Thursday, February 12, 2009

Gaiman’s Batman Begins; 'Nightwing' Takes A Bow

Boy, that Neil Gaiman is good. So far, I love his retro, mannered take on the Batman story, and Andy Kubert’s panels are full of detailed, gorgeous goodness. I wanted to climb into the first one and go explore Gotham City — that is, if I didn’t think I’d get mugged before walking two blocks. Spoilers ahead!

The "Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?" story opens with a vampy (and perfectly illustrated) Selina Kyle (Catwoman) arriving to attend what appears to be Batman’s funeral— in the back of an abandoned bar. We know this can’t be right because the bartender is none other than Joe Chill, who murdered Thomas and Martha Wayne. Then the story shifts back to the 1940s, with Catwoman describing Batman as the guy who won’t/can’t commit. Her story ends many years later with Bats dying of a gunshot wound in her pet store. It seems that she’s so heartbroken and bitter about his pathological, endless war on crime that she ties him up and allows him to bleed to death. Alrighty.

Next, it’s Alfred’s turn to tell the tale, and the ending is both surprising and pathetic. According to this alternate reality, Batman’s inability to make a dent in Gotham’s devastating crime problem is making him a broken, shell of a man. To encourage him, Alfred, a former actor, recruits his fellow thespians to play colorful, outrageous villains like the Riddler and the Penguin. Alfred himself takes on the persona of the Joker, but even when Batman learns it’s all been a ruse, he can’t let go of the cowl — and he pays with his life. Both stories raise all kinds of questions about Bruce Wayne's sanity, and whether he even exists once you take away the Batman.

That’s great stuff, and it's far more satisfying than any of the previous five or six “R.I.P.” stories. More, please!

I was less enamored of the final “Nightwing” issue, but that’s not Peter Tomasi’s fault. He’s done a good job of making me care about this character, but D.C. has decided to fold Dick Grayson into the other books for now. There is one touching moment when Dick, finally accepting that Bruce is gone, sheds tears in front of Alfred. But that moment is completely undermined when Dick is forced to acknowledge the obvious — that every other major character (Oliver Queen, Barry Allen, Superman) has come back from the dead, so anything’s possible! Again, it's not Tomasi’s fault that death means nothing in the D.C. Universe.

Based on "Crusader," alone I'd give this week in comics a solid B+.


downtown guy said...

I'm a huge Neil Gaiman fan, but I have never read any of his comic book work. I need to fix that.

EDP said...

I think you could get into this story very easily. I really want to get the "Coraline" book for, um, the kids.

downtown guy said...

I've got a copy - the "kids" would no doubt enjoy it. American Gods was one of the best novels I've read in the past few years, too.

EDP said...


T.H. Elliott said...

I need to check this out. The wife loves Neil Gaiman.

EDP said...

It's good stuff, Todd. Definitely worth your $3.99!