I don't have a lot of Batman books: the three Frank Miller landmarks Year One (love it), The Dark Knight Returns (passable), and The Dark Knight Strikes Back (Zzz), and Alan Moore's classic The Killing Joke. I've read other bits 'n' pieces, most recently Hush, but there's just way too much of it to even try catching up.
But when I heard that DC were killing off Bruce Wayne, I thought, this is one I'll have to read - not least of which because Gaiman was doing the aftermath. This all happened quite a while ago, but it's only this week that I happened to spot the collected Batmap R.I.P. on a shelf.
Batman R.I.P. is by Grant Morrison. I love his Invisibles (though much of it goes over my head), less grabbed by, say, Kill Your Boyfriend or Animal Man. In this tale, Batman and girlfriend Jezebel Jet (who?) are menaced by organisation the Black Glove, who are arranging for a dead bat, to be killed at the end by the Joker (as if the Joker would ever follow anyone else's plan...).
I found this to be a mess, to be honest. I'll have to read it again to see whether I can make sense of it, because it jumps around all over the place, and the panel structuring doesn't help - too many pages where it's really not obvious which way to follow the panels (I'm reminded of Al's comments during Eastercon about sight lines in the panels).
Oh, and apparently Batman has acquired a son, Damian.
Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader? is Gaiman's The Wake, for Batman. And in contrast to Batman R.I.P., it's a joy to behold. In the introduction, Gaiman observes that there's no way the Batman character could stay dead, so he wanted to write a story about the death of Batman that would work after any death, no matter what happens in the future. Wise fellow, and I think he's done it. A beautiful, mythical tale.
I imagine quite a few of the references were lost on me, because DC continuity is worse than Who, but I spotted art references to Year One, The Killing Joke and Arkham Asylum, among others. Nicely done.
Then we're back to Grant Morrison again, for Batman and Robin: Batman Reborn. Bruce is still dead, so original* Robin Dick Grayson, who has been operating independently as Nightwing, takes up the Mantle of the Bat, with Damian as the new Robin. Batman and Robin: Together again for the first time, as Morrison rather nicely puts it.
But again, it's too disjointed, and awkward to follow. Not as bad as R.I.P., but really... I hoped for more.
I'll read them again at some point in the future, and see whether the Morrisons flow better if you've got a clue what's supposed to be happening. After all, the Invisibles was trippy and disjointed at times, but then, comparing the Invisibles to Batman is like comparing Sapphire and Steel to Who. The Gaiman one, I'll happily read again right now.
* there have been quite a few Robins over time.