Well, that’s one way to do a reboot


It’s been such a long time since part one of Neil Gaiman’s “Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?” issue, that I thought I had either missed the concluding chapter, or the release was being held off so readers could get into the full swing of “Battle for the Cowl”.  Detective Comics #853 arrived today, and the wait was worth it as the issue didn’t disappoint.

detectivecomics853cover.jpgContinuing from the previous installment, Batman continues to hang around his own funeral while friends and enemies approach his open casket to share their thoughts and feelings on the legend.  With each story, readers witness the many deaths of Batman; drowned saving Harvey Bullock, dying from a massive overdose of Joker venom, throwing himself in the river with a bomb strapped to his chest in order to save Gotham city, and on and on.  And through it all, Batman is trying to figure out what exactly is going on, all while a mystery voice prompts him for actions and answers.

I was under the false assumption from last issue that the shadowy female figure talking to the “dead” hero, might have been one of Gaiman’s other creations, but it turns out editorial went another direction with the spirit being Bruce’s dead mother.

It’s not that shocking of a revelation, and considering how the issue ends, it made a lot of sense to go with Martha Wayne over Death.  Batman figures out what he is experiencing is an near death experience (NDE), and believes that the appearance of his mother is nothing more than a final hallucination cooked up by his brain.

And yet, in Gaimain’s hands, the moment is sweet and touching as Bruce gets to have a few more wonderful moments with his mother, and discovers just how much he meant to her.  And then as the light at the end of the tunnel approaches, readers discover it is not the end, but rather the beginning we’ve been witnessing.

There are a number of different ways to interpret this ending.  One might approach it from a pure DC screwed continuity viewpoint in that it shows no matter how many times Batman “dies” he’s still coming back to life because a) he’s the freakin’ Batman, and b) he still has to fight the good fight.  It could also be interpreted as a form of reincarnation, as Bruce’s mother kept asking if he understood what was going on.  In many beliefs systems, the idea of reincarnation is you repeat your life over and over until you have figured out all of your mistakes, thus achieving enlightenment, at which point you pass on to the higher plane.  A final interpretation, and one that I think many readers will latch onto is Batman experienced the Omega Sanction fully, where he’s still living his life over and over again, dying in a number of different ways each time, until he came out of the effect in the past.

If grant morrison can kill Batman, I can’t think of anyone better than Neil Gaiman to tell of his birth.  Granted, Bruce Wayne isn’t really dead, he’s just 30,000 years B.B.B. (Before Batman’s Birth).  Still I was satisfied with Gaiman’s approach, and even though his storytelling method does swing way into the metaphysical beliefs system, I think it shows how cyclical the Batman story is.

morrison and Gaiman have both approached telling Batman tales from very different directions, but both rely on cerebral approaches.  It’s no secret that morrison did nothing for me as a writer for Batman or Final Crisis, and while I was skeptical of Gaiman, I found I embraced his cerebral storytelling more than morrion’s.
In addition to solid storytelling, the art by Andy Kubert simply shines.  If you are not interested in the story, buy these issues for Andy’s art – it is fantastic.  Through each story, Kubert borrows styles and looks from Batman’s 70 years, and he makes it fit together perfectly.  When the reader jumps from the Joker’s Silver Age goofiness of a story (complete with giant props), to Clayface looking a lot like the Bruce Timm style, it just flows naturally.

My biggest question right now is, “this was only a two issue arc, why in jeebus’ name is DC going to release a hard cover of this thing?”  It seems like overkill but when I hear rumors that Neil Gaiman makes a pretty hefty sum of money for every comic book issue he writes, my guess is DC is trying to cover their costs as best they can.  Granted the deluxe edition hardcover does include Gaiman’s other Batman stories from Secret Origins #36, Secret Origins Special #1, and Batman Black and White #2.  As good as this two-parter was, I don’t know too many people who are going to rush out and purchase a $25 hardcover.

It’s going to be a while until we see Bruce again, although with Blackest Night coming up and a Blackest Night: Batman three-parter in the wings, it may be sooner than we think.  Until then, Gaiman and Kubert’s Detective Comics is a great story, with issue #853 earning 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. Allen Jones
    April 23, 2009 at 10:32 pm — Reply

    You know, it may be hard to justify the $25 dollar tag, but as a hardcover with the extras, and all that, with the story being as great as it is., it may be worth it to have a story of this magnitude on the bookshelf. I don’t know, but I’d consider it.

    If they did one for the classic Superman story that inspired this one, I’d consider that one as well.

  2. April 23, 2009 at 10:58 pm — Reply

    JINX! Stephen owes me a soda.

  3. Jerard
    April 24, 2009 at 12:02 am — Reply

    Love this a lot also guy has lakers gear on(Go Lakers!!) i would buy a Hard Cover 25USD Price Tag for this no question. on a related note bought the gotham central HC vol. 1 and am loving it thanks for the GREAT recommendation i already ordered vol. 2 & 3 keep up the great job

  4. Discount Lad
    April 24, 2009 at 1:27 am — Reply

    Birth was the death of him

  5. Ricco
    April 24, 2009 at 9:42 am — Reply

    The “Goodnight” scene et the end was so beautyfull/sad…

  6. ~wyntermute~
    April 24, 2009 at 2:57 pm — Reply

    I am not ashamed to admit publicly that, by the time I arrived at the DC Nation page, I had a few stray tears rolling down the ol’ face… I’ve got to say that this is probably the first Gaiman story I’ve actually, really, TRULY read — comics, novels, whatever — and if this is a good sample of his work, I finally understand why so many people pay worship at the Altar of Neil. Yes, you heard me right — I am a comics fan who grew up in the late 20th century and I have NOT read “Sandman”. :) I’ll get there eventually, I’m sure…

    Anyway, this 2-parter was a wonderful contrast to the dog’s breakfast (just my opinion, remember) that was R.I.P. Both were metaphysical and “deep” and what have you, but this one was told in a fashion that appealed much more to my tastes. The art was magnificent, and I especially liked the pages where the panels were arranged in/outlined by the “Batshapes”…. The cape and cowl, the Bat-symbol, the crouching Batman: gimmicky maybe, but an awfully cool gimmick.

  7. JB
    April 24, 2009 at 3:49 pm — Reply

    I should never have read this review before reading the comic. But I just couldn’t resist, spoilerite that I am. I’m afraid it kinda ruined the comic for me, but that’s my own fault. Too bad.

    This was a really great two-parter, and those were great reviews (yes, that goes for Matthew’s as well), and though they did ruin the comic for me a bit, they also enlightened my reading.

    It’s funny how both Final Crisis and this comic were essentially about stories. I love how Gaiman’s tale is both standing on its own and connected to Morrison’s ; this theory that what is happening to Bats here is the consequence of the Omega Sanction is very smart.

    When you think about its, Darkseid’s words make a lot of sense : “The Omega Sanction, the death that is life !” Batman’s death is actually a constant retelling of his life, a tale always ended and restarted by his death. Like Martha and Bruce say, it is always ending, but at the same time it never ends.

    But now I’m just pointing out the obvious. Great story by Gaiman. I don’t know what to expect from the other batbooks, I just hope Tony Daniel doesn’t crash and burn…

  8. Allen Jones
    April 26, 2009 at 5:00 pm — Reply

    And I was right, they’re doing one for the classic Superman story to come out in July.

  9. hermit
    April 27, 2009 at 9:40 am — Reply

    to Allen jones:

    both books were announced at the same time. i’m getting both without hesitation. i know they’ll justify the 25$ one way or another.

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