Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Return of Bruce Wayne 1

Comic book stories used to begin simply. The hero would open the story with a clean slate on his to-do list. Someone would call him in and tell him about a problem. The description of the problem was accurate and complete. And he'd set about the task of solving the problem until it was done. Batman -- Bruce Wayne -- is facing a totally different sort of problem now, popping into new worlds disoriented unsure of when and where he is, even who he is. He's got to get back to his time, but he is also going to face more immediate problems everywhere he lands. Moreover, he's got to avoid a doomsday threat that he knows nothing about. We are also disoriented. We know certain things about what's going on, but not everything.

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.


  1. Do you think that with DC bringing Monarch back for a story that they may go the route of making Bruce the third person to be Monarch? With Hank Hall back from the dead because of Blackest Night and Captain Atom being alive, creating a third possible Monarch in the same time line may have a ripple effect on the universe, i.e. "Everyone dies".

  2. Always appreciate your breakdown & insights!

  3. Lovin' the blogs. Always a great companion piece to the actual issue (or preview in some cases). I might be quick to judge, but I believe that creature at the end might be a "Starro"...which would be a nice throw-back to the old JLA books.

  4. I was actually a little disappointed with this issue but your break down made me appreciate it much more. Great Job

  5. I can kind of see the "2001: A Space Odyssey" influence, but pure and simple I think what Morrison was tapping into is just ancient anthropology, period. The ape-men in "2001" didn't speak, but in this comic I was bowled over by how Morrison had the primitive men use language. FANTASTIC stuff, but maybe I'm just a nerd about it because I've read a lot of books on ancient communication, religion, poetry and bardic traditions. In particular the way the father "Man" talked to "Boy" about the stuff "Old Man" taught him "when I was you" was just great. Notions of roles and indistinct identity really work well here, and of course they tie into Morrison's overall Batman saga when you think about the identities of "Batman" and "Robin" and how a Robin (seems to be on a track to become a Batman. But, as Boy wonders how he will become a full Man and who will teach him the songs of tradition if Old Man is gone, in the present we've got Damian being taught by Dick Grayson (in the role of Batman, though he doesn't fit it perfectly) because his father is gone too soon.

    I was actually a little sad that Bruce skipped out of the ancient setting so soon; I wanted more of this stuff. I hope he stays in the other time periods for longer and builds more of a life for himself each time around (he'd have to do that, I would think, if he gets portraits done of himself and becomes known as an existent, historical "Wayne"). I wasn't expecting the Tom Strong preview either, so my reading experience ended sooner than I thought it would, which was a little disconcerting. Still, I can't complain. It was good.

    Two weeks till the next issue. Then two weeks after that we'll have Batman 700, followed by RoBW 3 and then B&R 13 in consecutive weeks after that.

    Oh--last thing--I'm hoping someone will be able to translate all of Bruce's early dialogue in this issue. I figured out most of it, but there're some bits I couldn't get in my first read-through.

  6. Chris, I think Morrison avoids that whole general era (Nineties, roughly speaking) of DCU lore, and so is not likely to bring Monarch into things. Plus, Darkseid looms as a missing figure, as it's his effect that is zapping Bruce not once, but over and over. The simplest explanation is that the threat is Darkseid's (even if the stony one himself is not present or even conscious).

  7. General Update... I noticed a few more patterns of DCU lore in ROBW #1:

    Anthro's wife's white necklace: Martha Wayne famously had a pearl necklace.

    "Stranger, save my Son": Bruce saves Jim Gordon's son in Year One. "Man" is the ancient world's Jim Gordon.

    Bruce is, for the zillionth time in his history, put into a slow-acting deathtrap and left alone. Robin frees him, but he also depends upon drawing the right thing from his utility belt (in this case, penicillin).

    Batman cliches a-plenty...

  8. Thanks, Matt, Vahagn, and Yunus -- glad you enjoyed!

  9. DAL -- good points about the parallels with current B&R.

    I just put up a new post with a translation of the only five lines Bruce slurs in the issue. Reading those over and over until I got them was a replay of doing the same things with the Domino Killer "jokes" last week. I thought about adding them to the original post, but didn't. Your request is my command.

  10. The closeup on Superman's eyes showed them glowing red, and surrounded by strongly inked shadows. Sure, could be world-famous heat vision, but the panel immediately struck me as reminiscent of Darkseid. Surely, he has some sort of role yet to play.

  11. This was a pretty good optimistic start for something that can be incredibly awesome. My main interests right now is the Eclipse. Since we've talked so much about Sun = Good, Superman = Good, SUperman = Sun = Good.

    Batman = Eclipse = Good guy in evil theme. Darkseid = black sun = evil.

    So is the "everyone will die if he returns" part of Darkseid's scheme? Does Batman have some anti-life or maybe even Darkseid's backup-file-soul-thingy-crazyness in him? Really it seems something will be triggered once Batman comes back, which will make for alot more interesting stories definatly and how the Batman status quo changes again.

    It's a shame these comics just can't be longer, i really wanted to see more of Caveman Batman, but hey what can you do?

  12. This issue remark the origin of the Bat People, so cool ans so Fu!"$·"$·% is the monsters, kraken?, Good Point Rik