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"What else am I going to do? Retire and play golf?" Batman ponders in the finite infinite moments, just before the last gasp - for most of us - shudders through the body, taking all life with it. "I doesn't work that way. It can't. I fight until I drop. And one day, I will drop." But are these flashes a mere near death experience, or is this the real thing? Has the Dark Knight succumbed to the inevitable? Because, in reality - comic book and real life - nothing lasts forever, not even the hero. Yet Batman has defined all the odds - his back has been broken. He's been shot. He's been framed. Brainwashed. Blown up. Seen his apprentice murdered only to rise again. Then again, hasn't the Dark Knight been dead before? Hasn't he risen again? And will the process not occur again and again in the infinite loop?
Neil Gaiman has given us a chilling tale of the Dark Knight's funeral and all those in his life is in attendance. From his closest friend and butler, Alfred Pennyworth, to his greatest nemesis, the Joker. The first chapter - originally published in Batman #686 - tells two stories of the his death. One at the hands of former Catwoman, Selina Kyle. And the other, tells a rather different take of the Dark Knight's legacy, having Alfred Pennyworth hiring several of his former acting buddies to masquerade as the villains we know and love - with Alfred playing the Joker. In the end, Batman dies by a gunshot wound.
The second chapter - originally published in Detective Comics #853 - clues you in the other deaths of the Dark Knight - as told by the Joker, Robin - Dick Grayson - Superman, Harvey Bullock, Clayface among others. Meanwhile, Batman is led through the abyss of memories and the in between by his mother, who - sadden - states, "No matter how many lives you save, you can't bring us back."
Neil Gaiman and Andy Kubert manage to combine several versions of our hero into two issues, nodding to woks by others who have molded and rewritten the Batman canon. Not only do they give an ending to Dark Knight's mythos, but rewind it to the very beginning - "You don't get Heaven or Hell," his mother explains. "Do you know the only reward you get for being Batman? You get to be Batman."
The trade includes Andy Kubert's sketchbook, as well as, other stories written by Gaiman. "A Black and White World" has Batman and the Joker living in a comic book world - as in, actors playing roles. In "Pavane," tells the intoxicating story of Poison Ivy's beginnings and the depths of her seduction. A group of edgy journalists attempt to bring the human side of the masked villains of Gotham within the pages of "Original Sins" and "When is a Door." The team digs deep, attempting to find the madman himself, the Joker. But as the saying goes, don't go looking for the Joker because the Joke will find you.
An all around great read - Gaiman at his best, you may say. And Andy Kubert's art as a homage to those who came before him is spectacular. Until next time, keep on huntin'.