Detective Comics #853Detective Comics #853
Written by Neil Gaiman
Art by Andy Kubert & Scott Williams
Colors by Alex Sinclair and Letters by Jared K. Fletcher
Published by DC Comics
"I've learned... that it doesn't matter what the story is, some things never change." -- Bruce Wayne
There are two things I took out of this second and final chapter of "Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?" One, Batman is not so much a man but a force of nature -- a way of life, if you will. The other is that for a funeral piece, it seems apparent that the Dark Knight will never die. If you think I ruined things with an observation worthy of a spoiler alert, then you clearly haven't gotten your hands on this neo-classic by Neil Gaiman and Andy Kubert to gather all of the eloquently rendered subtext. In every enlightened way, Detective Comics #853 is a celebration of Batman, and as a whole, "Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?" is utterly timeless.
Without meaning to give anything away, those looking for insight or some sort of connection to "Battle For the Cowl" are going to be potentially disappointed. As much as this story addresses Batman's mortality, nothing related to Final Crisis or other recent story arcs are addressed in Gaiman's paean to the story's lead character. It's more existential than anything out there, but between Gaiman's narrative and the art of Kubert and Scott Williams, it's positively sublime. From the first page alone, and without even having referred to the first chapter, it's clear that "Whatever" is talking about whichever Batman you want it to be. The creative team successfully captures many different eras of the Dark Knight's rich and varied history. For example, when the Joker, one of several key figures in Batman's life attending this funeral to pay his or her respects, recalls how he supposedly was the one responsible for our hero meeting his maker and it clearly invokes The Killing Joke without ever being blatant mimicry. Same goes for brief sequences featuring the likes of Ra's al Ghul, Bat-Girl (not the one you know these days), and Superman.
Part Two of "Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?" also works on a very sweet, very human level. Any further detail would spoil the surprise of who's been Batman's escort on this journey to the Great Beyond (never mind the stunning last couple of pages), but I say with confidence that Gaiman & Co. have rendered Bruce Wayne's alter ego at his most heartfelt. I dare say we get a better, more thought-provoking look at the "Man" over the "Bat." We're not even halfway through 2009, but I can't imagine how we won't be heaping the superlatives upon Batman #686 and Detective Comics #853 at year's end, if not years to come. This story is the real deal.