01/09/2009. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts
pub: Titan Books. 128 page graphic novel hardback. Price: £18.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-84856-290-5.
check out website: www.titanbooks.comand www.dccomics.com
Oddly enough, I'm not actually a fan of Neil Gaiman. Nothing wrong with the chap, just mostly he writes fantasy and as I prefer Science Fiction so our paths rarely cross. With 'Batman: Whatever Happened To The Caped Crusader', we cross.
Appears we both have a taste for the Dark Knight and he gets the opportunity to write an end of era Batman story in a similar vein to how Alan Moore finished off the second Superman (not to be confused with the Earth-2 Superman if you get my drift). Judging by the numbers in the indice and its cross-over between the 'Batman' and 'Detective' titles, this is over a decade ago subject to the multi-copyrights listed.
Reading this two-part story, I'm not quite sure which Batman this is. Based off the various people who come to his wake in Gotham City, there is little to tally with anything I remember. If anything, it's more like Gaiman is playing mind games and questioning whether Bruce Wayne as Batman really did stalk a rogue's gallery of costumed villains or were they orchestrated by his butler, Alfred Pennyworth, to keep his paranoid master occupied.
An interesting twist that artist Andy Kubert pulls off rather neatly. There's a neat encapsulation of the various artists' styles over the years and the only optimistic thing is turning things cyclic at the end. There's also a selection of sketches and such by Kubert at the end showing what he did towards illustrating this story.
Gaiman works with artist Simon Bisley in a literal black and white story where Batman and the Joker are just film actors waiting around before performing for the camera. The art isn't likely to everyone's cup of whatever but the humour carries it across.
'Pavane' with artist Mark Buckingham is an examination of Poison Ivy's origin and its contractions as to just who she is. Sheer poison, especially if she kisses you.
'Original Sins' with Bernie Mireault at the pencils has a film crew intent on interviewing Batman's villains to get their stories. They get mixed results with all but the Riddler, where the art becomes distinctively chunkier and almost underground in style with a...shall we say a novel joke at the end.
If anything, the common denominator in Neil Gaiman's tales is looking at what makes these characters tick than truly super-hero action which I suspect isn't his forte anyway. These aren't atypical adventures but as long as you know what you're letting yourself in for, just move with the flow for any insightfulness these tales give you.
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Stephen Hunt's novels - USA