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Like Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?, the two-issue tale presents a "final" Batman story. The Batman presented in the story is not necessarily the one from current DC Universe continuity but rather an indeterminate amalgamation that pays homage to the entirety of the character's 70-year history.
The story begins with a sweeping view of Gotham City. Two narrators speak to each other, the first in a blue caption box, the second in a gray caption box. "Where am I?" the first narrator asks. "You're here. In Gotham." The first narrator asks if he's dreaming as the second assures him he is not. The first says that he knows this city is Gotham, but that it's strange, not quite as he remembers. In a seedy alley, a strange vehicle pulls up to the front of an establishment called the "Dew Drop Inn." The car is an old-style convertible, with a large cat head mounted between the headlights. An attractive, dark-haired woman gets out and walks toward the door as a man in a derby hat walks up and warns her of the viciousness of the alley cats. Unwavering, the woman easily pets the numerous cats as the man is shocked that they're not attacking her. The derby-hatted man offers to watch her car for fifty cents, but the woman assures the man that she's, "already got it covered." The derby-hatted man looks back and sees that the alley cats are all over the car, seemingly guarding it.
The woman walks in to the building and finds herself in the bar, with the bartender cleaning the glasses. The bartender directs her toward the back of the building, where he says that others are "just arriving now." The bartender recognizes her as Selina Kyle. She asks the bartender his name. "It's...Joe, isn't it?" she asks. "Yes, Miss Kyle. Joe Chill." She asks if he will join their party, to which he answers that, "someone's gotta be out front, Miss Kyle. Tell people where to go." Selina begins to walk towards the back when she stops and tells Joe that she heard he was dead. Just continuing to clean his glasses, Joe simply says, "I was here at the start of it all Miss Kyle. I'm not going to miss the end." The first narrator reaffirms that the man was indeed Joe Chill, and says that Selina was right about his being dead. Selina walks into the back room where Alfred Pennyworth is standing as an usher. Numerous chairs are set up in the room, with a casket laying open at the front. It is a wake, and the corpse in the casket is revealed to be a fully costumed Batman. The first narrator, seemingly looking at the body, says, "But that's...that's me."
Out front, another car, a sedan with one half looking pristine, one half looking rusted and broken pulls up. Two-Face is standing beside it as the derby-hatted man also offers to watch his car for fifty cents. Two-Face flips a coin, saying if it's the clean side, he'll allow the man to watch his car and he'll pay him a dollar. If it's the marred side, he will shoot him and leave his body in the jalopy as a warning for people to leave the car alone. The coin lands in Two-Face's hand, as he flips a coin into the man's hand and says, "Here's a buck. Look after my car." In the corridor, James Gordon and his daughter Barbara are arriving at the wake. Gordon tells his daughter as he wheels her into the service that he always knew, "this was how it was going to end." When they arrive, Alfred tells them that they've been placed at the front on the right of the aisle. Out front, a bullet car with a clown face affixed on the front arrives and the Joker steps out. He asks the derby-hatted man to watch his car. The man says that he is worried that the Joker will kill him, but he assures the man that there would be nothing funny about it as he walks into the building.
The first narrator, Batman identifies the area of the building as Crime Alley, but says that it hasn't looked this way in sixty years or more. "This is crazy..." he says. Inside the room of the wake, more guests have arrived, including Ra's al Ghul, Poison Ivy, Harley Quinn, Harvey Bullock, Renee Montoya, the Penguin, the Mad Hatter, and Dr. Kirk Langstrom. Langstrom asks Alfred if Bruce Wayne will be arriving, but Alfred says, "I'm afraid Mr. Wayne is unable to be with us tonight." Narrator-Batman simply asks, "Why did he say that?" A young man stands up and asks if anyone would like to say anything about the departed. "Dick?" Narrator-Batman asks. "It's Dick..." Selina stands up and walks to the front of the room. She wishes to tell the assembled of, "what kind of man he was. And how he died."
The Cat-Woman's Tale
In a museum heist, the "Cat-Woman" attempts to steal the "Kit Kat Diamond" and manages to cut into the glass and grab it out of it's display case. When she heads back to the ledge to climb down the building, she sees that the rope has been cut. A gloved hand grabs the diamond out of her hand and says, "I'm afraid I cut the rope." It is revealed to be Batman, illustrated similarly to his first appearance in 1939, who tells her that her nine lives are up and that he'll drop her off at police headquarters. "Oh, I don't think so." She says. "I always land on my feet." She then jumps off the building as Batman leaps after her. When he catches her, her large cat mask comes off and he notices her beauty. This distracts him long enough for her to claw into him as they land, and make her escape. Selina describes to the audience that she and Batman conducted their courtship on Gotham's rooftops at night, calling it, "a strange flirtation, a hide and seek, a game of cat and mouse...and then one night it changed." After apprehending her one night, Batman asks Catwoman if she's ever thought about going "straight." With both characters appearing as they did in the mid-1940s, Catwoman instead counters with a proposal of stopping completely and living normal lives together. She even asks him to marry her. Narrator-Batman is confused, saying, "I'm seeing it all. I'm seeing it as she describes it. But it never happened like this..." "Shh." The second narrator says. "Just listen to her." Catwoman continues talking to Batman asking, "What if I clean up this town, what then? Will you retire the mask? Hang up the cloak?" Batman blatantly doubts her, when Catwoman claims that, "My parents were killed, too." Selina explains to the audience that it was a wild guess, but that she knew it was true when she said it. She then leaves Batman alone on the rooftop.
There is then a montage of Catwoman stopping a bank robbery and scaring the Penguin out of town. A pimp then makes a move toward Selina one night and offers her a position as an escort. When Selina refuses, the pimp attempts to beat her before he is stopped by Batman. Batman appeals to Selina to stop administering her own "brand of justice," to which Selina claims that she's doing a better job of cleaning up the city than Batman ever did. Batman simply responds by saying, "Not like this, Selina. This is wrong." Selina then fires back claiming that the fact that she cares for him doesn't mean anything to him. At this, Batman leaves, with Selina telling the audience that it would be a long time before she saw him again.
She then goes on to tell the audience that she stopped fighting crime and being a criminal. She opened a pet store in the city, saying she had seen that the kid had now joined him and that she thought she didn't care. Then, one night in front of her pet store, Batman stumbles out of the darkness toward Selina, grasping a gunshot wound in his pectoral, pleading to her for help. Inside the pet store, Selina has Batman tied up, and explains that he's lost too much blood. Batman tells her that he came to her because she was nearby and that he trusted her. She responds by saying that he came to the shop because he loved her. Batman tells her that she could get him to a hospital, and that it wasn't too late. To this she said that it was always too late. Tied up on a couch, Batman dies and Selina closes his eyes.
Back in the room of the wake, Selina tells the audience that she thought she was going to end it all afterwards, but that she didn't. "I came here...and that's all." Narrator-Batman says that the scenario is familiar, "but that was the death of Robin Hood. Not mine." The second narrator responds, saying, "No, it was your death. Or at least it was Batman's." Alfred then stands, saying that he thought he could talk about the dear departed.
The Gentleman's Gentleman's Tale
The story opens with Alfred Pennyworth in an acting troupe. Later, Alfred receives a letter from his father, Jarvis, telling Alfred he is dying from cancer, and that Alfred must come and serve the Wayne family. By the time Alfred gets to Gotham, his father has already died, and thus he begins his servitude. He takes a liking of watching Bruce grow up, until the fateful day when his parents are killed during a mugging. Alfred talks about how Bruce is in a shock for several months, and then suddenly became dedicated "to perfecting himself..." Years went by before Bruce eventually took to becoming a vigilante, and began "dressing as a bat." Alfred admits that dressing as a bat and fighting crime is far from the norm, but it made Bruce happy. Alfred tells the audience that Bruce would go out every night and find criminals in the act of committing crimes, but most of the time he did not, because of this Bruce is thrown into emotional turmoil.
To ensure Bruce's happiness, Alfred does something drastic. He hires an old friend, Eddie Nash, from the acting troupe to play a villain for Bruce. With the combined efforts of Eddie and Alfred, they come up with the "Riddle Master", which evolves into the Riddler, and thus the game begins. Bruce, as Batman, would go out each night to fight the duo's staged crimes. When there was no crime to fight, Alfred would call his thespian friends to excite Bruce. Alfred finally realizes that the game must go further, that Bruce needs a "Moby Dick to his Ahab," and with white greasepaint, red lipstick, and a green wig, Alfred transforms himself into the Joker. The game continues for a while, but nothing good lasts forever.
Bruce has become a brilliant detective, and figures out that Alfred is indeed the Joker and his friends have been playing villains. Bruce, enraged, asks Alfred why he would do such a thing. Alfred simply responds "Because you needed it, sir." In the night, the Bat-Signal shines in the sky, and Bruce explains that as he is still Batman, whether he was real or not, he must heed the call. Alfred tells Bruce that there is no need for him to go out, that it was just a game. Bruce ask Alfred if Batman would ever give up, Alfred responds "No, Sir. I do not believe Batman would ever lie down and die." Alfred sees the Bat-Signal and states that he did not call anyone to turn it on, Bruce tells Alfred that Batman is needed now more than ever before.
At a local zoo, Eddie Nash is armed, has taken children hostage and has been calling for Batman the whole time. Batman approaches the gun wielding Eddie and tries to coax him out of such nonsense, telling him he's completely aware of the ruse. Eddie, who has fully embraced the role of the Riddler, solidly refuses, and wishes to only go by the name Riddler. Batman takes a step forward, asking for Eddie's gun. When it looks as if Eddie is going to hand it over to Batman, Eddie pulls the trigger and Batman falls to the ground, as the children run away in fear.
Back at the funeral, narrator-Batman remarks upon how ridiculous the story was. "Do you know how much of that story is impossible? Alfred couldn't have been the Joker. I mean, I can see the Joker. Sitting there, I can...am I dead?"
"Not yet." says the second narrator.
"Are you death?" Bruce inquires.
"I don't think death is a person, Bruce."
"Then tell me who you are. Tell me whats going on."
The last page reveals that two blue apparitions, one distinctly shaped like Batman with the other, the second narrator, shaped as a slender woman. Both are floating over Batman's casket looking at the body.
"You're the world's greatest detective, Bruce." she says. "Why don't you figure it out?"
After witnessing further eulogies by the Mad Hatter, the Joker, Robin, and Superman, Bruce Wayne finds a secret door at the back of the funeral parlor. After going through it, he can see that the woman who has been speaking with him is his mother, Martha Wayne. She asks what he has learned. He responds that the stories told don't seem to be about the same person. The one constant is that Batman never gives in and never gives up. She tells him, "You don't get Heaven or Hell. Do you know the only reward you get for being Batman? You get to be Batman." Batman says goodbye to gradual elements of his life in the form of a child's story, with the last image being the Bat Signal in the night sky. The signal turns gradually into a pair of hands and Bruce Wayne is born and given to his mother, seemingly creating the notion that Batman is reborn after every death, thus ensuring that he'll eternally continue his war against crime.
Items: None known.
Vehicles: None known.
Weapons: None known.
- No special notes.
- No trivia.
Links and References
- "Batman: Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?" at Wikipedia
- Official DC Comics page
- SDCC '08 - More on Gaiman-Batman with Dan DiDio
- Gaiman confirming his job on Batman on his blog
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