Batman: Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?: The Deluxe Edition - Neil Gaiman and Andy Kubert 

DC Comics chose wisely in hiring fantasy author Neil Gaiman to pen the two-part "final" story of the dark knight, now collected in "Batman: Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader? (Deluxe Edition)." This hardback comes highly recommended.

Gaiman is one of the medium's all-time great scripters (and not just for his legendary run on "The Sandman"), and he defies and subverts expectations with this one, alternately puzzling and poignant. With Bruce Wayne/Batman dead, allies and enemies alike show up for a most unconventional funeral in Gotham City's crime alley, where a rogue's gallery of villains individually share their far-differing accounts of his demise.

The second half gets metaphysical as Batman's spirit watches over the proceedings, with the help of a (semi-)surprise host, and the ending is an absolute kicker. Andy Kubert tackles the art, choosing to draw the characters in their various styles over the decades, lending the work a wonderfully dizzying, surreal effect.

As if that story weren't enough, the book throws in a quartet of shorter works Gaiman has written in the Batman world in the past. These are of varying quality, but the most interesting is a humorous, meta-skirter drawn by Simon Bosley, in which Batman and Joker are actors in their own comic book, rehearsing and relaxing between scenes. Perennial foes Poison Ivy and The Riddler are the focus of the tales.

So "Whatever Happened"? You'll want to know, especially since the story is pulled off with this much panache. DC Comics "?Rod Lott

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