By Neil Gaiman (writer), Andy Kubert (artist), Scott Williams (inks), Alex Sinclair (colors), Jared K. Fletcher (letters)
Some Thoughts Before The Review: He’s fucking dead?! Well no, not exactly. We’re dealing with Grant Morrison here after all, so we can’t exactly buy the fact that Bruce Wayne/ Batman is dead. Plus the last time we saw the Dark Knight, he was topless and doing cave paintings. So after the past year of Morrison’s wacky mysteries and references you can care less about, let’s hope that a writer of Alan Moore’s status can deliver. Neil Gaiman, I’m banking on you to really give us a more appropriate “final tale” for the beloved Dark Knight.
The Story: The book opens with Batman’s friends and enemies coming together to pay their respects. The Batman’s service is an open casket, and lots of familiar faces appear throughout the issue. After a brief showing of who’s showing up, two of the most important people in Bruce Wayne’s/ Batman’s life deliver their eulogies, and reveal just exactly how the Caped Crusader died.
The Good: Neil Gaiman’s writing is as sharp as ever in this tale, as he carefully examines and captures all the quirks and the voice of each character throughout the Batman lore. It’s interesting and actually quite entertaining how Gaiman slowly pans through the event, showcasing numerous characters to guide the story. He finds a way to pay tribute to Batman and really examine the whole mythos of the Dark Knight. Furthermore, it’s nice to have Andy Kubert back. He reminds everyone that not only can he capture Batman from different eras and different interpretations (as shown in each eulogy), he can also perfectly display the necessary raw emotion shown and conveyed throughout this time of crisis.
The Not So Good: When I picked up this book, I was expecting some sort of proper closure. If DC really was going to “kill off” Batman, then it’s only fitting that he’s sent off right by a legendary writer. An iconic writer for an iconic character. However that’s not the case, as Gaiman’s story carries on in a similar way to Morrison’s, where the characters you thought you knew, weren’t who they were after all, and that story of Batman dying is either exactly what did happen or what could’ve happened. You simply don’t know who or what to believe, as you hear two stories that reveal how Batman died.
Furthermore, I can’t help but remember how stupid this whole “Batman R.I.P” ordeal is in the first place. Aside from all the unbelievable/ bizarre situations taking place, an off-screen conversation between Bruce Wayne and an unidentified character is also happening. As revealed in their dialogue, Bruce Wayne has yet to solve another mystery. Therefore, he isn’t exactly dead. And with “The Battle For The Cowl” around the corner, then the “Batman” can never exactly die. If this is supposed to be the Batman version of “Whatever Happened To The Man Of Tomorrow,” then we can expect to find Bruce Wayne/ Batman living and winking at us at the end of this whole mess. Hence proving that the idea of “Batman R.I.P.” was flawed from the beginning.
Conclusion: “Whatever Happened To The Caped Crusader” is off to a not so memorable start. The portrayal and “revelation” of certain characters will never be remembered, as their depiction tampers with history; making you wonder if this is some “What If” story. Also the focus on the multiple perceptions of the Dark Knight isn’t a memorial of the past’s numerous renditions of Batman. It’s a rehashed concept all packed neatly in one book. We’ve seen this done before in Warren Ellis’ “Planetary/ Batman: Night on Earth,” but I guess we can see how Neil Gaiman does it. So expect to hear more eulogies and more stories that summon the Batman from different eras. However as of right now, this book is not measuring up to Moore’s notable tale, which makes the title undeserving. This tale is rather starting to look more like a mere “imaginary story;” an account that fans DON’T HAVE TO exactly consider canonical with the Batman lore.