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Batman #686 Review

Neil Gaiman and Andy Kubert come together to give us a wonderful “funeral” for Batman that is a unique and clever celebration of Batman’s almost seventy year history.

The basic concept of “Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?” is that a bunch of Batman’s friends and foes show up at Crime Alley for Batman’s funeral. Then, much like Gaiman’s classic “World’s End” storyline in Sandman (which, in turn, was a cool riff on The Canterbury Tales), they stand up to tell stories of how they killed off Batman.

The first story is told by Catwoman, and it is a great mixture of both Robin Hood’s death (well, one version, at least – and even then, only one part of it) and classic noir stylings.

The second story is by Alfred, and it is a stunning take on the whole Batman Rogues Gallery. Very, very cool. Essentially, think of Alfred hiring actor friends to pretend to be super criminals. What a clever idea and the sadness of it all is executed beautifully by Gaiman.

The whole book is put together beautifully, as it is clear that Gaiman and Andy Kubert have spent a whole lot of time planning this book out. Kubert’s pencils are as impressive as they’ve ever been in the past, and he captures the various styles requested of him by Gaiman wonderfully.

The little touches really made the comic, though, especially the introduction of the major Batman villains, from Catwoman to Two-Face to Joker. Their entrances were almost note-perfect.

Batman fans who appreciate the history of the character sure are in for a treat, as Morrison’s great Last Rites storyline is followed up by this story, which is likely even better.

Both amazingly dense and lush stories evoking the past of Batman but also telling an interesting story in the present.

Highly Recommended.

I’m intentionally being sparse on the details, as the details really make this comic, more so than most. Go read it!

27 Comments

The basic concept of “Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?” is that a bunch of Batman’s friends and foes show up at Crime Alley for Batman’s funeral. Then, much like Gaiman’s classic “World’s End” storyline in Sandman (which, in turn, was a cool riff on The Canterbury Tales), they stand up to tell stories of how they killed off Batman.

Isn’t what you describe a homage to the classic Batman The Animates series story “Almost Got ‘Im?”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Almost_Got_%27Im

It reminds me of the “Where Were You On The Night Batman Was Killed?” series that ran in Batman 291-294 (although I only read the second part). I agree with your review. Very well done issue. Looking forward to part 2.

Not really, as that was villains describing various deathtraps, whereas the Catwoman and Alfred stories in this issue are about as far removed from that as you can get. The Alfred story held hints of Don Quixote, I thought.

I’ve no idea where Gaiman’s going with this (Batman himself seems to be viewing the proceedings, albeit in some sort of disembodied form, and the characters are a jumble of versions from different eras and iterations), but darned if it wasn’t a fun read.

Unfortunately, the conclusion’s been postponed until five weeks from now.

I like how you’re “intentionally being sparse on the details,” but you give away the whole deal with Alfred’s story, which was brilliant. That’s a pretty big spoiler there, sir.

Yeah, I’m glad I happened to read the issue before clicking on this particular review thread. (I usually try to do that, but not always…)

dhnaka, that comic storyline you describe seems to be the inspiration for the animated episode I was describing. does anyone know for sure?

It seems you can say “goddamn” in a code-approved comic now.

I like how you’re “intentionally being sparse on the details,” but you give away the whole deal with Alfred’s story, which was brilliant. That’s a pretty big spoiler there, sir.

By details, I mean the little details that made the book so great, like the entrances of all the big villains.

Two-Face’s entrance alone was just amazing.

Two-Faces entrance was good, but Jokers was even better.

It reminded me quite a bit of something Denny O’Neil said about Joker in one of the History Channel specials before “The Dark Knight” movie came out.

@HunterD: What was the quote? Alternatively, which special was it?

I loved the detail of “Good” being on the “Right” while the bad guys being on the left (taking the obvious Sinister from latin)

Yeah, the book was filled with little things like that.

This was probably the single best comic I’ve read in years.

From previous entries I don’t think Cronin is going to agree with me on this next part, but I think this FAR outshone anything Morrison has done with Batman. Gaiman just GETS how to mythologize all of this in a way that’s warm and touching, but doesn’t fall into sappy oversentiment either. Morrison’s approach to mythologizing Batman always left me feeling cold. This left with me a glow.

Yeah, agreed, we’ve certainly been lucky to have two great writers in Morrison and Gaiman both tackling Batman’s ever-changing history within the span of a few months!

First Last Rites and now Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?

Batman fans have certainly been treated well!

Kubert plays with the art throughout, and the plethora of references is just fantastic — I was a bit baffled initially when I spotted the DCAU Joker inside, but when the direction of the story became obvious, then that was explained.

The one that really amuses me though is the giant typewriter billboard. Never mind getting “Goddamn” by the Comics Code, how’d they get THAT by?

I love how the Selina Kyle that enters *isn’t* the Selina Kyle that speaks.

3.99 for a character i don’t even care about? No thanks.

….and yet you read the review….

The Alfred part was AWESOME!

In the credits, there was a “Special Thanks to Kurt Busiek.” Anyone have an idea as to what kdb contributed?

In one of the Astro City collections, Gaiman wrote an introduction where he mentions plotting out an epic Batman story with Busiek on a road trip just for fun. I wonder if some of those ideas are being used here.

This was a cool issue. I loved the changing art styles Kubert used. I don’t think he’s ever been this good.

And was that one-armed Ollie Queen from Dark Knight in one scene?

This was one of the better comics I have read this year (so far).

Does that count as damning with faint praise? It shouldn’t. I really liked it.

They put nods to past Batman creators throughout the issue. Jim Aparo and Bill Finger (“don’t type it, FINGER it”) are mentioned on page one, Frank Miller and Bill Kane are answers to the crossword puzzle Alfred is doing.

What it really reminds me of, structure-wise, is Gaiman’s “The Wake” arc for Sandman. Even lines like Selina’s “I came here… and that’s all.” I did think it would have been interesting, taking note of the seating arrangement, to have Two-Face sit at the very back–with his chair in the middle of the aisle.

If you don’t care about Batman, you must live in a lonely world.

“It reminds me of the “Where Were You On The Night Batman Was Killed?” series that ran in Batman 291-294.”

Agreed. There are many obvious differences, but it struck me that Gaiman’s tale somewhat echoes that old storyline from the ’70s. After all, it features (so far) two different stories about Batman’s death, which comes at the hands of two different villains — the (somewhat-reluctant) Catwoman and the Riddler. They were the first two who testified in that old Batman arc (which I very fondly recall as two of the earliest comics I owned as a young kid). The third chapter (with Luthor) went off the rails, but it rallied in the end with the Joker’s finale chapter.

Anyway, we’ll see soon enough where Gaiman’s going with this. He’s obviously drawing on many different decades of Bat-stories; I don’t think it’s at all a stretch to note that “Where Were You on the Night Batman Was Killed” is one of them.

Not incidentally, those issues (esp., again, the first two) featured some kick-ass Aparo covers. DC just used the (slightly modified) artwork from the first issue as the cover of the recent “R.I.P.”-inspired collection of Batman’s-death tales: http://www.comics.org/coverview.lasso?id=31389&zoom=4

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