TITLE: Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne
AUTHOR: Grant Morrison
PENCILLERS: Chris Sprouse, Frazer Irving, Yanick Paquette, Georges Jeanty, Ryan Sook, Pere Perez, Lee Garbett. Cover by Andy Kubert.
COLLECTS: Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne #1-6
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
RELEASE DATE: February 2, 2011
By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder
My feelings on The Return of Bruce Wayne are a mixed bag, because my feelings on Grant Morrison’s writing are often a mixed bag. In general, I think when he deals with stories that are smaller in scope, i.e. his Batman & Robin stories, he’s fantastic. But when his stuff explodes on to a more cosmic scale, things get needlessly convoluted.
In Return, we get a little of both. After the events of Final Crisis, as a result of Darkseid’s Omega Sanction, Bruce Wayne has been sent into the past with no memory of who he is. Throughout the story, Bruce experiences several time jumps, taking him to various periods in history. But per the Omega Sanction, if Bruce makes it back to his own time, he’ll bring about the end of the world.
I’ve been split on the idea of sending Bruce back in time. Obviously they had to send him away for awhile so they could do the story line with Dick Grayson and Damian becoming the new Batman & Robin. But having him be stuck in time seems a little corny to me. I don’t really want to see Bruce as a caveman, I want to see him as Batman. On the other hand, the idea of Batman functioning in different time periods isn’t a bad one, even if he doesn’t remember he’s Batman. So there were times when I found myself begrudgingly enjoying this story.
Each issue seems to examine a different aspect of the Bruce Wayne/Batman character. When he’s a cave man we see the raw, emotional animal in him. When he’s a puritan witch hunter, we see the detective. When he’s a pirate, we see the swashbuckling fighter, etc. Morrison also uses many of the traditional symbols and motifs from Batman’s world very well. For instance, the image of Martha Wayne’s falling pearls, to the small bell Bruce rang to summon Alfred in Batman: Year One. Those are done quite well.
The most enjoyable issue for yours truly was the second one, with art by Frazer Irving. Each artist is married to their issue/time period very well, but Irving’s work suits his setting wonderfully, and his colors are beautifully dreary.
I must admit, I’m a bit torn as to what my end verdict on this book should be. It’s received a great deal of acclaim, but I can’t muster up the enthusiasm for it that others seem to have. I understand what it was trying to do in terms of character study, and much of the art is done masterfully. The last few pages are also very well done. But in my book The Return of Bruce Wayne doesn’t measure up to the greatness of some of Morrison’s other work, like Arkham Asylum, Batman #663 with John Van Fleet, Batman R.I.P., and his Batman & Robin issues. It’s filled with some of the “Morrisonian” convolution that plagued Final Crisis, and it was a story I really just wanted to see end so we could get Bruce back where he belongs.
There’s also an inherent cheesiness to this story that I just can’t get past. At times it almost feels like Morrison got this story idea from playing with some Batman action figures from the ’90s. We’ve got Caveman Bruce, Pirate Bruce, Cowboy Bruce, etc.
Nevertheless, good work deserves it’s due, even if I personally don’t appreciate it as much as many other fans do. So I’ll be fair, if not a little generous in terms of my own opinions.
Image 1 from amazon.com. Image 2 from doublearticulation.wordpress.com.
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