Written by Neil Gaiman
Art by Andy Kubert and Scott Williams
Much like the first part of the two part, "Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?", this issue is downright amazing, but I'd be damned if I could pinpoint exactly what makes it so good. It's much more straight forward than the previous issue and we're shown early on just who the mystery person Batman was speaking to was, but the story is still very much an exercise in celebrating the concept of Batman moreso than being a standard Batman story.
For instance, at no point does Gaiman attempt to explain or address how or if Batman actually died. Furthermore, there is absolutely no continuity not addressed by this story. Everything was up for grabs, featuring characters and references to both the Golden and Silver Age as well as alternate realities, such as Dark Knight Returns, and even bringing in elements of the character's animated series.
Gaiman addresses all of these interpretations of Batman and boils the character down to what makes him tick - Batman simply does not give up. This applies to his mission as Batman, his desire to help people, his single minded pursuit of his goals and the very act of being Batman. There will be no retirements or happy endings or golf games for him. There is Batman and only Batman for him. It's a message that is delivered with a simplicity that makes it painfully obvious in a, "Why didn't I think of that?", kind of way and is shown to us through these wonderful vignettes by his friends and enemies from the various continuities and mediums Batman has appeared in.
To be honest, take everything Grant Morrison had attempted to accomplish with his Batman run, which dealt with who Batman is, his Silver Age heritage and the concept of Batman as a story moreso than an actual character, and boil it down to two issues that spans all of Batman's history - not just the Silver Age fetish of Morrison - and you will just begin to scratch the surface of Gaiman's finely crafted story. The description I've heard of this book that is really apt is that it is a Grant Morrison Batman story that people can understand. It's really that simple.
I'm probably sounding like a pretentious little twat at this point, but it's really difficult to describe this type of story to people and what exactly makes it so good. It's truly something people with varying degrees of history and baggage with the Batman character can pick up and enjoy. You could be the atypical Comic Book Guy that hates everything, the grizzled vetern that has seen and read every Batman story ever written or someone who's new or has never even read a comic before and pick this up and enjoy the title and walk away with something unique to yourself and your own experiences with Batman as a character.
In fact, this story lives up to the Final Crisis moniker of Legends Never Die moreso than Final Crisis ever did. Batman actually IS a legend. As such, the story boils down to how he's not a person or even a character, but an honest to god legend that will live on forever through numerous interpretations and retellings for generations to come and these two issues explored only a fraction of these different facets of the legend of Batman.
Another interpretation of the events, if you are so inclined, would be to view this legend aspect of the character as an extention of the Omega Sanction Batman suffered when he was 'killed' by Darkseid in Final Crisis. Gaiman never addresses it nor does he mention it as such, but this could also be seen as Batman living out numerous lives and deaths that the sanction imposes on the person. Again, it all comes down to how you would like to interpret the story, your experiences with the character and what you take away it. It's the ultimate form of expression that everyone can walk away happy with and something that can stand the test of time to be relevant at any time for any fan.
Verdict - Must Read. It's a comic you need to experience to truly appreciate and something that will be talked about and discussed for years to come.