Batman: Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader
Writer: Neil Gaiman
Artists: Andy Kubert, Scott Williams
Publisher: DC Comics
Sadly, the two-part Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader, meant to be a farewell coda of sorts to the long and chequered history of the Batman ”“ as DC editorial sharpens its knives to reboot the character this month ”“ comes as a tremendous letdown. Don’t expect much in terms of plot. The first part has a bunch of Batman villains getting together and telling each other stories about the superhero (recently-deceased in Batman RIP and Final Crisis), as the ghost of Bruce Wayne, accompanied by a mysterious woman, oversees the funeral, trying to find out what’s going on. The second is more of the same, along with an overly sentimental observation about what makes the character tick despite his setbacks. Most of the problem stems from the fact that the telling-stories-around-a-teary-farewell schtick is a scenario that Newberry-Medal winner Neil Gaiman has worked into nearly all of his past work. The dialogue makes everyone sound the same ”“ erudite people who say just the right things at the right time ”“ and infuses the proceedings with a vacuous monotony that’s out of place in a superhero comic. Things are also rendered unsteady by the sudden change in tone between the two parts: The first tries to set up a mystery, and the second dissolves into maudlin sentimentality.
Even the art is a letdown. Andy Kubert draws beautiful splash pages of vignettes from Batman’s various career points, his artwork mimicking that of numerous artists who’ve worked on the character before, but the pencils are let down by Scott Williams’ generic inks. Overall, Whatever feels like someone did a twee parody of a Gaiman story by borrowing the superficial elements of the author’s work. A Gaiman project comes with its own burden of advance expectations; now if only the writer would work beyond his comfort zone and live up to them once in a while.