Published by DC Comics in 1989, The Many Deaths of Batman is a three-part story from writer John Byrne and illustrator Jim Aparo. Originally published in issues #433, #434 and #435 of Batman, The Many Deaths of Batman is a murder mystery centred around the Caped Crusader.
What is perhaps most unusual about the story is that the first chapter is told entirely through illustrations. With the exception of Commissioner Gordon, who utters one line of dialogue, no other character speaks during the opening act.
What happens in The Many Deaths of Batman?
Chapter One: Period of Mourning
On a rain-soaked night in Gotham City, two police officers are called to a shocking crime scene – the crucified body of Batman. Despite efforts to revive Batman, the Caped Crusader dies in hospital.
The next day, Batman’s death makes the news. All his friends and foes are shocked, including Commissioner Gordon.
Gordon goes to the morgue to see the body for himself. As he lifts up the mask, it becomes clear that the body in the morgue does not belong to Batman.
Chapter Two: How Many Times Can a Batman die?
Five more victims die in Gotham. Each a prominent figure, and each dressed in a Batsuit.
After the sixth death, the trail leads to Bruce Wayne. But as Wayne manages to escape becoming the next victim, a seventh person is killed in the city.
Chapter Three: The Last Death of the Batman
With seven people dead, Batman deduces a connection. Each victim taught Batman a specific technique on his way towards developing his crime-fighting persona.
But one of the victims – Fredrick Stone – is different to the others. It would appear that Stone faked his own death to make it look like he was a victim.
Stone believes that at some point in time, Batman’s foes will seek out all the people who taught the Dark Knight his unique skill set. Therefore the only way for Stone to stay safe is if he kills everyone connected to Batman and make it look like he was killed too.
With his crime exposed, Stone is handed over to the police. Batman then returns to his crime-fighting crusade.
Is The Many Deaths of the Batman worth a read?
The Many Deaths of the Batman is an engrossing murder mystery with a fantastic opening chapter. The decision to remove almost all of the dialogue from the story makes Batman’s ‘death’ feel incredibly harrowing, and results in a truly remarkable piece of work.
Without any words, emotions are conveyed through bold imagery. At times it is shocking, at times sad, but most of all it is beautiful to look at.
It is of course a shame the ‘no dialogue’ rule is then dropped from Chapter Two and Three, as it would have been interesting to see how this story would have played out wordless. However, the tale that is explored across the next two chapters is still interesting in its own right and provides a strong mystery for the World’s Greatest Detective.
All-in-all, The Many Deaths of the Batman is a strong read, with a stellar opening. The ‘80s was a great era for Batman tales, and this is another fine example which mixes excellent storytelling with first-rate art.
Has The Many Deaths of the Batman been adapted for film?
The Many Deaths of the Batman has not been adapted for film, and I don’t believe it ever will. The murder mystery angle would work well as a television adaptation, but it is not the type of Batman story that would work so well on film.
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