31 May 2010

The Return of Bruce Wayne #1 and #2

Written by Grant Morrison
Issue #1:
Pencils by Chris Sprouse
Ink by Karl Story
Colors by Guy Major
Letters by Jared K. Fletcher
Cover by Andy Kubert and Chris Sprouse
Issue #2:
Art by Frazer Irving
Letters by Jared K. Fletcher
Cover by Andy Kubert and Frazer Irving

Verdict: Four bats out of five

In these first two installments of the long-awaited Return of Bruce Wayne event, the amnesiac Bruce Wayne travels first to Gotham's prehistoric past, then to its early days as a Puritan colony, while a quartet of time-traveling heroes try to stop him from inadvertently destroying the world. Most of the story makes very little sense, and yet that doesn't detract from the sheer fun of the miniseries.

The entirety of The Return of Bruce Wayne #1 can be summed up in a four-word sentence: Batman is a caveman. The entirety of The Return of Bruce Wayne #2 can be summed up in a three-word phrase: Batman with witches. Rather than developing the character of Bruce Wayne further, Grant Morrison relies on the sheer "
cool factor" to keep the reader interested.

Usually, that doesn't work.

It worked.

Return of Bruce Wayne is ostensibly the explanation for what happened to Bruce Wayne after Final Crisis. Every issue, there is
a brief scene with the four heroes who are following Bruce Wayne (Superman, Green Lantern, Booster Gold, and Rip Hunter), which attempts to provide exposition. It's pretty boring. The problem is that the scenes are too short to actually give these characters any attention, which is a shame, because the heroes themselves are quite interesting. And all the relevant exposition can be boiled down to a single fact: for reasons related to Final Crisis, if Bruce Wayne returns to the twenty-first century unaided, it will destroy the world.

"Good to know," says the audience, "Now give us more cavemen."

While all the technobabble and exposition is of course important for the purpose of the overarching story, it's not nearly as interesting as the reality-bending romp through time
that is the main point of the miniseries. Return of Bruce Wayne #1 features an amnesiac Bruce Wayne joining forces with a tribe of cavemen to fight against Vandal Savage, and even features a young caveman who fills the role of Robin. It mostly consists of a lot of fighting, without much complexity. But because it's Bruce Wayne wearing a giant bat-skin fighting cavemen, it's awesome. Also, there's a nice scene in which he growls at the mention of the name "Joker," indicating that he may not have completely lost his memories.

Return of Bruce Wayne #2 is a bit less interesting than the first issue. It suffers from a lot of the cliches common in stories set in colonial times: there's a mysterious magical woman in the woods, there are unthinking, prejudiced witch-hunters who want to kill her, and there is a singular, intelligent man who is an unheeded voice of reason (in this case, Bruce Wayne). Bruce spends a lot less time being Batman, although he does get a chance to show off his detective skills. On the plus side, this issue has the first hint of Bruce Wayne leaving clues for his twenty-first century allies to find.

The art of Return of Bruce Wayne #1 is fairly standard. There isn't anything particularly innovative or interesting about it, but it isn't bad. The second issue has a much more surreal art style that is a bit evocative of DC's Vertigo imprint, and it fits well with the almost Lovecraftian
overtones of the story. The only women so far portrayed in the series have been in Puritan garb, so there hasn't been much opportunity for sexual exploitation. The next issue, due out on June 16, will no doubt involve some pirate wenches, so there may be more to discuss when that comes out.


Tizzi said...

I'm so, so glad that they included Booster Gold in this series. omg yesssss. :D

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