“I found myself saying things like, ‘I don’t have time’ and ‘I have sworn to never write mainstream comics again…”But I ended up saying, ‘Of course I’m there!”’ (WIRED)
The reason a finale for Batman was needed at all is because last year DC did the unthinkable and allowed Scottish writer and well know madman Grant Morrison to “kill” one of comic’s biggest stars in a storyline called Batman RIP. Of course I write “kill” because we all know that no-one ever stays dead in comics especially Batman. But he’s dead for now which gives DC an opportunity to explore what this means for Gotham City as well as Batman’s allies and enemies. It also gives us a chance to see if Bruce Wayne’s heir apparent Dick Grayson, has what it takes to step up and take the Mantle of the Bat. We’re about to find that out in the current storyline, Battle for the Cowl, in which several contenders are challanging Dick’s right to replace Bruce in the pointy ears.
The new Batman will be decided when Battle for the Cowl finishes next month. Then in the summer DC is relaunching the Batman books with new numbering to go with the new Batman.
Which brings us back to Neil Gaiman. As Detective Comics and Batman (too of the longest running comics in history) are coming to an end Dan Didio tapped Neil to write the last issues of both in a story that would bring Bruce’s adventures as Batman to a close. Worried that someone else would ruin it if he didn’t do it, he finally said yes and I’m very glad he did.
His story called “Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader”, which began in Batman #686 last month and ended last week in Detective Comics #853, is a wonderful love letter to the character of Batman and a elegant conclusion to his adventures.
Part 1 starts off strange and continues that way. Friends and enemies gather at Batman’s funeral to pay their last respects to the Dark Knight. However Batman seems to be witnessing his own funeral along with an unidentified woman. The guests begin telling different stories about how Batman met his end. Even stranger some of the characters, like Catwoman, seem to be from different eras and Batman’s body keeps changing to his different looks from over the years. Part 1 ends with a tale from Alfred which can’t possible be true (as imaginative as it is). At this point Batman is as confused as we are when the nameless woman asks if he’s figured out what’s happening.
Part 2 is when the story truly comes to life. I won’t spoil it too much as you owe it to yourself to read it. But I will say the identity of Batman’s mysterious guide is revealed, as is what is actually happening and the ending quite breathtaking both in it’s simplicity and elegance. I am not ashamed to say that there was a tear in my eye as i read the last pages.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Andy Kubert’s art. I’ve never really been a fan of his before but in this comic his art is quite stunning. From the rouge’s crazy cars (Two-Face’s is a particular favourite) to the way seems able to replicate nearly every artist that has ever drawn Batman, he has pulled out all the stops. Gaiman has this to say about Kubert;
“I kept asking Andy to do things that are impossible, and because no one told him they were impossible, he did them.” (WIRED)
I read comics for those special moments. The story or page or panel or sometimes even just the hidden background details that make me laugh out loud or gasp or cry. They don’t come along very often but everytime I pick up a new comic there’s always the chance of another one, which is why I keep comicg back. Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader truly is one of those special moments. It really does feel like the last Batman story and I felt a genuine sense of loss at the end.
So goodbye Batman. I’m glad that Neil Gaiman let us be there with you at the end.