, it’s a good effort but I’m lost as to whether anything was really said. The fun stuff in this two part story is seeing Batman from various eras, some of the metaphysical playing around on Gaiman’s part and the curious ending which brings to mind, in a way, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Maybe that’s what happened to the caped crusader. In the end, it doesn’t seem to matter. It’s probably all a bad dream and you’re going to die anyway.