Well, thatâ€™s one way to do a reboot
Itâ€™s been such a long time since part one of Neil Gaimanâ€™s â€œWhatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?â€ 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 â€œBattle for the Cowlâ€.Â Detective Comics #853 arrived today, and the wait was worth it as the issue didnâ€™t disappoint.
Continuing 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.Â 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.Â 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 â€œdeadâ€ hero, might have been one of Gaimanâ€™s other creations, but it turns out editorial went another direction with the spirit being Bruceâ€™s dead mother.
Itâ€™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.Â 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 Gaimainâ€™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.Â And then as the light at the end of the tunnel approaches, readers discover it is not the end, but rather the beginning weâ€™ve been witnessing.
There are a number of different ways to interpret this ending.Â One might approach it from a pure DC screwed continuity viewpoint in that it shows no matter how many times Batman â€œdiesâ€ heâ€™s still coming back to life because a) heâ€™s the freakinâ€™ Batman, and b) he still has to fight the good fight.Â It could also be interpreted as a form of reincarnation, as Bruceâ€™s mother kept asking if he understood what was going on.Â 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.Â A final interpretation, and one that I think many readers will latch onto is Batman experienced the Omega Sanction fully, where heâ€™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 canâ€™t think of anyone better than Neil Gaiman to tell of his birth.Â Granted, Bruce Wayne isnâ€™t really dead, heâ€™s just 30,000 years B.B.B. (Before Batmanâ€™s Birth).Â Still I was satisfied with Gaimanâ€™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.Â Itâ€™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 morrionâ€™s.
In addition to solid storytelling, the art by Andy Kubert simply shines.Â If you are not interested in the story, buy these issues for Andyâ€™s art – it is fantastic.Â Through each story, Kubert borrows styles and looks from Batmanâ€™s 70 years, and he makes it fit together perfectly.Â When the reader jumps from the Jokerâ€™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, â€œthis was only a two issue arc, why in jeebusâ€™ name is DC going to release a hard cover of this thing?â€Â 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.Â Granted the deluxe edition hardcover does include Gaimanâ€™s other Batman stories from Secret Origins #36, Secret Origins Special #1, and Batman Black and White #2.Â As good as this two-parter was, I donâ€™t know too many people who are going to rush out and purchase a $25 hardcover.
Itâ€™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.Â Until then, Gaiman and Kubertâ€™s Detective Comics is a great story, with issue #853 earning 5 out of 5 Stars.