Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Return of Bruce Wayne 3

The covers of ROBW hint that the individual episodes, like the Silver Age mysteries they mirror, focus on Batman winning the kinds of fights he usually wins in Gotham, but in each of several past eras known for colorful action. Halfway through the series, it is clear that these issues do contain such interactions, but it's equally clear that these fights are window dressing to several parallel larger agendas. ROBW is telling, also, the interlinked stories of Bruce Wayne accomplishing the following:

1) Beating Darkseid's plan to destroy the 21st Century
2) Playing a role in his own family history, and that of Gotham as a whole
3) Starting an underground hero movement which continues far forward towards our own present
4) Sending, via artifacts from the past, messages to Dick Grayson in the present that will prove decisive in a coming showdown with Doctor Hurt

Issue #3 shows each of these plots advance even while key facts remain mysterious. It is remarkable that this series can juggle so many distinct mysteries and tie in with the concurrent events in Batman and Robin, which is also, of course, scripted by Morrison.

#3 may show us a bit of how Bruce is working to defeat Darkseid, but does not pick up directly with the End of Time scenario shown in #2. In #3, the JLA remark that Superman and the others (Hal Jordan's presence in the JLA meeting may be an oversight) have not returned from their rescue mission. Wonder Woman describes our hero, in his present situation, as a "world-threatening rogue Batman". It remains unclear why the JLA suspects that the world is threatened when they are only beginning to figure out other key facts of the scenario. It is also unclear what is meant by "rogue". Presumably, they expect their most capable ally to be unaware of what they know. We have already seen by #2 that Bruce Wayne is, predictably, the one who is a step ahead.

#3 showed us another surrogate for a present-day character, with the youthful Black Pirate acting as a sort of Robin, and continuing on as a cowled crime-fighter on the high seas. Perhaps more significant as a force carrying on the bat-work were the Miagani, who had been converted into a bat-army, reminiscent of the Sons of the Batman in The Dark Knight Returns. The duration of their memory is apparently 11,000 years, spanning the whole time since ROBW #1, with no refresher in ROBW #2, where Annie says of the Miagani's presence merely that it came "before us". In the seventy or so years since then, the Miagani moved into the future Batcave, where the hero-symbol cave art remains, and forged a movement that will either prove to continue to the present or meet a spectacular end in the meantime. Given that Bruce's name in #1, "Man of Bats" is the name of the Native American Batman in the Club of Heroes (original appearance: Batman #86). It may already have ended by the skip-ahead showing Bruce in the late 19th Century, aimed for a showdown with Jonah Hex. Because the narration is now over a hundred years past the alleged devil worship involving Old Thomas Wayne in 1765.

The adventure in #3, and the steps that Bruce takes to pull of a triumph in each of the many ongoing plots carries the issue more than capably. But the issue was also packed with subtle surprises -- backhanded suggestions that the plot has considerably more depth than it seemed to one issue ago.

One key piece of narration tells us that the doomsday -- what the Deer People in #1 called the "All-Over" -- will apparently be triggered if Bruce's cowl is removed from the Batcave. (Perhaps they are quite incorrect in that belief, but it's the kind of foreshadowing that feels like it's true.) But removing the cowl happens to be exactly what the JLA intends to do, so on the surface, it now seems that the JLA is poised unwittingly to end the world, with Bruce knowledgable in his 1718 adventure of the stakes. He has directed Jack Valor to pass on the message, and it will seem to get to the heroes somehow as needed. Given this piece of information, it may be that Darkseid's plan was not to make Bruce Wayne a doomsday weapon at all, but to make the JLA think so. This may mean that the end of #2 showed Bruce trapping Superman and Green Lantern to help even the odds if he has to take on the JLA alone. We could have a confrontation where the two sides each believe that the other needs to be stopped. If so, it is of course Bruce who will prove to have been correct. Remember that the Deer People in #1 already had an "All-Over" legend stating in so many words that the end would result from the return of the shining ones, i.e., the New Gods as represented by Metron.

Another seeming surprise is that the Barbatos carving found by Dick Grayson in Batman and Robin #11 -- thoroughly evil looking, and there related to the devil worship of Old Thomas Wayne -- is seen in ROBW #3 to be the handiwork of the Miagani who are verifiable Good Guys loyal to Bruce -- look at how they copy his body language exactly when he examines the utility belt. The consequences of this may be that when Barbatos is unleashed in Batman and Robin that he/it proves to be a force for good and not for evil, and will thus tip the tide in favor of our heroes, and not in favor of Doctor Hurt. Note that the giant bat fought Vandal Savage before the events of ROBW #1. Is the enemy of Bruce's enemy his friend?

We also got a partial answer to the mystery of the casket and the book seen in the Mordecai Wayne portrait. Indeed, Bruce's book is inside the casket. But something more portentous is inside, something that Jack will not describe in his journal. His phrasing hints that the "final thing" is something from the event with Bruce in #2, and that it also reminds him of the All-Over. It is not clear, though, if these are general associations or if he saw something that was present. We know that Bruce left Jack with a message about the "hunter's belt" (the stars of Orion, which made an appearance in the woodwork in Batman and Robin #10).  The utility belt which Bruce examines closely in #3 is absent when Dick finds the cowl in B&R. Was Bruce looking at it, reminiscing, or did he remove something? One other change in scenery: The cowl's surroundings. The eclipse in B&R #12 is total, but the one in ROBW #3 is partial, showing a sliver of sun. Is this an art discrepany or meaningful?

We skip ahead (with a depiction of an eclipse which, for what it's worth, did not actually occur on the East Coast of the future U.S.A. in the months before Blackbeard's death). Now the action is sometime after the start of the Civil War, if we can trust the reference to the death of Joshua Wayne (who disappeared in 1860 according to Batman Secret Files and Origins). An apparent showdown between Bruce and Jonah Hex would be a good match: Hex helped beat the JLA in a Bronze Age adventure and killed Superman in an alternate timeline in Superman/Batman: Absolute Power. However, note that he disavows superstition right before the men who seem to hire him refer to "bad luck", and had earlier acted scared of the "haunted" surroundings; he may not take their job. If he does, he's got some omenous symbols at his fingertips: the Dead Man's Hand from DC Universe #0, with the cards all black (the color of the Devil, according to Bruce in Batman #680) and the joker card as creepy as the one who frequents Arkham. That's the same Joker whose confrontation with Dick in Batman and Robin #12 may not have happened yet when Dick and Damian explore the bunker in which Bruce faced Darkseid.

One thing we've seen of Bruce's jumps is that he arrives when a person in need asks for assistance from the spirit plane. First Annie, then Jack. If the pattern continues, then someone else is that person in #4 -- perhaps Jonah Hex is looking for Bruce's help, not his death. Good guys tend to patch things up after an initial clash; that's a likely guide to the action next issue.

Finally, a figure from #3 is mentioned in a meaningful way. Van Derm, the Flemish painter who shares Doctor Hurt's hairline, recorded his thoughts in a journal whose words appear at the end of #2. He refers, from his older years well after Bruce beating the dragon, to the Devil making an appearance in Gotham sometime after the 1640s and presumably no later than 1700 or so, if it's still within Van Derm's natural lifetime. This is the man who seemed to have passed Bruce's book on to his son in #2, and Bruce tells Jack to find him (or some other descendent of Van Derm) in #3. This is a family whose fate seems to be related to the coming Wayne-Hurt interactions. With the next two issues of Batman, the next three issues of Batman and Robin, and the next two issues of Return of Bruce Wayne all taking Doctor Hurt's story forward, this enigmatic and supremely evil villain is about to take center stage in Morrison's story and hold it right through the summer.


  1. Great insights as usual. I think you mentioned it previously in other entries, but either way, I think it is worth noting again as well that Darius Wayne had the Manor designed by a fellow called Nathan Van Derm in 1795, no doubt a descendant of Martin Van Derm.

    Also, more than ever before I think Barbatos is NOT the Devil who goes by Dr. Simon Hurt, as each issue of the Return of Bruce Wayne points more and more strongly at Bruce himself being the inspiration for the Bat-God/Bat-Devil worshiped by the Miagani that the European immigrants called Barbatos.

  2. I loved the Indiana Jones 3 vibe i received from this issue. I still feel abit mixed with Batman starting this whole Miagani tribe, but now i sound like a broken music player whos just playing the same tune over and over, so enough about that.

    I was really happy to see actual reasonings why Tim Drake isn't part of the search party, and i also liked that they explain what actually has happened, for those Batman only fans who don't nor shouldn't bother with Final Crisis, unless they care about DC universe as a larger thing.

    Abit butthurt that Bruce wasn't a pirate, but still the issue was great and i loved that Bruce is aware he isn't in his timeline, but that somethings happening. And yeah as we say, this is all building up for the great finale with Dr. Hurt. Batman and Robin #15 is suppose to have his last appearence, but i think #16 will have him aswell, unless.... Barbatos!

  3. You are the best RikDad- I hope they collect your blogs in a published companion piece to Grant Morrison's epic

  4. every day thins so that Barbatos is fact in accordance with the trip of Wayne in the time, the statue to means to finish in the room where this cowl is an interesting detail, and the fans were hoping to see adventures to leather wing, would be disappointed, the one of the black pirate publishes two weeks back and I was right in several Rik details the Script go in other direction, never see one Batman of The Seven Seas

    the Link

  5. Awesome as always, Rikdad.

    With the revelation that the carving was made to be Bruce, I'm starting to think back to B$R #11 when Dick was in the cave.

    I thought maybe Bruce set up the traps in the alternate cave to deter the JLA or the Bat team from finding the cape and cowl. Maybe the artifacts need to remain intact (and at one point the casket is placed beside them), but if they are found, they will lead the JLA to think that Bruce is rigged as a doomsday device pointed to the 21st century.

    So then...Darkseid's plan in my eyes would have been a triple deception. #1- Making the world beleive that Batman was dead #2- Allowing them to discover that he was actually alive so that they could find him and #3- Making them think that he was a doomsday device (and gone rogue) so that they would have to stop him.

    I made no sense there. lol...strike that out.

  6. Terrific post, as usual. However, I disagree with your assertion that the Miagani were copying Bruce's "body language exactly when he examines the utility belt." It seemed to me that they were reverentially making a "bat-symbol" by crossing their hands and placing them over their chests. Note that most of them remained standing while doing so.

  7. This issue was a blast. It was more straightforwardly enjoyable than issue 2, but I think I liked issue 2 a little more.

    A lot of people were a bit underwhelmed with Batman 700, noting that it didn't seem to have too many connections with, or even thematic allusions to, Morrison's other Batman stuff. With RoBW 3, though, just two weeks after Batman 700, we're already starting to see Morrison play with some tropes he inaugurated with 700. 2-Face-2 kidnapped the wrong baby, thinking it was the child of wealthy parents. In RoBW 3 Blackbeard says of Jack, "What would his FAMILY pay in return for the safety of a lad like that?" Just as Damian points out 2-Face-2's error, Bruce points out to Blackbeard that Jack's "heels are WORN, his buckles are SCUFFED [...] Jack is of a family fallen on HARD TIMES." The situations are similar, and I really love how Morrison echos things like that.

    Off-topic: I've been meaning to note some more esoteric/occult Batman references that fit in well with Morrison's run. Remember how the original group of police Batman replacements (from the old issue Morrison referenced) was called the "Silver Star"? In Latin "Silver Star" is "Argenteum Astrum", which was the name of an occult organization founded by Aleister Crowley. So it's easily to see how a "Silver Star" organization might struck a chord with a self-described magician like Morrison.

    (Crowley's group was abbreviated "A.A.", and I might note how two "A"s show up a lot in Morrison's run. There're the two "A"s of the dead man's hand; there's the "H.A.H.A." of the Joker's Morse-coded blinks (issue 663). And what's Bruce's signature utterance? "HH". So Bruce's signature utterance + "A.A." (which means the Silver Star and the occult organization) = "HAHA". It's almost like a formula. I'm not saying this stuff really even MEANS anything in the narrative, but I think there's kind of a behind-the-scenes meaning that might be worthwhile to think about, especially since Morrison is so fixated on created "sigils" and things like that.)

    Also, apparently the 33rd episode of the '60s Batman tv show was entitled "Fine Finny Friends". "FFF" becomes a demonic "666" via a code similar to the one that gave us "HAHA" from 8s and aces. 33 is also known as the number associated with top free-masons and all that stuff (again, people, I'm not a believer in the Illuminati, but I've just dug into some of this stuff, which someone who wrote The Invisibles would probably know about). More interestingly, in that episode of the show Aunt Harriet makes an offhand comment about how Bruce's great-great grandfather was a founder of the Skull & Bones society. Of course, Morrison wouldn't need to have watched this episode to have gotten the idea for Bruce's ancestors to be mixed up in dark dealings, but I really wonder if he has watched it.

  8. I'm sorry I do not still have the pics up from "Destroyer" but as you probably recall, chapter two of that story from 1992 gave us the history of Judge Solomon Wayne and the architect he sponsored to build Gotham as a spiritually empowered barrier against the evils that could do Gotham harm.
    Perhaps it is significant that it is now his brother who"died in the caves".

  9. "More interestingly, in that episode of the show Aunt Harriet makes an offhand comment about how Bruce's great-great grandfather was a founder of the Skull & Bones society."

    If Aunt Harriet was referring to the famous "Skull and Bones" fraternal society of Yale University, she probably meant to imply the aristocracy of his ancestry.

  10. moira, you wrote:

    'Perhaps it is significant that it is now his brother who"died in the caves".'

    Judge Solomon Wayne's brother Joshua had always died in the caves while hiding from the authorities while conducting a literal underground railroad he used to help slaves find freedom, and the story of his life and death was told in Shadow of the Bat # 45 I believe. His bones aren't found until Bruce's era. Anyway, the death of Solomon's brother isn't a new addition to the Wayne family history at this time, but rather Morrison integrating massive amounts of continuity with the current generation-spanning story.

  11. Great blog post as always. There's a huge amount of continuity being integrated into the issue that everyone is sort of catching up on. That Spanish blog above got scans of the original Black Pirate costume that Morrison lifted exactly. I'm not sure if Morrison is reading the old LOTDK and SOTB issues, but if he is there's a lot of crazy reference to Bruce's family history there.

  12. Jared, thanks, and that's all correct.

    Clearly, there is some bat-force whose origin preceded Bruce's jump back. Was it good, evil, or neither? All we really know is that it fought Vandal Savage. Bruce created a Good bat-legacy that lasted all or almost all of the time until the present. (1718 is 97% of the way from ROBW #1 toward the present.)

    Does the Old Thomas Wayne story (devil worship in 1765) have *any* basis in fact? We don't know. Maybe Hurt was worshipping Bruce and didn't know it. "Who's your daddy?" Or maybe Old Thomas Wayne was worshiping a "dark side" of the bat-force.

    A time loop is one way this could end up. Bruce was the bat that Hurt worshiped. The Black Glove cowl, based on that, inspired Bruce's Batman identity. Full circle.

  13. JMD, if you're confused, it's with good reason. We still don't know what's going on. But I think the setup is that Bruce is going to have to fight the JLA in a classic encounter, with both of them convinced that the other is going to destroy the universe. Bruce gets the two heavy hitters out of the way at the end of time. There's a good chance that #6 will contain a battle/contest/race between Bruce and the rest of the JLA. (Wonder Woman, etc.)

  14. @All: just wanted you to know as I haven't seen mentioned here that the name (word) 'thomas' means 'twin' as you can read about here:

    when in RIP Hurt said he's thomas wayne he probably meant it as he could be a twin. the lowercased 'thomas' inscribings and the huge Barbatos engravement could be the key to the truth.

  15. komi, while Hurt has said that he is a "double you" (which is automatically in some sense a twin), his claims in RIP were not generic. He was extremely specific in saying that he was THE SAME Thomas Wayne who was Bruce's father. He lied in that regard, and basically retracted it within seconds of making the claim.

    So there's no saying that in any sense Hurt was telling the truth with his claim in RIP if he turns out to be *a* Thomas Wayne (e.g., the one from 1765, or a twin). It was still categorically a lie. And we know that he is a "double you", anyway. The big question is: Whose double is he, or is he two entities in one (e.g., a man possessed by the Devil)?

  16. @Rikdad: I'm okay with that but why do you think it's not relevant that 'thomas' means twin? :)
    I don't think it's just a coincidence..

  17. Nice insightful, detail-heavy post (as usual).

    I recently read Peter Milligan's three-issue storyline "Dark Knight, Dark City" - one of the many stories that act as keys to unlocking some aspect of Morrison's amazingly dense storytelling here - and it's got me focusing on Barbatos in particular.

    You write:

    "The consequences of this may be that when Barbatos is unleashed in Batman and Robin that he/it proves to be a force for good and not for evil, and will thus tip the tide in favor of our heroes, and not in favor of Doctor Hurt. Note that the giant bat fought Vandal Savage before the events of ROBW #1. Is the enemy of Bruce's enemy his friend?"

    That Milligan story got me thinking along these lines as well. In that story, which you've likely read, the Barbatos demon is summoned by some rich occultists in the 18th century (including Thomas Jefferson, who kidnaps a virgin for the event!) - Thomas Wayne could easily be among them, though he is not named. At any rate the summoning goes wrong, the disembodied demon is trapped beneath Gotham, and the suggestion is that it in some way inhabited the entire city and, as the city, guided or fostered or created the circumstances for the emergence of Batman - who then ends up freeing the demon in the late 20th century.

    This story is fantastic in a lot of ways, but one that is particularly relevant is that the ostensibly big bad demon Barbatos does not seem evil or intent on doing harm. It merely wants to escape it's confinement. It's pretty much the "Dark Is Not Evil" trope (

    Furthermore, some very brief research into the description of Barbatos in the demonology textbook The Lesser Key of Solomon seems pretty relevant to what Morrison is doing ( In short, here's what Barbatos does: "He gives the understanding of the voices of the animals, says past and future, conciliates friends and rulers, and he can lead men to hidden treasures that have been hid by the enchantment of magicians."

    Sounds like a pretty okay demon to me, and not one that's going to come roaring up from hell to tear Gotham apart. If you read that description of Barbatos while keeping in mind Bruce Wayne as a time-hopping beast(bat)-man who bridges the gap between humans and superhumans and is up to something with hidden cowls and caskets in secret caves; if you connect the description of Barbatos with a description of Bruce - you start to think some crazy things... First, is Bruce/Batman some kind of agent of Barbatos (a la Milligan's story)... Second, perhaps Bruce somehow IS Barbatos, and it will be the summoning of Barbatos that ends up being the mechanism by which Bruce returns to proper time.

    Some mind-blowing time-looping circularity if that turns out to be the case... if you read the Milligan story that way then Batman created himself.

    Apologies for the long comment, I don't have a blog of my own...

  18. One addition to my post above, regarding this sentence of yours:

    "One thing we've seen of Bruce's jumps is that he arrives when a person in need asks for assistance from the spirit plane."

    I don't have the comics with me at the moment, but I don't think we ever see what Annie or Valor actually say - what they are praying to or invoking or attempting to summon - since they've presumably said it the instant before Bruce appears.

    Well, they're probably asking for assistance from the demon Barbatos!