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Old February 13 2009, 11:01 PM   #1
The Great Meech
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Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader? (Spoilers)

I was a little surprised to not see a thread on this--the first part of Neil Gaiman's Batman story came out Wednesday (it's Batman #686, for those who may want to pick it up.)

I finally read it last night, and it's what you'd expect. It's weird. Anyone who recognizes the name "Neil Gaiman" should know to expect something brain bending. One review I read described this as being like a Grant Morrison comic that is actually comprehensible. Not having read most of Morrison's Batman run (though having read some of his other work), I can't evaluate that claim very well.

I'll tell you what it reminds me of, though. This reminds me of an issue of Sandman.

The issue shows Batman's funeral, set in a bar in a bizarre time- and afterlife-bending version of Crime Alley. Attendees include a 1930s era Selina Kyle, the modern Jim and Barbara Gordon, Dick Grayson, Harley Quinn, the Joker, an Alfred Pennyworth, among many others, with the supposedly dead Joe Chill tending bar out front.

Oh! And Bruce Wayne is there, watching. And talking to someone we don't seem to know.

It sounds odd, I know, and maybe even terrible, but Gaiman pulls it together by letting some of the attendees tell stories about the deceased and his death. We get two in this issue--a story of Catwoman going straight and letting Batman die when he needs help, and a story of Alfred turning himself into the Joker to provide a challenge for Master Bruce. Both are wildly outside of continuity, and both are intended to evoke different eras of Batman--the first being 30s and 40s Batman daring-do and the second 50s-verging-on-60s-TV kitsch.

The set-up reminds me of World's End from Sandman--the telling of stories that don't mesh with one another, that must take place in different worlds but are being told by people in the exact same place. World's End even concluded with a funeral, if I recall.

Gaiman may be pulling old tricks out of his bag, but they're good ones, and Gaiman's writing shows that kind of strangeness that never gets familiar. If you haven't read it, pick it up. I can't tell you what it means for the Batman universe as a whole--if anything at all--but it makes for a fascinating read all on its own.
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