WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE CAPED CRUSADER? (2009) REVIEW:
“You don't get heaven or hell. Do you know the only reward you get for being Batman?
You get to be Batman.”
- Disembodied voice
Whatever Happened to The Caped Crusader? is a story by Neil Gaiman in which Batman dies. Many times. Each villain/person in the story tells a story of when Batman dies. It’s essentially a reboot story. Batman is able to deduce that the disembodied voice is a result of a near death experience (NDE) that takes the form of his mother. As Batman notes, each story is different, but remains the same. Catwoman, Alfred, Joker, Robin, and Riddler all tell stories of how Batman died; honestly, I found it kinda cheesy for a reboot comic.
Catwoman’s story takes place in the ‘40s, back when she wore a cat’s head mask and no one knew she was a woman. She tells of their first encounter and when he discovered she was a woman. Batman ends up wounded by her some years later after he rejects her advances. She ties him up and allows him to die near her, which is creepy. Then, she quits crime and opens a pet store for high society “ladies.” (But, she uses a different word.)
Alfred’s story was my favorite, and by far the most creative interpretation. This story reveals that Alfred belonged to a troupe of actors. After Batman’s parents died and he swore vengeance, ALFRED dressed up as all Batman’s villains, and hired helped from his acting to troupe to employ people like Penguin and Riddler. Riddler then shoots Batman after Batman discovers the truth.
Speaking of other villains, the art here is very good, even if some of the stories are a little lackluster. Joker in particular looks like straight out of The Animated Series, and has some great bits….(For maximum effect, read in Mark Hamill’s Joker voice.) “I don’t just randomly kill people. I kill people when it’s FUNNY!” But, then again I always imagine Mark Hamill’s voice paired with The Joker, including his laugh. Joker’s story is that after he kills Batman with his Joker venom, he didn’t even smile…and then he realized killing Batman wasn’t very funny after all.
After every villain says their bit, Batman deduces that he’s dying, and the disembodied voice is his mother. She tells him that there’s nothing he can do but say good night. Then, the book turns into a strange Batman version of Goodnight, Moon. The story ends with Batman being born in a hospital. A symbol of his rebirth in The New 52. Touching, if not chronologically and contextually confusing.
This is a reboot comic, so I will say they did a pretty good job. It had some nice tributes…in particular the art on The Joker and placing Catwoman in the ‘40s. But, the story doesn’t feel that heroic to me. All the stories are of Batman dying. (In creative ways, I must say!) It seems to me you could find other ways to show off a reboot then multiple deaths.
Death worked for Superman because he was split into about five different people and then put back together. Batman could’ve done absolutely nothing to deduce his death, and the comic still would’ve been the same. There was no action. Apart from some nice conspiracy theories, this essentially does nothing but show Batman as weak. Yes, I know, Batman never gives up, etc. But, he could’ve given up here, and nothing would’ve changed…I still give it a solid 3/5.