Wednesday, May 12, 2010
Bruce is trapped in the Omega Sanction. He is going to live some time in the area of Gotham City in each of several (perhaps five) different eras in its past. From what we see in The Return of Bruce Wayne #1, he will travel chronologically forward in jumps, appearing suddenly in the next era after (a moment for him; centuries for the world) vanishing from the last. He is not going to be born as a baby and grow up in each world. At least, that's not how it has worked so far.
In his first adventure in the past, Bruce lands in the era and location where Metron was seen giving fire to Anthro in Final Crisis #1. This is perhaps fifty years later, just after Anthro's death. Bruce happens to tangle with a nascent supervillain, Vandal Savage, who has been operating (without aging) since Metron's visit gave Anthro the means to beat Savage's people. Now Bruce Wayne wins the next round for the good guys, using his rusty skills, his utility belt, and the assistance of a proto-Robin to beat Vandal Savage -- savagely -- and then pop forward to the next adventure, in Puritanical witch-hunting times.
The Final Crisis scene set in this time played heavily on 2001: A Space Odyssey, which in turn played on the myth of Prometheus: the gods give fire to Man, making him something more than he was. Bruce Wayne contributes, potentially, to that same transformation. The defeat of Savage is significant, causing his people to abandon him. In Final Crisis, Libra tells the supervillains -- specifically responding to Vandal Savage -- that the superheroes win because they "truly believe their actions are in accordance with a higher moral order". Bruce robs Savage of a foundation that he had built, forcing him to start from scratch.
The Deer People who fight with Bruce believe that he came down in the rocket full of Final Crisis artifacts. It is unclear if he really did ride inside it instead of appear by Omega radiation in the same time and place. The distinction of how Bruce arrived may or may not matter. The artifacts inside have been made fragile, as though greatly aged, and crumble at the touch, except for Superman's indestructible cape.
The giant bat worn by Bruce on the cover remains a mystery. Savage apparently had fought and killed it earlier, but we don't know if it is a special being -- maybe the same giant bat seen by Dick Grayson in Batman and Robin #12 or some gigantic paleo-mammal like some that have actually existed in nature.
The story has numerous thematic elements we've seen elsewhere. A proto-Joker (but not an over-the-top version) is one of the Deer People. A proto-Robin arises among them, too. Vandal Savage throws a prostrate Bruce in a copy of Bane throwing Batman in Knightfall. Batman and a reluctant proto-Robin leap from on high into water in a scene right out of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. But Batman doesn't resurface; he's millennia further ahead in time.
Bruce's victory happens to coincide with a total eclipse of the Sun; it is this, in the cave art commemorating Bruce, that Dick found, also in Batman and Robin #12. It is this which led to his call to alert the Justice League, leading to ROBW #1's surprise guests: Booster Gold, Rip Hunter (probably, silhouetted in the time bubble), Hal Jordan, and Superman. Their time travel has that inconvenient (for them) inflexibility that keeps them from going back one more day, and so they have missed Bruce, but will try again. The use of the JLA as rescuers explains Dick Grayson's mention of them in Batman and Robin, assuring that the battle with Doctor Hurt will be conducted by the bat-family alone. Somehow the JLA knows something that we didn't: If Bruce gets back to the 21st century on his own, "everyone dies." Whatever plan is behind this, it probably has something to do with the unexplained motive Darkseid had in planting a fake Bruce Wayne corpse behind. To connect the dots on this, it seems that Darkseid has made Bruce Wayne into the weapon that will (via some mumbo jumbo) destroy the universe -- one of those "fates worse than death" that villains love to enact. Surviving fistfights and gunfights will be the small challenge, and figuring out that a doomsday countdown is underway will be the hard one. Although for now, Bruce also has to worry about a gigantic hideous monster about to eat him in Puritan times.