Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?


For almost two years I’ve been greatly saddened by the carnage going on in the pages of Batman, as obscure moments from Batman’s 70-year history were brought forward to weave a tale almost as confusing trying to navigate the inner workings of a clockwork motor.  When readers were presented with the “shocking conclusion” to RIP – namely that Batman was dead and not dead, it lead to the question, Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?

batman686cover.jpgWhat I liked most about morrison’s Last Rights story was he attempted to write off Batman’s complex history as the delusional after effects of being mind probed by a sentient pile of dung.  It was a great way to explain away all the conflicting continuity, and do it in a way that made sense.

If morrison’s Last Rights is an ice cream sandwich, Neil Gaiman’s tale is a banana split. The issue is so rich and thick, you’ll need a big spoon to scoop out every tasty morsel.   And the issue is so full of goodness, you’ll probably have to set it aside to digest before coming back to finish it up.

In Neil Gaiman’s Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader, readers are presented with a tale, where villains and heroes alike gather in Crime Alley for a wake for the fallen crime fighter.  As often happens at wakes, each person gets up and tells a story about their connection to the man in the cowl.

Each of the stories are the big scoop of premium ice cream in this banana split.  Whether it is Catwoman telling a Robin Hood-esque tale of love and reform, or Alfred explaining how Batman’s rogues gallery was created (along with a very cool new Joker origin story), readers are presented with what is essentially an Elseworld’s tale that is fun to read, pays homage to the past, but doesn’t attempt to definitively explain how the Golden, Silver, and modern incarnations of Batman are connected.

Who is Batman talking to throughout the issue? It wouldn’t surprise me if it was Gaiman’s Death of the Endless character, but it could very well be Martha Wayne.  That reveal will tell us how the story fits in with the greater Batman story unfolding at DC.

One can’t have a banana split without chocolate, whipped cream, and nuts, and those tasty bits flow from the pen of Andy Kubert.  While Gaiman’s story could have been drawn in any modern style, Kubert uses this opportunity to showcase the past by featuring Batman in several of his classic costumes, creates a very noir-ish Gotham City, and, for those that pay close attention the panels, sees the appearance by heroes and villains, young and old, done in various styles from history.  It’s not just characters like Jack Burnley’s Penguin, or Frank Miller’s Green Arrow from Dark Knight Returns, that will turn heads, but also the minor details, like the car the characters arrive in.  The keen eye will note the Red Hood arrives early, but I’m curious as to who the colorful figure sitting in the front row is.  It’s not the Joker, as he makes his grand entrance later, and I wonder if it has anything to do with the story, or if it is just there to make you think.

The cherry on top has to be the appearance by Joe Chill, who explains his presence by saying he was around at the beginning of the story, and he’s going to stick around to see how it ends.

As good as the issue is, it’s not without one major problem.  While Gaiman has set up a fantastic mystery for readers to try and solve before Detective Comics #853 hits in March, it gives off the same vibe as morrison’s Last Rights.  Not that there is anything necessarily wrong with that, but having two similar tales released so close to one another does seem a bit odd.  The big reveal will determine the success of each of the This is Your Life stories.  That being said, of the two, Gaiman is telling a far more compelling story as it’s not as jarring in its storytelling as the one found in Last Rights.

I’m enjoying Gaiman’s take on the classic “How I Killed the Batman” tales.  I enjoyed the  heft of the issue thanks to the extra pages, and didn’t even mind the $3.99 cover price.  The art is fantastic beyond belief – although I’ve been an Andy Kubert fan since his Adam Strange days.  If you are going to buy one Batman title this year – Batman #686 is it, as it earns a well deserved 5 out of 5 Stars.


The Author

Stephen Schleicher

Stephen Schleicher

Stephen Schleicher began his career writing for the Digital Media Online community of sites, including Digital Producer and Creative Mac covering all aspects of the digital content creation industry. He then moved on to consumer technology, and began the Coolness Roundup podcast. A writing fool, Stephen has freelanced for Sci-Fi Channel's Technology Blog, and Gizmodo. Still longing for the good ol' days, Stephen launched Major Spoilers in July 2006, because he is a glutton for punishment.

You can follow him on Twitter @MajorSpoilers and tell him your darkest secrets...

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  1. Ed
    February 12, 2009 at 5:31 am — Reply

    Loved it!

  2. Salieri
    February 12, 2009 at 6:13 am — Reply

    Some people have claimed that this is all The Omega Sanction, putting Bruce through thousands of guilt-ridden existences in which he is shot down, just as his parents were, and just as he finally shot The God Of Evil.

    One of the bits of evidence for that would be the Joker – notice how, in accordance with Morrison’s idea of the Joker continually shifting between personas, in this story his appearance subtly changes; at the beginning, he resembles the Joker from his first-ever comic appearance, but talking to Harley, his hair becomes a solid piece and his eyes turn black, as with the version that appeared late in the animated series – e.g., in that animated Batman/Superman crossover.

  3. Salieri
    February 12, 2009 at 6:24 am — Reply

    Also, odd that the elderly one-armed baldy Green Arrow from TDKR should turn up, right next to the unaged Poison Ivy & Harley. Does Gaiman just prefer that version of Ollie, or has it some deeper meaning?

    Plus, Top Hat Buddies! God, that sort of thing should happen in regular continuity more often.

  4. Salieri
    February 12, 2009 at 6:31 am — Reply

    Goddamnit, even the clown-suited gorilla from Batman #666 is there, in the second-to-last panel!

    • February 12, 2009 at 7:08 am — Reply

      Salieri: Yeah, I noticed all of those things too… see how brilliant this is? If it is Bruce going through the Omega Sanction, then I prefer this telling over morrison’s Mister Miracle version.

  5. Ricco
    February 12, 2009 at 8:23 am — Reply

    I’m also of those who think this is the Omega Sanction’s effect, which is killing all Batmen throughout the 52 universes. My guess is that the lady is possibly God’s Mercy, as seen in Final Crisis Revelations, or Huntress (as in her daughter and Catwoman’s).

  6. NYJ
    February 12, 2009 at 8:24 am — Reply

    “What I liked most about morrison’s Last Rights story was he attempted to write off Batman’s complex history as the delusional after effects of being mind probed by a sentient pile of dung.”

    Wow, you completely missed the point with Last Rites…Morrison’s point was that it ALL really happened (except the scenes where Bruce never became Batman), as he has stated in several interviews.

  7. February 12, 2009 at 8:40 am — Reply

    NYJ: Whether Batman’s history was a mind F, or morrison attempting to explain that it all really happened in his own way, it really doesn’t matter as morrison was able to tie it together into a plausible explanation of 70 years of history that worked on both interpretations.

  8. Salieri
    February 12, 2009 at 9:45 am — Reply

    I dunno, I liked the Mister Miracle version too…they’re pretty similar, except that Gaiman’s is split into smaller narratives, and Morrison’s is all part of one story. You also notice that while Bruce is aided by this ambiguous female, Shiloh Norman was aided by Aurakles/Oracle and Metron, while Bruce keeps going back to that fatal gunshot, Shiloh was locked in the first eternal struggle with that straitjacket…it’s almost as if the Omega Sanction takes the thing that first inspired a person, and does its best to show them that they’ll never get over it; just as Mister Miracle was unable to escape, so is Batman unable to dodge the fatal bullet that should have seen him off with his parents, nor to get over the guilt of breaking his oath and destroying Darkseid.

  9. Lifeisaglitch
    February 12, 2009 at 1:02 pm — Reply

    I loved the art the story and maybe even more the synergy of the two. How they fit together and how fat and rich in bat-goodnes this issue is boggles the mind. Also i loooooved 60s Riddler doing his same bat-channel, same bat-time thing with Selina Kyle looking at him like he was out of his mind…Which you know he is, still though good times.

  10. Graciela
    February 13, 2009 at 12:00 pm — Reply

    It was a great issue and I enjoyed it so much more than Morrison’s Last Rites. Gaiman’s really did feel like a eulogy and homage to Batman. So I was surprised to find a lot of haters for the issue on the DC boards. :-(

    And I also thought Batman was talking to Martha Wayne. I can’t wait for the second part of this story.

  11. ~wyntermute~
    February 13, 2009 at 1:48 pm — Reply

    I’ve only read the first few pages, so I can only say this about that portion of the issue: Uhh.. I am confused. Neither “good” nor “bad”, just “confused”. I hope this resolves better than g-mo’s turn at Bat. I’m not particularly a Gaiman-freak either — mostly neutral on him — so this story will have to pass/fail on its own merit in my gradebook. :)

  12. shamon
    February 15, 2009 at 12:56 am — Reply

    In the context of Batman disappearance (the Omega Sanction), it would make no sense that Bruce is talking with Death of the Endless. Death has no power inside of Omega.

    Of course as Gaiman is the author as he was already in Sandman, if he is writing out of continuity and do his own thing without caring about the context like Meltzer did in “Last Will ad Testament”, it could be Death or any other his Endless.

    I just hope the book is in continuity with Batman and so this is not a Gaiman Vertigo character, as it is an issue in the Batman serie, not an elseworld tale.

  13. ParadigmshifterZ
    April 19, 2009 at 2:44 pm — Reply

    I read and re-read it over and over again, and I still can’t get enough of the intricate details that fill every panel. It’s like a dream come true Neil Gaiman doing a Batman story…the first part didn’t disappoint…and I can’t wait for the second part with the big reveal!

    I don’t think Neil Gaiman would include one of his Endless in this story..although it is a possibility…but I seriously doubt this (Death doesn’t like wearing a dress, and the silhouette was clearly wearing a dress…) I know I’m jumpig to conclusions here..but I’m just so stoked about the first issue..I can’t wait till I get to read the second part…:D

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