Detective Comics #853 as a Neil Gaiman Event
By Leroy Douresseaux
May 8, 2009 - 14:08
Writer(s): Neil Gaiman
Penciller(s): Andy Kubert
Inker(s): Scott Williams
Colourist(s): Alex Sinclair
Letterer(s): Jared K. Fletcher
Cover Artist(s): Andy Kubert, Alex Sinclair
$3.99 US, 48pp, Color
In 1986, DC Comics published a two-part tale that ran in Superman (Vol. 1) #423 and Action Comics #583 entitled “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?” Written by Alan Moore and drawn by Curt Swan, the story was meant to close out much of Superman’s fictional history – in particularly, that which occurred before the events of DC Comics’ mid-1980’s event series, Crisis on Infinite Earth. Essentially, Moore was giving the Silver Age (and probably the Bronze Age, as well) Superman a funeral.
Nearly a quarter century later, DC is publishing a similar kind of goodbye story for Batman. Starting in Batman #686 and written by Neil Gaiman, “Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?” features a Batman that is more or less a representation of the character over its 70-year history. Chapter 1 opens in Crime Alley, the crime-ridden section of Gotham City where a mugger murdered Bruce Wayne’s parents before young Bruce’s eyes. There, in the backroom of a rundown bar, Bruce Wayne’s butler, Alfred Pennyworth, presides over a wake for Batman, whose corpse lies, fully costumed, in a casket at the front of the room.
The story concludes in Detective Comics #853, which opens with Batman’s friends and adversaries recounting the day the Caped Crusader died. Each story is like a eulogy; however, each guest tells a different story of how Batman died – each death in a different time, and occurring under different circumstances. Which is true? Can Batman have died so many times? The surprising answers are revealed with the return of someone very close to Bruce Wayne.
THE LOWDOWN: “Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?” ends better than it began, not by much, but one must give credit to Gaiman’s cleverness and imagination. The story more or less offers, in the context of the superhero fantasy, a plausible explanation for a character that has changed so much over 70 years and one that has had numerous incarnations, just in the various Batman publications, alone. “Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?” also offers a neat explanation of what Bruce Wayne may be busy doing while someone else is watching over Gotham City.
POSSIBLE AUDIENCE: People drawn to Batman events will want to read this.
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