What happens when you have a character that is no longer the child of an archetype, but rather becomes an archetype himself?
The answer to this riddle that is not quite one like Edward Nigma's, is that you get something or someone like Batman. Because I am familiar with a lot of Neil Gaiman's writing, I suspected that his slant on Batman would involve enveloping him, or placing him within the realms of mythology and storytelling proper. If these are some of your expectations as well, you will not be disappointed.
Here is an overview of the structure of The Deluxe Edition. First, you have the two-part story of "Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?" prefaced by one of Neil Gaiman's very lovely Introductions (he really seems to *love* Batman), followed by some of his earlier Batman comics: a rough-drawn almost Stoppard-like meta-narrative where Batman and the Joker wait backstage to cast a crime scene in "A Black and White World," a misguided agent's attempt to get to know Poison Ivy in "Pavane," a television show host's attempt to humanize mad criminals of Gotham City in "Original Sins," and wedged between the latter is a marvelous monologue on the reflection of Batman's "good old Kitsch and Camp days" by the one and only Edward Nigma aka The Riddler in "When is a Door." All of these very much match the two-issue story that Neil Gaiman created literally exploring the Batman mythos.
As for the main storyline itself, I will admit that is was predictable -- or at least it was for me if only because I have read a lot of Gaiman's other works. In "Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?" Batman is dead in a coffin and a Rogue's Gallery of friends, allies, and enemies come to pay their respects and tell their versions of how he exactly died. That is very interesting is that a lot of the people who are at this funeral are earlier versions of some of the characters -- some of whom have greatly changed over the years and some that might not exist at all. One of the greatest strengths of how the illustration matches the theme of the work is the fact that the artist Andy Kubert attempts to, as he put it, imagine all of the artists of the previous Batman works trying to draw in his style as he himself attempts to blend theirs into his. Through his art, Kubert manages to evoke the sheer timelessness of the Batman character and his journeys -- from the 30s and onward to this time.
In this very short comics story, there is a lot of epic mythos going on. There are many stories told about Batman in this one story. All of them are true, in some way. And while is predictable in some ways, I cannot help but give it five-stars because it was really well written and carried out. While Alan Moore in his "Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?" ended the Silver Age of Superman in an almost linear fashion, Neil Gaiman ended one age of Batman through the epic cycle that keeps on being reborn -- because it is just so needed. And also, I cannot help but wonder if the voice that Batman is talking to throughout the story (even though he is dead), was a self-referential teaser for the Gaiman fans.
To the Neil Gaiman fans out there, the woman might not be who you think but it will make a lot of sense as the story closes.
So, in the end, the Batman is dead. Long live the Batman.