I’ve read lots of Batman comics over the years, everything from The Killing Joke and The Dark Knight Returns to A Death In The Family, Knightfall, All-Star Batman and Robin, The Long Halloween, and Dark Victory. I’ve read material that I haven’t enjoyed one bit, such as Hush Returns and Batman and Son. I’ve missed out on lots of stuff too, like the No Man’s Land and the recent R.I.P. storyline that culminated in the “death” of Bruce Wayne (though we all know he’s coming back next year).
Writer Grant Morrison has been the architect behind the last few years of Batman storylines and I have a love/hate relationship with Morrison. Sometimes I really enjoy his storylines (his first New X-Men arc was quite good and Arkham Asylum is a muddled classic). Other times he just drives me crazy (anything he does that involves “years in the future” I just find absolutely convoluted and confusing). I haven’t read much of his Batman material but what I have has left me pretty cold and uninterested, which is why I was so pleasantly surprised to read a contemporary Batman story that I did enjoy. Mind you, it wasn’t written by Morrison. Instead, the author of Whatever Happened To The Caped Crusader ?is Neil Gaiman, who seems to do no wrong when he writes comic books.
I won’t give to many details on the story of Whatever Happened To The Caped Crusader?, which was originally published in two issues of Batman and Detective Comics last year and was recently compiled into a deluxe edition (along with a few other Gaiman-penned Batman tales from throughout the years). While it does tie in slightly with Batman’s death from Morrison’s stories, WHTTCC can be read as a standalone story. That’s all I’ll say on the details on the tale, though.
What I am happy to report is that for me is the story is a lot of fun and doesn’t rely on the recent past to enjoy it (which is great since I haven’t read much). If you’re a Neil Gaiman fan, either from his work in comics or his novels, his surreal touch is in full effect with WHTTCC. It’s full of weird character moments from Batman’s supporting cast, like Catwoman, who recounts her relationship with Batman over the years, and Alfred, who tells a great story about how he helped inspired Master Bruce over the years. There’s also so beautiful artwork courtesy of Andy Kubert, who pays homage to various Batman artists throughout the years.
I was totally surprised that I enjoyed Whatever Happened To The Caped Crusader?. I didn’t have high hopes because of what I’d read over the last few years. Gaiman’s short two issue tale was a wonderful reminder that, even with the baggage of years and expectations, Batman is still a great character who can still generate compelling storytelling.
You just need to have the right storyteller.