I admit to being a few days behind the time on this one. I read it the day it came out – I devoured it, in fact. However, I was unsure of what to make of it. As I read it, I was struck by the extreme anti-climax of it all. I put it down, disappointed, and moved on to the next book in my read stack.
As the day and then week wore on, however, I found my thoughts often returning to Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader? This second part featured some of the best work Andy Kubert has ever done, I recognized that right away. I also appreciated the continuation of the stories from issue 1, as they remained skillfully handled. Though the full stories are no longer shown, the snippets we do get are emotionally powerful – from the Mad Hatter being haunted by Batman’s last words, to the redemption of Clayface – and through them, Gaiman mines the mythology of the character to find its hidden heart, the vast, powerful supporting cast that Batman has developed over the years.
Like Morrison, Gaiman realizes that Batman isn’t about tragedy, but hope. Batman isn’t about fear, but love.Not loss, but family. Batman will fight the devil, fight off the God of Evil, and afterwards, he’ll be right back to fighting off muggers in Gotham. In a way, Gaiman’s issue comments on that perfectly as Batman is led by a figure from his past to witness these stories, his many deaths, and learn what the purpose of this ordeal is, and while the ultimate message of the issue does serve as metacommentary on the Batman comics themselves, it also fits in quite well with his Omega Sanctioned fate in Final Crisis.
In some ways, perhaps Whatever Happened came a little too close at the heels to The Butler Did It, a more exciting, storyline relevant two-part meta-commentary Bat-arc by a famed writer from across the Atlantic. That is up to each reader to decide for him or herself. What I do know is that part 2 of Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader? was a deeply respectable, emotional send-off to a character who is, at least for now, gone, but not forgotten.