In early 2008, when it was announced that a story called "Batman, R.I.P." would be coming out, DC fans began to deal with the possibility that Bruce Wayne would die. No comments from DC indicated that he would "really" die, like Barry Allen did (bad example, maybe, but Barry Allen was dead for 22 years). Wiser fans guessed that he would perhaps "die" like Superman did in 1992, dying but then later come back somehow.
So what exactly was claimed of Bruce Wayne's death, and did it happen?
The teaser lines at the end of issues in RIP threw down the gauntlet. Although many at DC dismissed the idea that they would kill Batman ("Not in a movie year."), the teaser at the end of Batman #677 said "Next [...] The fate of Bruce Wayne!" The teaser image at the end of Batman #680 promised "the final fate of the Dark Knight!" And we were told that Batman's story would "conclude" in Final Crisis #6. That's some heady stuff! The issues are out. Did it happen? Did Batman die? Or did those claims lie?
The answer to those yes/no question is: "Sort of." The fact that three issues were mentioned throws up some red flags right away: He couldn't die three times, right? Right. He didn't.
Let's speak medically. In the final pages of Batman #677, Bruce Wayne was hit with a sort of psychological whammy, when a command that shut off the Batman personality was cued. Bruce fell down and stopped being Batman or Bruce while his body was medically fine. So that was the "fate of Bruce Wayne". Other bad stuff happened later, and his personality flipped through some weird states, but his body remained alive.
In the final pages of Batman #681, Bruce was on board a helicopter that crashed. We got no answer as to his medical condition after that, but we found out later, in Batman #683, that really nothing bad at all happened to him. He apparently swam out of the river and made his way back to the Batcave just fine. For some reason, Nightwing and others didn't find out that he was OK right away, and Outsiders #11 shows a number of his allies grieving for him as his enemies celebrate his disappearance.
If you piece the timeline together, he proceeds from the Batcave to JLA Headquarters to begin working with his JLA allies on the case that became Final Crisis, and the Batman shown in Final Crisis #1 is Bruce, back on the job, briefly. However, he is soon taken prisoner by Darkseid's forces in Final Crisis #2, and from that time until the present, has never been seen alive by anyone but Darkseid and Darkseid's cronies.
I think the account in Outsiders #11, with Superman and Green Arrow grieving for Batman, has to be regarded as a glitch because it indicates that Superman didn't know where Batman was the day after RIP, even though Superman and Batman were working side-by-side for at least a day or so during Final Crisis. So forgive that glitch: I suspect that Grant Morrison's plans were concealed from Frank Tieri and other writers.
To the world at large, Bruce Wayne has indeed not been seen since "the fate of Bruce Wayne" was announced. To the heroes, according to Tieri's account, Batman was not seen by the heroes after RIP. But to the heroes, according to Morrison's account, Batman disappeared from the other heroes' lives slightly later, in Final Crisis #2.
But back to the end of RIP: Right before the helicopter crash, Doctor Hurt curses Batman to wear the cape and cowl only one more time. Is this a mad rant? Well, no -- it's a 20-20 prophecy, or curse, because Doctor Hurt is the Devil, and has the power to cast such curses. (Although mysteriously, he lacks the ability to right a balky helicopter.) So at that point, Bruce was a walking dead man, medically fine, but mystically doomed. He had one more chance to wear the batsuit, and he used that chance up in Final Crisis.
The significant event took place in Final Crisis #6, when Darkseid zapped Batman with those zig-zagging eye-beams of his. Superman arrived about two minutes too late, and found a charred corpse in the batsuit. So medically, we have the answer to our question: The body that was born as a little baby to Martha Wayne, and that grew up into Bruce Wayne was zapped medically dead. Put a tag on the toe and have a funeral. Superman knew he was dead, Dick Grayson knows he's dead -- he's dead.
Except he's not dead. Because what Darkseid hit him with was the Omega Sanction, something we saw Mister Miracle (Shilo Norman) escape from in Grant Morrison's Seven Soldiers miniseries. What it means is that Batman will be alive, in some other form, some other timeline, and have to escape from it somehow. By default, you'd expect no one to be able to escape from it, but Mister Miracle and Batman are just the kind of guys who can. So he's medically dead, but he's still out there. Maybe he's in the 1700s. Maybe he's a mechanic in a garage in New Jersey. Maybe he's a potted plant or Douglas Macarthur. But he's not gone, and he will be back, eventually.
And on the very last page of Final Crisis #7, we see him, in the remote past, writing on a cave wall beside the very, very old Anthro about sixty or so years after "the dawn of time". A rocket/time capsule that is clearly intended to resemble the one that brought baby Kal-El to Earth is in the background. (The Daily Planet staff launched it at the darkest moment of Final Crisis.) That leaves a lot of blanks: How did he get there? Is that his body or some cave dude with the bat-spirit, or merely the bat-gadgets? But the gist is this: Right now, on our Earth, Bruce Wayne's body is dead. Somewhere or sometime, Bruce Wayne's spirit is still kicking, and will eventually get back to laugh at Darkseid's attempt to kill him.
If the man puts the batsuit on again, won't that invalidate all of the promo text (and Doctor Hurt's curse)? If he never puts the batsuit on again, won't that be an unthinkably bad business move by DC? That's a question for DC to answer, and I don't expect their top money-maker to be forsaken. But in the meantime, we will see Bruce Wayne as Batman again in the semi-in-continuity titles Superman/Batman and Brave & Bold. His presence there is meant to be in some side niche of continuity. But in the main DCU, he is dead. Sorta.