So it’s Neil Gaiman and the omnipresent Andy Kubert (seriously, what graphic novel have I read in the past few weeks that hasn’t been drawn by him?) to see Batman out as DC sets the counter back to zero. I had only recently read of this phenomenon, and I suppose it’s all going full circle as the first thing I ever read of Neil Gaiman’s, long before he ever wrote an episode of Doctor Who, was his story from Batman: Black and White #1, reproduced here in this extra slim volume.
I have to admit, I had a hard time putting this down. The conclusion, however, is a “duh!” kind of moment; as my boyfriend summed up, there’s a Batman for every generation. That’s fine and dandy, but I was expecting a more pertinent observation. Nevertheless, he last pages reminded me very much of Superman: Red Son, which was an odd but nice tie-in.
Joe Chill as the barman in an empty bar in Crime Alley is a haunting touch. As he himself says, “I was her at the start of it all, Miss Kyle. I’m not going to miss the end.” The idea, of course, is to draw all of the regulars in as many styles as possible. Conventions and inventions on a theme. Look in the background of any shot and you’ll spot second-tier villains or heroes, while the main guys populate the front of the panels. In some form or other. It’s a bit confusing, because one Selina Kyle walks into the wake and another stands up to tell her story of meeting Batman, in another time, another universe. Her first incarnations are from the ‘40s, which look very alien now.
I have to admit, there just aren’t enough Alfred stories out there. Quite independently, I came to the conclusion that in my Bat-universe anyway, Alfred was an actor in his youth. What does Gaiman do? Make Alfred an actor in his youth. There’s a wonderful twist to Alfred’s tale, and quite frankly, it’s the best part of Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader? Despite myself, the last few pages of the last issue, with its reference to the Good Night Moon children’s book by Margaret Wise Brown, does make me well up.
The rest of the book is made up of individual Gaiman stories. “A Black and White World,” which I mentioned above. “Pavane” is apparently drawn by Mark Buckingham but looks nothing like what I’ve come to expect from that consistently fantastic artist. If it really is him, they must be going for really retro look. It’s a story about Poison Ivy, and to be honest, when not combined with Harley Quinn, I find most Poison Ivy stories a bit pointless. Can anyone ever bring any depth to this woman? Men draw her so they can draw a mostly naked woman being provocative. She’s like a non-green person’s idea of what a green person should be. She’s like a misogynist’s view of what a feminist should be. “Pavane” did nothing to disabuse me of this notion.
“Original Sins” and “When a Door” are linked, though drawn by very different artists; Mike Hoffman and Bernie Mireault. The latter looks incredible, but the former has the best story.