Axel-In-Charge: Facing the 'Divided' Marvel NOW! Future
After the level of greatness that Neil Gaiman and Andy Kubert set up with the first part of “Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?,” they were going to be hard-pressed at matching it with the second part, and ultimately, while I don’t think that they did, the second part was still a good comic book.
Quickly in the issue, we learn how Gaiman is going to handle the whole “The first issue was filled to the brim with just two characters telling stories, so how will you handle the stories in issue two?” question by jumping into it with a variety of characters telling short stories of how Batman died. Seven different stories on six pages – and they’re all really strong work by Gaiman and Kubert, giving us heartfelt stories told in one page each (and one page with TWO stories – Harvey Bullock and Clayface).
Then Gaiman takes his best shot at telling a “How Batman dies” story without actually saying “Batman dies,” because, well, Gaiman knew very well that Batman does NOT die here. So he has Batman clearly establish that this all very well could be a Near Death Experience, or in other words, this could all be a sort of hallucination in Batman’s mind.
That’s a smart way to handle it, because, really, there was no other way you COULD play this.
Andy Kubert does a nice job with the pencils this issue, not quite as good as last issue, but last issue was freakin’ AMAZING, so it’s hard for him to repeat such success (although, it’s kinda weird that it took this long to come out).
Gaiman picks up a few notes that Morrison left at the end of his run, basically the whole “Batman never gives up” tune, which Gaiman plays well with a montage of cool Batman scenes mixed with some other possible deaths. Gaiman makes a strong point where he argues, of COURSE Batman dies, that’s the whole POINT of Batman – Batman IS going to die, and we should not expect anything other to happen to him. You basically would HAVE to kill him to stop him, so going in, it is not a surprise that he will die. I think that’s a nice take on the character.
The book ends with an interesting children’s book homage that, while well done (by both Gaiman and Kubert, who depicts the effect of a child “reading” Batman’s life), seemed a bit out of place here, seeing as how Gaiman introduces the notion of the book in this very issue and then calls back to it at the end like it was an established part of Batman/Bruce Wayne’s back story.
Still, it’s well done, as is the issue as a whole.
It’s a nice little two-part story that I think will be an enjoyable reading experience for years to come, well after Bruce Wayne is back as Batman.
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