The Comic Book Club: The Return of Bruce Wayne

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This is what happens when Techland goes to the comic book store: Douglas Wolk, Evan Narcisse, Mike Williams, Peter Ha and Lev Grossman end up talking about what we picked up. This week, we discuss the first issue of Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne.

DOUGLAS: I enjoyed this, but I was surprised by how straightforward a story it was–this is as loose and airy an action story as Morrison has written in a while. One thing that always bugs me in these “familiar character in other eras” stories is the way the circumstances of the familiar character’s life always assume the same pattern we know already (Neil Gaiman’s “1602” was particularly egregious about this), and here of course we get a bat-costume, a Robin, a Joker, a bit of business involving a significant heirloom necklace…

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EVAN: Man, I thought it was only me that was surprised by how straight-ahead this first issue of The Return of Bruce Wayne was. I went in expecting all the Morrison-ian allusions to myth and meta-narrative structure. It was all pretty much Bruce acting on instinct. I did like how the mental impairment reduced Bruce to essentially a caveman himself; he didn’t have the benefit of communication and was essentially more savage than the cavemen. But, also the fact that he was able to use some of his Bat-trappings–giant cloak, use of fear and shadow, utility belt, above-average fighting skills–kinda drive home how deeply ingrained his Batman-ness is in him. I felt lost as to what was in the ship, though. I’m sure Wolk will explain all…

MIKE: I agree about the story. Very cut and dried. I guess I just don’t remember how Bruce got started on his journey. Wasn’t he zapped with the omega beams of Darkseid? Which everyone assumed killed him?

DOUGLAS: Right. He got zapped in Final Crisis #6; on the last two pages of Final Crisis #7, we see Anthro dying, and Bruce in the cave next to him (with the ship in the background). This issue, in fact, begins immediately after the end of that scene! Darkseid’s Omega Effect has various results in both the Kirby kanon and Morrison’s stories; it can send you through all your possible existences, or strand you in the past. (The body Superman was holding in FC was revealed in Batman & Robin to have been one of the Bat-clones Darkseid had been producing earlier in the story.)

As for what’s in the ship, I refer you to the last issue of Final Crisis again: as the universe is shutting down, the heroes fill the rocket with artifacts of their existence–the final Daily Planet, a Bat-Signal, Superman’s cape–and fire it off (“call it a message in a bottle”). Anthro (“Old Man”) is the one who drew the Metron-sigil in the cave before he died (and yes, he is indeed holding the necklace in FC); we see Bruce drawing the bat in the cave there, and I think we can assume that he also drew the Superman and Wonder Woman logos. (Which brings us back to the image on the cover of Final Crisis #1; now we know–!) It’s already been established over in Batman and Robin that Bruce is leaving messages at various points in the past (and in fact Superman et al. mention that they’ve seen the paintings in the cave).

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It may be that the rocket got there long before Bruce did; Superman’s cape is intact, of course, but the Bat-Signal got smashed, and I’m guessing the dust is all that’s left of the Daily Planet.

David Uzumeri points out in his annotations that this incident is where the Deer Tribe becomes the Bat Tribe from Jim Starlin’s The Cult, which Morrison mentioned in his interview here.

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