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Monday, March 28, 2011

Comic Book Review: Whatever Happened To The Caped Crusader?

Whatever Happened To The Caped Crusader?
Written by Neil Gaiman
Art/Pencils by Andy Kubert
Published by DC Comics

In 2009, DC had to come up with a "final" Batman story in the wake of the mental and emotional struggles that the hero endured in the comic book  Batman RIP then following his ultimate fate in the last pages of the crossover series, Final Crisis. Killing Batman in the comic books for the first time caused quite a  stir and thus the need to follow it up with a story that would show the legacy of the Dark Knight over his 70-year existence.

And what better way to do it than to convince one of the most prolific writers of our time to cook up something good for the fans... which he agreed to almost immediately. The guy assigned for the task: Neil Gaiman. It doesn't get any bigger than that. Why? Because anyone who has read his novels or comic books (such as the critically-acclaimed Sandman) knows that every time his name is on that book/graphic novel's cover, they know that what they are about to read is special.

Then you add in one of the top 10 artists in the comic book world in Andy Kubert and now you got a blockbuster of a tandem that looks to bring a special kind of story featuring one of DC's top heroes.

With that said, I really expected this 2-part tale to be something really fantastic story wise, but I feel like I didn't get the kind of satisfaction that I was looking for after reading it twice. Though its not a garbage of a book, it fails to completely amaze me, save for a few good parts. It was just "OK" with me. Maybe I just expected too much mainly because of Gaiman, I don't know.

The story immeditely shows us Batman's wake/funeral in a small Gotham bar called the Dew Drop. A lot of his familiar foes such as the Joker, Catwoman, Penguin, Riddler etc come to pay their respects, which is only seen  in "what if"  scenarios such as this. Some of the Batman's friends are also there in his wake like Jim Gordon, Oracle (Barbara Gordon), Nightwing (Dick Grayson) and Superman - with each one of them sharing his/her own memory of the Bat and how he died (with some taking credit for his death). As for the "real" Batman - or rather a spiritual representation of himself (at least in my estimation) - he observes his own funeral and everything that is taking place with an unknown female entity/figure. (I know what you're thinking right now...Hah.)

Now every story that  is presented to the reader is different and is connected to the others. And i think that's what confused me when I first read it. I was like "where is this going to go?", but upon the second reading I realized that each story - be it from a villain or a friend - contains some similarities that is essential to understanding of the whole concept that Gaiman plotted for the book.

And this is where I give praise to Gaiman - he knows that unlike Superman, Batman has to be written in a different kind of way: he is an intellectual character so he was to be written in a manner that would utilize metaphors and symbolisms in order to create an all-original-thought-provoking material.  In addition to that,  he teases the reader into thinking as to who is the unknown entity/figure that Batman is talking to the whole time... and I have to admit, Gaiman totally got me there.

But the real jackpot lies behind Andy Kubert's gorgeous pencil work that pays homage to almost every Batman artist there is. Kubert totally showcased his skills in this book by imitating the art styles of the great artists that came before him, including Batman co-creator, Bob Kane. Very cool, I must say. Therefore, we get a real throwback treat with some 40's 60's and 80's art fused with Kubert's modern artistic sensibilities that flows naturally to Gaiman's every word  - something that we don't see everyday in comics.

So despite the lack of suspense and some boring and confusing stories, Whatever Happened To The Caped Crusader? is a good read that anyone could enjoy. And though it is somewhat "tied" to Batman RIP and Final Crisis, I can say that it stands on its own as a whole because of its originality. Props to Gaiman and Kubert for coming up with something real classy as this.

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