Friday, April 17, 2009

Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader, Part Two Preview

IGN has
a preview of Detective #153, showing six pages (and two covers) of the finale of the Neil Gaiman two-parter that recaps the adventures of the Caped Crusader. The first page has some narration making it clear that we are reading a mystery (in case the reader doesn't have their thinking cap on yet). While the first issue took a leisurely approach in giving us two long stories recounting Batman's death (two incompatible stories of two different deaths), the pattern is greatly accelerated in the preview, with fully eleven speakers having their turn in the preview alone. Many of these stories are not presented... we just see the speaker walking to or from the front of the room. In other cases, we hear their story, or part of their story.

Key points to take away:

1) Of course, all of the stories are incompatible with one another. Each speaker describes a different death scene, one that placed the speaker alone close to Batman when the event took place.

2) Of course, none of these deaths previously took place. Nor did stories very much like the ones related. I have read every Bat-Girl story featuring the Betty Kane Bat-Girl, and she was never alone with Batman facing the threat of a bomb. Likewise, the Cat-Woman story in the first part of the story depicted a first meeting between Batman and Selina Kyle that did not match the actual first meeting, but which blended details of their first three encounters.

3) This wake cannot be happening, something we already knew. It's not just that the stories are self-aggrandizing lies. Look at Batman in the coffin: He changes appearance radically as different speakers stand before him. His costume flips between different costumes he wore over the years -- his "ears" and chest symbol appear different in all three panels on the first page. As another example of the impossibility, note that there are two different Jokers plus the Red Hood in the audience.

4) All of the speakers agree on one thing: Batman never gives up, struggles heroically, and continues. Thematically, this story is letting the Batman legend have it both ways -- he is hero enough to be willing to die, but legend enough that he never will.

5) Is this story in continuity? Well, the wake cannot be happening. In some way, Batman is having a vision of the wake, and we have no window to the reality in which the man is lying around having this vision. But it is almost certainly not in continuity: It shows so many eras from his past that "our" Batman should not even be aware of. For example, he has no history of having been Batman before Pearl Harbor, as Part One mentioned.

Structurally, the story has so many precursors: The Canterbury Tales, Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow, Where Were You on the Night Batman Was Killed? (Batman #291-294), and others. The last one was a Seventies story in which we also got several incompatible stories, one from each villain, about how Batman died. The stories were incompatible with one another, and ultimately none of them were true.

The art is lovely, and the lines flow right off the page. I love this story. I don't see anything in the preview that changes my guess, however, as to who the mystery woman is and what is happening. My guess is right here.

1 comment:

  1. This IS such a great story. I'm very much looking forward to the conclusion.

    There is a mystery in this one, but I don't think it's on the level of RIP or anything.

    Its kind of a tribute to each incarnation/version of Batman and his allies/rogues we've seen over the years...the TV show, the Killing Joke, The Silver Age, Year One/DKR, 1990's Batman (including Azreal).

    Thought highly unlikely, I hope that this is tied into the Omega Sanction somehow, and Bruce is reliving multiple lifetimes/ multiple deaths. I don't think Gaiman would concern himself with continuity, but it would be a great tie-in.