Overall- This was one of those cases where I read a comic book, finish it, put it down, smile and then think to myself, "What the hell did I just read???". Well, first things first, this is part one of the two part story, "Whatever happened to the Caped Crusader?", written by the legendary Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Andy Kubert. The second part of this story is going to take place in Detective Comics #853.
OK, now to attempt to explain what I just read here, which isn't going to be easy... We open with Selena Kyle driving up to a bar run by a gentleman named Joe Chill. Upon seeing him, Selina questions why Joe isn't dead like she thought he was and he responds that he was here at the start of everything, and he intends to be there at the end. While this is occurring, we are also privy to two caption boxes who speak up occasionally, a blue one which seems to be Bruce Wayne, and a grey one, whose identity remains a mystery throughout the story. Selina enters the back room of the bar and is greeted by Alfred, who seats her in a large room filled with chairs, all facing an open casket containing Batman in full costume. Huh?
As time progresses, the room fills up with Batman's friends and foes, including Two Face, the Joker, Commissioner Gordon, Oracle, Nightwing, etc. When the room is finally filled to capacity, Dick Grayson stands up in front of the casket and asks if anyone has anything to say about the departed. Selina stands up, but is now much older than when we originally saw her enter the bar. She tells a bizarre story about her life and her interaction with Batman. The entire story she tells is nothing like what really happened, and Bruce asks the grey voice what's going on here, to which the grey voice responds with a curt "be quiet and just listen". Selina's story concludes with her preventing a shot Batman from getting medical attention, which ultimately leads to his death. Confused yet?
Next, Alfred stands up and tells his tale to the people gathered. Alfred tells a story about being an actor before taking his father's place as the butler to the Wayne family. After the death of Bruce's parents, Alfred watches as Bruce adopts the identity of the Batman. Alfred realizes that Batman needs interesting villains to keep his attention, so he turns to his old acting buddies. Alfred gives each one the identity of a theme villain, for example, one of the actors becomes the Riddler, one becomes the Penguin, etc. These new colorful foes cheer Bruce up a bit, but Alfred realizes that Bruce needs an arch-enemy and to that end, Alfred paints his face white, dons a green wig and becomes the Joker. For a while, Bruce is happy, until he discovers that Alfred was behind all of the theme villains. Bruce confronts Alfred, and Alfred tells Bruce he was only trying to help. Bruce is distraught that all of his fighting was for naught, but decides to go out on patrol anyway upon seeing the Bat-signal. Batman arrives at a zoo, where the Riddler is holding several children hostage at gunpoint. Batman approaches Riddler and tells him that he knows that Alfred was responsible for the Riddler identity and all the other criminals. Unfortunately for Batman, Riddler's mind has snapped and he really believes he's a super-villain now. As Batman approaches Riddler and tells him to put the gun away, Riddler shoots Batman point blank in the face, killing him instantly.
With that, Alfred walks away from the casket, and Bruce Wayne speaks up(via caption boxes)saying that the story Alfred told was completely impossible. Not only was it impossible, but Bruce remarks that the Joker was sitting right in the room, meaning that Alfred couldn't be the Joker. The issue closes with two shadows standing in front of the Batman's open casket. One silhouette is obviously Batman, while the other is a woman, presumably the grey voice. Bruce asks if he is dead, and the grey voice responds, "Not yet.". Bruce asks if this shadow woman is Death, but she says that Death isn't a person. Bruce demands to know who the shadow woman is and what's going on. The grey shadow woman tells Bruce that since he's the world's greatest detective he should figure it out on his own.
What an utterly BIZARRE comic! I was totally baffled for most of this comic, but in a good way(if that makes any sense). It's hard to even comment on this comic, because, like I said, I didn't know what was going on. What I do know is that I can't wait to read the second part of this story so I can(hopefully)discover what exactly is going on here. For a score, I'm going to give this comic a 8 1/2 out of 10. The whole comic was just so surreal, I couldn't help but to like it, even though I really didn't have a clue as to what was going on. This was one strange comic book...