Overview

Batman #686

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Batman #686

Credits

  • Words: Neil Gaiman
  • Art: Andy Kubert
  • Inks: Scott Williams
  • Colors: Alex Sinclair
  • Story Title: Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader? Part One: The Beginning of the End
  • Publisher: DC Comics
  • Price: $3.99
  • Release Date: Feb 11, 2009

"Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?" is an apt title for this issue, and after reading it fans may be asking themselves the same question. Let’s be honest, Batman hasn’t been himself as of late. With all the meandering shenanigans of "Batman: R.I.P" and his supposed death in Final Crisis, he has come a long way from his pulp roots and standing as DC’s most earthbound hero.

Of course, the beauty of Batman is that he can fit into most moulds with ease. He can be the detective, the martial artist, the superhero, the hi-tech spy or the aloof father figure. He has been all of those things, but it’s what he is now that brings us this issue – dead. For now, at least.

Writer Neil Gaiman and artist Andy Kubert concoct another in the latest of somewhat unfamiliar Batman stories, in their first half of this rather unique farewell to the Dark Knight. It begins with Bruce Wayne and an unrevealed female character discussing the forthcoming events and acknowledging the strange Gotham that they take place in. As Selina Kyle arrives in a long car with a feline motif (Two-Face and Joker later arrive with their own branded vehicles) for Batman’s funeral, we know that there is something unsettling here. This clearly isn’t the Gotham we know. Alfred welcomes all the visitors to the rear of the bar, operated by Joe Chill, the killer of the Waynes, and places all the villains on the left and all the friends, such as Jim and Barbara Gordon on the right. In a nice twist, when Kirk Langstrom A.K.A. Man-Bat arrives he is able to choose whichever side he wants.

It is then that this tale becomes, like Joker’s multiple origins over the years, a semblance of facts from different perspectives. First up is "The Cat-Woman’s Tale" in which a now older version of Selina presents her story of her romance with, and ultimately responsibility for, Batman’s death. Then it’s Alfred’s turn, in the highlight of the issue. In "The Gentleman’s Gentleman’s Tale," Bruce’s loyal butler tells a different version of events. He recounts how he encouraged Bruce’s Batman fixation, and eased his depression by making his actor friends pretend to be new villains such as The Riddler and Penguin. Eventually Alfred invents a new persona – The Joker, to give Batman a truly worthy foe, and focus. When Bruce discovers this sick joke, he gets enraged but discovers there’s still a need for a Batman in Gotham. However that doesn’t help him avoid death from The Riddler’s itchy trigger finger.

The conclusion to this two-parter in Detective Comics #853 by the same creative team will have a lot of questions to answer. This opening issue’s look back at Batman over the years, or rather decades from the 1930s to the 1950s, will mean more to long-time Batman fans than those expecting a simple narrative with an easy ending.

Kubert’s art is okay, but it’s not his best work. He manages to convey both the Golden and Silver Age worlds with ease and fills the panels with details in the grimy bar/funeral scenes. Considering it’s not filled with action, which is Kubert’s forte, it’s lacking his usual zest. The four page sketchbook section towards the end of the book is a nice display of his talents though.

Gaiman’s skill as a writer is without question, and it’s obvious why he’s achieved equal success as a novelist. Every page is brimming with fantastic word smithery, and he knows how to present alternate Elsewords-like looks at Batman’s past in only a few pages. Like Alan Moore’s similarly created end to the pre-Crisis Superman in "Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?", let’s hope this is a "see you later" to the Dark Knight that ushers in a grand new beginning.

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