An unscheduled visit to NY, some smart ordering by my friendly neighbourhood bookseller, and quick delivery by Amazon.com have meant that I have a lot of new comics to write on. It’s only fitting, given this columnist’s fondness for Batman, that the first of the next few editions of CF that will deal, almost exclusively, with reviews, be devoted to a new Batman comic that ranks alongside Batman: Year One, The Dark Knight, The Long Halloween and The Killing Joke in the pantheon of Batman comics.
Now, writing a great Batman comic isn’t as easy as it sounds. For one, the books named here set a pretty high bar. For another, the competition is intense—there are, arguably, more Batman comics produced than those featuring any other superhero (one reason for this is that anybody who is somebody in comics wants to write a Batman comic). Yet, Neil Gaiman’s Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader? is easily the best Batman comic this writer has read in a long time— which is saying a lot because he reads almost every Batman comic there is.
Back from the dead: The magic is in the plot.
Part of the magic is Gaiman’s writing which is reflected in a great plot: Batman realizes that he is lying dead, with his friends and enemies gathered to pay their last respects to him, by telling their version of his life—and death. And, as one can expect when Gaiman is the writer, there are parallel realities. This is really a spoiler for those who will try and read the comic after reading this piece, but there is one reality this writer especially loved (titled The Gentleman’s Gentleman’s Tale), where Alfred Pennyworth, Batman’s butler, speaks of how he (a former vaudeville actor) took on the persona of The Joker to help Batman overcome the depression he lapsed into when not fighting crime (and of how he, Alfred, convinced his friends from vaudeville days to take on the persona of other villains like The Riddler).
Except for the bit at the end where Batman’s mother and Batman have a conversation straight out of The Lion King about the circle of life, the story is classic Gaiman with each of the alternative takes on Batman’s death being not just plausible, but true. And Andy Kubert’s illustrations which reflect his own unique style are, at the same time, reminiscent of the work of other artists who have drawn Batman comics through the ages. And, for those of you Constant Readers interested in endings, of course, Batman lives to fight another day. Gaiman, like this columnist, believes in Batman.
R. Sukumar is editor, Mint.
Write to Sukumar at email@example.com