Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Return of Bruce Wayne 5 Preview

Tomorrow, the long-anticipated resumption of Grant Morrison's Batman saga comes with Return of Bruce Wayne #5. This issues comes after a delay of several weeks, but it also follows on build-ups begun during Batman, R.I.P. and even in Infinite Crisis. That crisis provided a soft reboot, allowing the creators (primarily, Morrison) to redefine the terms of Batman's past, so long as nothing drastically changed the present. Instead of beginning this process with a beginning-to-end redefinition, Morrison started by telling a story in the present, as though nothing much had changed, but at irregular intervals, he has served notice that the backstory has already changed -- we can say that it changed with Infinite Crisis, but off-camera. In doing so, he tends to pattern things loosely on older continuity, but with a very free hand to modify whatever he wishes, not only recording a new mythology, but using it to drive a story being told now. (Geoff Johns has followed a similar strategy with Superman, choosing to write an origin that focuses on events that played into his current stories rather than, say, the stories of a few years earlier.)

What makes ROBW #5 central is that we are going to revisit the general timeframe of the Wayne murders. To be specific, Bruce is revisiting that era in person, having arrived not too long after the murders have taken place. The time travel journey of the Omega Sanction is going to give him an opportunity to interact with his own personal past, putting the adult Bruce in a world (of about 1980) where the child Bruce is just beginning a life mission. That Morrison would revisit this time frame had been promised by the flashbacks to the Wayne murders in his 2006-2008 run in Batman. My take, from over a year ago, on how inevitable this chapter of the story was can be seen here. Now that chapter is upon us.

The key story from the past is Detective #235. Morrison has been teasing a return to that story from the time he showed the Thomas Wayne batsuit from that 1956 comic in the first issues of his own run. Now, the preview for ROBW #5 shows that batsuit as the actress Marsha Lamarr asks Bruce to wear it. Very likely, he will wear it for the same reason he wore it in 1956 -- to intimidate the people responsible for the Waynes' deaths into thinking that Thomas has returned, supernaturally, to haunt them.

The 1956 story was itself a retcon of the 1948 story in Batman #47 that showed Batman confronting Joe Chill, the mugger whose unplanned killing of the Waynes set the course of Bruce's life. Detective #235 added the significant detail that a mobster named Lew Moxon hired Chill to settle a score. In both of these stories, Batman confronts the person behind his parents' deaths and the encounter results in the death of the malefactor. Morrison has revisited the first of those stories, that of the gunman Chill, in Batman #673. The last page of RIP hinted that the new Lew Moxon is actually the Black Glove, probably Doctor Hurt himself, who has intriguingly chosen to wear the Thomas Wayne batsuit. Why? As part of demonic worship? Does the cowl have some power? Did it affect Thomas when he wore it, and will it try to do so when Bruce wears it?

The answers, and another step closer to the shadowy backstory of Doctor Hurt himself, may come tomorrow.


  1. I never even took Infinite Crisis into consideration when reading Morrison's Batman. Putting Morrison's run in that light makes it so much better. I guess I was assuming that he was taking what little information we knew about Bruce's parents and ripping it open, as if to say "here's what you knew, now i'm going to tell you the other 95 percent of it."

  2. The retcon of Batman with Infinite Crisis began in the last pages of IC #6, which showed a newspaper headline from the time Bruce was a boy connecting Joe Chill to the Wayne murders. This was also part of earlier continuity (1947 onward) but had been overturned with Zero Hour. In IC #7, Alexander Luthor says that his parents' killer had been caught. Morrison's telling in #673 may contradict this: He has Bruce catch up to Chill when he has become Batman. That suggests that Chill hadn't been *caught* before... although it's arguable that Chill could have done time and been released.

    Morrison has left the big details of pre-IC continuity untouched, but it's clear that he's rewriting certain aspects of the backstory with a combination of adherence to the past (often, more to the distant past than to the near past) and his own agenda. This makes the story like a mystery where we know the present but not the past.

  3. just finished the issue, it was great- we are finally starting to get a peek behind the curtain

  4. Just finished this, but it's way too late to even begin to process, comment, or post my own blog. Looking forward to really going at it tomorrow or this weekend!