Welcome to what I consider one of the top 5 worst modern Batman stories!
Shall we begin?
BATMAN: THE RETURN OF BRUCE WAYNE
FIrst off, let's take a look at the good. The cover. Kubert. Awesome. Two words that just belong together.
Unfortunately, the rest is a hot mess. And not just hot, but hot like a thousand suns. It's bad.
See. . .the basic problem here is that DC decided at some point to let an insane Englishman with an obsession for minutiae and the Silver age to write one of their tentpole characters for a while.
I may be in the minority when it comes to my opinion of Grant Morrison's writing. I understand that there are those who regard him as almost some sort of comic messiah. I'm not one of those people.
That said. . .
Just because a particular person writes a particular thing, that doesn't make that thing good OR bad by default. The question HERE is whether or not this first issue can cut it on its own without the "Morrison Aura" either good OR bad.
Taken objectively. . .no. It's awful. The main reason its awful is because it relies on such a string of improbable coincidence that what little narrative there is (to be fair. . .it IS pretty much cavemen) collapses under the weight of groaning through things like Bruce Wayne just happening to find a cave filled with bats. . .one of the young cavemen painting a domino mask on and becoming Bruce's sidekick. . .Vandal Savage just happening to be the leader of a tribe just over the hill. . .and so on and so forth. . .one coincidence after the other completely ruins this story.
That was the neutral view. Here's my prejudiced view. . .Morrison smugly ruins what SHOULD be a simple, pulpy tale of a hero trapped in time with his obsession for fan service and trying to connect everything in the DCU.
This COULD have been great. . .in the hands of another writer. As it stands, I find this first issue to be convoluted, entirely dependent on the reader having knowledge of "Batman R.I.P.", "Final Crisis" and (then current, pre New 52) DC continuity, and pointlessly smug and full of coincidence and needless fan service that stands in the way of an otherwise simple story.
Frazer Irving's art is the star of this issue. His dark, moody, and muted style is perfect for a tale of Bruce Wayne finding himself colonial times. With the exception of Superman, though. Irving never gets a handle on Superman for some reason.
As for the story. . .
Once again, Grant Morrison bogs down what should be a fairly simple tale with a string of improbable coincidence and fan service nods to make what would probably be a decent story in another writer's hands into a muddled, almost unreadable mess that pretty much depends on the reader's knowledge of Batman R.I.P, Final Crisis, and past DC continuity. It's just bad.
This issue was a LITTLE better than the previous two. Part of that is due to the fantastic artwork. Very dynamic and detailed.
Unfortunately, the same problems that sunk the other two issues are here as well. . .and in a way they are magnified as Morrison gives us a bit of a longer look at The Justice League trying to find Batman.
Improbable coincidences pile one atop the other. Smug nods to obscure continuity details. Confusing narrative that relies on the past work of the writer in other places instead of concentrating on the fairly simple story at hand.
One begins to wonder. . .is Grant Morrison even capable of writing a simple story? Bruce Wayne and pirates on a treasure hunt through an ancient cave. That story doesn't cry out for complexity. Still, despite Morrison's best efforts, this issue manages to elevate itself above awful to merely bad.
I love western comics and am a big fan of Jonah Hex, so I had (fairly) high hopes for this issue.
Unfortunately, once again Morrison drops the ball, but not in the same way as in other issues. For once, he didn't bog down the story with needless convolutions and reliance on past continuity. No. . .Morrison flubbed this one by breaking his own characterization of Bruce Wayne. That and a continued over-reliance on coincidence.
See. . .with the exception of Wayne grunting his way through the opening Caveman issue, he's been fairly chatty with other characters. . .in a confusing sort of way. In this issue, Wayne doesn't say a word.
I realize that Morrison was trying to evoke the silent gunslinger archetype. . .the "Man with no name", but it makes this issue stand out like a sore thumb. To be fair, Morrison did a decent job with Jonah Hex. That was a nice surprise.
And although the art was pretty good, how come in previous issues, Gotham is a gloomy seaside town while in this one it looks like it's in Arizona? At that point in time, Gotham wouldn't have been just a big frontier town with a dusty main street. With Jonah Hex in it, the time was post civil war. . .late 1800's. Gotham would have been a big, stinking metropolis with thousands of people.
Both the writer and the artist carried the Western theme too far in this one.
The two best things about this issue are the completely amazing Kubert cover. . .and the "To be concluded" tag on the last page.
After a short break from continuity creeping with last issue's too-western western theme, Bruce Wayne skips a huge chunk of time between the 1800's and the 1940's so Morrison can write some noir. To be fair, he doesn't do a bad job with the inner monologue, but coming directly on the heels of Bruce Wayne's "Silent Gunslinger" and giving him the most dialogue of any issue so far is just strange. . .especially when Wayne is cracking wise and making tough guy jokes.
Word of warning. If you aren't familiar with "Batman R.I.P." you will have absolutely no idea what is going on in this issue. Besides the usual pile of coincidence, this issue leans HEAVILY on "R.I.P."
For that matter, the efforts of the Justice League to find Batman in "Real Time" lean very heavily on "Final Crisis", so you'd better wiki that up too if you don't have your back issues handy for reference.
QUESTION: Why the hell do I need reference material to read a story about Batman trapped in time?
And that. . .is why you fail.
Thank God it's over.
This issue was the worst of the bunch.
I proudly present Grant Morrison the achievement award for convoluted storytelling in comics. *slowly claps*
I'll tell you the truth here. I have very little idea of just what the hell happened in this final issue. All I know is that at the end, as promised, Bruce Wayne has returned.
This whole series has suffered from one simple thing: Grant Morrison.
What SHOULD have been a fun romp through time with a bunch of cool moments and guest stars turned into such a hot mess that I've rarely been so glad to see the end of a series as I was with this one. I submit that almost ANY other writer could have done this story better. Morrison's obsession with obscura and fan service destroyed an otherwise simple tale of Batman trying to get back to his own time.
I asked the question before. . .is Grant Morrison capable of writing a simple story? This mini is the answer. The answer is no.
Like I said before, just because a particular person writes a particular thing, that doesn't make that thing good OR bad by default. But when this mini is looked at objectively, the conclusion is still the same. . .Morrison or not, it's bad.
And there you have it. Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne. The unwanted answer to the unasked question, "What would happen if an insane Englishman were to write one of the most popular comic book characters in history?"
Coming next. . .
Hey, remember when one of Earth's greatest heroes was killed in front of the entire world? Then his old partner decided to maintain the legacy of his fallen mentor by taking up the uniform and name and carrying on his work? But what nobody knew was that the hero wasn't dead after all, but was trapped in time for. . .reasons. . .and was fighting his way back? Remember that?
Batman? Please, God. . .don't make me read it again! Naw, I'm talking about Captain America!
Captain America: Reborn 6 issue mini. Be there or be square!
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Issue # 8