Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?
For almost two years Iâ€™ve been greatly saddened by the carnage going on in the pages of Batman, as obscure moments from Batmanâ€™s 70-year history were brought forward to weave a tale almost as confusing trying to navigate the inner workings of a clockwork motor.Â When readers were presented with the â€œshocking conclusionâ€ to RIP – namely that Batman was dead and not dead, it lead to the question, Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?
What I liked most about morrisonâ€™s Last Rights story was he attempted to write off Batmanâ€™s complex history as the delusional after effects of being mind probed by a sentient pile of dung.Â It was a great way to explain away all the conflicting continuity, and do it in a way that made sense.
If morrisonâ€™s Last Rights is an ice cream sandwich, Neil Gaimanâ€™s tale is a banana split. The issue is so rich and thick, youâ€™ll need a big spoon to scoop out every tasty morsel.Â Â And the issue is so full of goodness, youâ€™ll probably have to set it aside to digest before coming back to finish it up.
In Neil Gaimanâ€™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.Â 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.Â Whether it is Catwoman telling a Robin Hood-esque tale of love and reform, or Alfred explaining how Batmanâ€™s rogues gallery was created (along with a very cool new Joker origin story), readers are presented with what is essentially an Elseworldâ€™s tale that is fun to read, pays homage to the past, but doesnâ€™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 wouldnâ€™t surprise me if it was Gaimanâ€™s Death of the Endless character, but it could very well be Martha Wayne.Â That reveal will tell us how the story fits in with the greater Batman story unfolding at DC.
One canâ€™t have a banana split without chocolate, whipped cream, and nuts, and those tasty bits flow from the pen of Andy Kubert.Â While Gaimanâ€™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.Â Itâ€™s not just characters like Jack Burnleyâ€™s Penguin, or Frank Millerâ€™s Green Arrow from Dark Knight Returns, that will turn heads, but also the minor details, like the car the characters arrive in.Â The keen eye will note the Red Hood arrives early, but Iâ€™m curious as to who the colorful figure sitting in the front row is.Â Itâ€™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 heâ€™s going to stick around to see how it ends.
As good as the issue is, itâ€™s not without one major problem.Â 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 morrisonâ€™s Last Rights.Â 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.Â The big reveal will determine the success of each of the This is Your Life stories.Â That being said, of the two, Gaiman is telling a far more compelling story as itâ€™s not as jarring in its storytelling as the one found in Last Rights.
Iâ€™m enjoying Gaimanâ€™s take on the classic â€œHow I Killed the Batmanâ€ tales.Â I enjoyed theÂ heft of the issue thanks to the extra pages, and didnâ€™t even mind the $3.99 cover price.Â The art is fantastic beyond belief – although Iâ€™ve been an Andy Kubert fan since his Adam Strange days.Â 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.