Written By Neil Gaiman
Art by Andy Kubert with Scott Williams and Alex Sinclair
Batman has had a rough year with dying in Batman R.I.P. and having God only knows what happened to him in Final Crisis (really Batman in prehistoric times WTF Grant Morrison?) Sadly, the wonderful run on Detective Comics by Paul Dini (Batman: Animated Series, Zatanna) came to a close with R.I.P. However, as a bridge in stories, DC gave the reigns of the Dark Knight’s longest title to Dennis O’Neil (you should know who this is) and now Neil Gaiman (Sandman, Coraline, Death: the High Cost of Living). To go along with the seemingly top tier story, we get the pencils of Andy Kubert and inks by Scott Williams. How does the master of dark and dreary Vertigo comics fare with the Caped Crusader? Read on Bat fans!
Detective Comics #853 is the last part of the “Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?” storyline. This storyline plays off of the apparent death of Batman from R.I.P. However, the story is really esoteric and a bit odd in its portrayal of time and even Batman’s identity. Long time Batman fans are treated to a myriad of costumes and classic character looks for the Bat and even his long time Rogues gallery. This issue opens with Batman’s wake and we get a bit of metaphysical drama with Batman wondering if he is dead and to what extent his life has been played out. Confused yet? I know I was until I got into the spirit of what Gaiman is saying about Batman and his actual identity. We get a very “I think therefore I am” vibe from Gaiman’s rendition of Batman.
A high point is Batman’s actual death being told from different characters from the Batman mythos. However, each “death” has Batman win in some fashion. This is interesting because Gaiman really understands the nature and determination of Batman. The problem lies in the fact that this story seems weird for the sake of being weird. Now, I am a huge fan of Neil Gaiman. In fact, I read the single issues of Sandman as they came out from around issue 50. I have all of his novels and enjoy them immensely. Instead of giving us a great superhero story, Gaiman sticks with the weird and convoluted plot the entire issue. In my opinion, Gaiman’s strength lies in taking a character that no ones cares about and adding depth along with meaning and reason. Here, Batman seems over the top and very contemplative. He has a bit too much Morpheus from the Sandman and not enough Dark Knight detective. We understand that this story is possibly taking place inside Bruce Wayne’s head, but that is all we get. There could have been a lot more fresh ideas and plot twits.
The story is a great insight into Batman, but not an exciting Batman tale. In fact, the ending is very strange and maybe even Freudian. We are faced with the same conclusion that has always been hammered into our heads as Batman fans: Batman is sad about the death of his parents. Instead of telling us this every issue, show us a character that exemplifies this notion. It’s like having Spiderman repeat “With Great power comes great responsibility” over and over. We understand the character of Batman. Now, give us something new to think about. Gaiman tells an interesting story, but please give us a bit more superheroics. These stories are missing that depth of Batman that we all love.
Andy Kubert’s artwork is tremendous with this issue. While some people hate the Kubert style on DC Comics, it fits quite nicely on Batman. It is nice to see Kubert get some practice on classic characters that his Father, Joe Kubert (you should know who this is too), may have drawn in his tenure at DC. Kubert’s Batman reminds me of a more shaded Neal Adams (again, read your comic’s history). We get various incarnations of the Bat suit and Adam Kubert delivers each time.
The various splash pages are well done and show painstaking detail. In fact, for some shots, we are treated to a sort of Batman collage of images from the rich history of the character. The color separations are beautiful with this issue. Flashbacks are washed to look classic and nostalgic with great success. Overall, a great issue to look at. The cover is a rather nice action scene that is rather eye catching.
Overall ( Not an Average) 6.5/10
The Story 6/10
The Artwork 8/10
Overall (Not an Average) 6.5/10