Welcome to part 16 of my posts on Grant Morrison’s Batman. Today: The Return of Bruce Wayne.
From the first page, Morrison tells us what he’s doing here: He’s creating an orgy of continuity–something he’s always been good at. In many ways, this is the project he was born to create. The rocket was launched by Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen in Final Crisis #7, as an ironic reference to Superman’s own creation. The rocket has landed back in time, at the time of the DC character Anthro. The comic is told through the eyes of the cavemen, so when Bruce Wayne appears he speaks in phonics. It’s a little stilted, and at first it’s a bit of a struggle to read this book. But hard reading is a common characteristic of Morrison’s work–it’s what makes rereads like this so enjoyable.
The Return of Bruce Wayne, though, is a pretty straightfoward series overall. Until #6, which folds directly into Batman and Robin #15, it’s a series of one-and-dones that place Batman into various specific “types” of comics. Kinda like Morrison’s Seven Soldiers series.
The first issue is largely foundational. There are cave drawings of the symbols of the Justice League, turning the heroes into prophesied myths–Gods–much like the writings of Nostradamus. The book establishes early Batman as important to the advancement of civilization itself.
The second issue jumps far forward into the future, into the time of the Puritans, where Bruce Wayne appears to have forgotten himself. He begins to remember himself through heroics–by fighting a demonlike creature and saving an innocent. The third issue involves another old DC character, The Black Pirate. In this issue, he’s much closer to being in full Batman costume.
Morrison gets to do his “old West” story in #4, which of course involves Jonah Hex, and puts Wayne at the inception of Gotham City. Issue #5 is his noir. And #6 is the “conclusion.” But of course, as with all things Morrison, there’s no real “ending” here.
Throughout his run with Bruce Wayne, Morrison has had the character confront his own death; his humbling defeat against Bane; the possibility of being replaced by his own mythology in a harsher form of vigilante; fatherhood–both being a father and needing one; and the overall importance of family to a DC hero traditionally characterized as a loner.
This idea–that Batman needs to be in a gang and not operate alone–provides the perfect foundation for the final issue of Batman and Robin. (Actually, it’s just the final Morrison issue. DC didn’t want to leave money on the table, so they continued the series, which was selling very well.)
Batman & Robin #16 is all about team work. Tim Drake brings Bruce Wayne back into the present by reminding him of who he is, Damian and Dick have their last adventure together, and Batman gets his first glimpse at what a world with more than one Batman might look like. And he appears to appreciate it.
Plus, Robin uses a bow and arrow–like Robin Hood. You’ve gotta love that. And the end is the launch of Batman Inc.: