Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Comic Review Wednesdays - Detective Comics #853

Detective Comics #853
Written by Neil Gaiman
Pencils by Andy Kubert

In a surreal pastiche of the life and times of Batman's past, Bruce Wayne watches over his own funeral as both friends and enemies come forward and detail the death of Batman as they know it. Gaiman brings closure to the death of Batman in a work that draws parallels to Alan Moore's Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow? 

The comic begins in much of the similar fashion the entire first issue played out, that is recitations on Batman's death, but unlike in the first issue they lack flair and depth. Part of the reason for this is because unlike the first issue, that isn't this book's intent. The problem, of course, is that the stories of Batman's death were wonderfully entertaining and clever. As a reader I was disappointed that (at the very least) a third story of Batman's death wasn't included in the final issue. The glimpses of rather uninteresting stories are a poor substitution. Particularly once the guiding figure from the first issue is revealed, I wish that she had been given the opportunity to relate a version of Batman's death. The possibility for strong emotional connection for the reader at that moment, should Gaiman chosen to pursue it, would have been immense. That said, I have a sour feeling knowing that this is only a two-issue story, and that readers aren't privileged to some of the other possibilities of the caped crusader's death. After all, when will we get a chance to read a story like this again? 

From the start, Gaiman has been playing with the different iterations of the Batman characters of the past 70 years, and that seems to come to a head in this issue. With so many writers and artists touching the world of Batman in that time, it's unsurprising that Batman been pulled back and forth in a million directions in all that time. The happy-go-lucky Batman of the forties is different than Frank Miller's Batman, and his is different than the modern Batman. It seemed to me that Gaiman was using these different iterations of the characters, and their individual deaths to express that we as individuals die many times in our lifetimes as we change with age-- but at our cores there is something solid, and unchangeable to us. I think that Gaiman was wisely painting Batman as an Everyman figure, who like the reader will and has, changed many times in his life but was always fundamentally about perseverance, protectorship, and a testament of the human will. 

The scenes of Batman's death in this issue are lackluster, and Gaiman struggles at several points in the story to convey the ideas he wants to convey without seeming stilted or expositional. There are a small handful of pages like the latter and in the midst of an otherwise good issue they feel awkward and difficult to read. However, the end of the issue is still an emotional moment, and wraps up the legacy of the dark knight rather well. The issue may not be as captivating or interesting at the first part, but it is certainly worth finishing for it's sincerity of subject alone. 

Rating: 6 out of 10. 
It's worth finishing if you picked up the first issue, and does the caped crusader justice. However, it tends to fail to meet expectations. These will probably get difficult to find very quickly so get them now.  

2 comments:

Li'l Irish said...

I'm a bit surprised Gaiman had as many struggles as you say. I haven't read the issue myself, so I can't dispute you, and I have no reason to doubt you, but it seems out of character for good ole' Neil.

My word verification for this post is "Tantscut." That sounds awfully dirty to me.

Joe said...

Well, IGN liked the issue but it seems that they always end up liking what I hate and hating what I like. It's not so much that the issue is bad, it's that the first issue was so good, and I saw so many awesome avenues to finish the story that what I did read just didn't strike me. Some of the scenes really were stilted though.

I thought about giving it a seven, but ended up choosing six.