Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Return of Bruce Wayne 6: What Happened

This issue is a piece of a puzzle. It fits squarely between ROBW #5 and the end of B&R #15. It concludes ROBW and retroactively concludes B&R and Grant Morrison's 28 issues of Batman. It leads in to Batman, Inc. while also concluding, in some respects, Final Crisis, the Batman origin tale from Detective #33, and the entire timeline of the DC Universe. An ambitious story? And then some.

What happens? Through a narrative that is tangled in time, story lines, different titles, and themes, with characters who are moving forward, backward, and sideways in time, the myth of Batman is rebuilt from the beginning to its absolute end. One very particular adventure concludes: The Hyper-Adapter that Darkseid set loose must be beaten. This, of course, happens. In that respect, the story is very simple. What it says along the way is incredibly complex. I would not want to count the panels, including tiny insets, in this issue, but I suspect that the total number is several times that of an ordinary comic.

How does the final encounter between Bruce and the Hyper-Adapter play out? The Archivists who inhabit Vanishing Point automatically snare it for him, in a trap that will last a while, but not long enough to doom it at the very end. Bruce must escape it, and because his mind is what attracts it, he asks the Archivists to wipe his memory once more. He also asks them to build a time sphere that his friends can use to escape from the universe's heat death while he borrows theirs. And so he jumps, amnesiac, to the Hall of Justice.

The Hyper-Adapter, as clever as it is ugly, has bonded with him, and so it is the Archivist suit that Bruce wears upon his arrival. Satan, as Bruce says in ROBW #2, is hairy; it is not merely a disguise he is wearing: Bruce is essentially possessed, still as dangerous as ever, taking down the JLA while they try to stop him. The Hyper-Adapter directs Bruce to do its ill bidding until Tim Drake talks the half of Bruce that is still himself into slowing down his attack. Bruce allows Wonder Woman to lasso the composite pair and let them both speak their truths. At that point the Hyper-Adapter becomes its full self, still bonded to Bruce, threatening his life and all of time. And at that, Bruce's plan is itself revealed. He knows that he is not a god and cannot face true evil on a mythic scale, but that he is not and never has been alone. He cannot beat the Hyper-Adapter, only purge it from himself. And then his friends take over. In the time of superheroes, the JLA is unbeatable: Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, and Superman can beat the Hyper-Adapter, and by bringing it to the JLA, Batman has made it just another monster for them to beat. It has destroyed Nichols' time machine so that Batman cannot banish it, but as always, he is a step ahead. As soon as the time sphere brings the rescue party into the fight, the three big guns of the JLA wrestle the Hyper-Adapter inside, and it is taken into the past, in the form of a giant bat, where it is turned into an element of its own story: Vandal Savage kills it, where it inspires the bat legend that Bruce's adventure in ROBW #1 created for the Miagani.

This leaves Bruce barely alive, a medical threat which is resolved with ice water and by telling him that Gotham is in peril and needs him. That sounds like a necessary lie that Tim Drake thinks of, but it happens to be true: Bruce, having returned safely to his own time with his health, mind, and life intact, leaves to go help Dick and Damian beat Doctor Hurt, which we already saw take place.

On the simplest level, that is how Batman escapes from the trap that Darkseid created for him in Final Crisis #6: With his brains, his ability to survive, and a little help from his friends.

The larger part of the narration, though, embeds inside the plot the resolution of numerous plot points from Morrison's entire bat-saga, along with a sort of essay about Batman and the most endless Batman story of them all. That will be the subject of a second post, appearing here later today.


  1. I just read it and "Wow."

    What scares me is the realization that somehow all these books will have to be put into a coherent reading order.

    It may be necessary to bind all the singles to do it.

  2. I had a hunch Bruce might take the Adapter from the end of time and send it backwards, and this surely explains why the Adapter didn't "show up" until "The Return of Bruce Wayne # 2" (although we did see the Bat-Beast).

    The Adapter can't enter the timeline without a cue, and while Annie's curse would've sufficed, the cue had to have been Bruce Wayne re-entering the timeline, and re-triggering the Adapter to follow.

    So from 10,000BC to AD1640, it lay dormant. Thanks Vandal Savage. Ironically you'll work together later. Meanwhile ... the reason we saw it "overlapping" Bruce in time distortions - whether the "Nichols" time ripples we saw last issue, or Vandal Savage's "time-free, drug trip" vision the issue before ... is because it's in all likelihood the very same thing that's been "attacking Bruce Wayne's Mind" this whole time with a psychic attack. It almost certainly is the little gremlin on Bat-Mite's back.

    This issue has quite a few resolutions and answers that are going to take me some re-reading, and possibly writing it as I read it, to gather. (One thing I'll say is this - I nearly expected Bat-Mite to assist Bruce in his defiance of Darkseid at the Hole in Things. It was all imaginary, after all ...)

  3. Dave, as for reading order ...

    1. Blackest Knight
    2. Time and the Batman
    3. Batman vs. Robin
    4. The Return of Bruce Wayne
    5. Batman and Robin Must Die! + Black Mass

    There's a natural break between "Batman vs. Robin" and "Batman and Robin Must Die!" for the whole of Return of Bruce to fit into. At the end of "vs.", Dick confronts Joker. Joker is surrounded by cops and isn't leaving that hotel.

    In "ROBW", Damian says "Shouldn't we be getting back to the Joker?"

    And in "Batman and Robin # 13", they "get back to the Joker" and the fun begins.

    Here's a question. Dick finds the cape & cowl relic loaded with Omega Radiation, and witnesses Barbatos launched back in time because of the aforementioned Omega Radiation? Hears Bruce's whistle echoing through the Omega/Radiation/Wake?

  4. Dave, even the scenes of some of the single issues along the way are hard to put into order, this one included! In fact, the time travel makes it impossible -- there are several separate timelines. Bruce, the DCU proper, and the Hyper-Adapter, to name three. Publication sequence is yet another, and the rescue party is one more!

    1. Just wrapping a re-read of this lovely thing, and found Chris Burnham's proposed reading order - - to be thoroughly excellent. I guess it'd be the Rescue Party's timeline (701-702 are perfectly placed for this). But in any case, it feels very logical and correct, and even *looks* right, the way you alternate issues of ROBW and B+R.

  5. Retro, I was thinking of you when the Ten Eyed Men from "52" appeared in this issue. More to say in the next post!

  6. Has anyone put all the andy kubert covers to make the bat logo?

  7. Hey Rik. Big fan of the blog as you know. Part 1 was good , waiting for the next.
    ROBW is an epic storyline. Grants run has been freaking terrific. Words can't describe my admiration for a writer like him who obviously is in love with his character that he's on, especially Bruce and Damian ( even Dick is stellar, hell everyone is ! )
    Yeah btw that glitch dialogue youre talking about, is that the line Hal tells Bruce when he's back from VP? That was pretty awesome.
    Cannot wait for Batman INC.
    I think we should have a " Thank You Mr. Morrison " Thread for completing 50 issues in his Batman run.

    28 issues on Batman ( 655-658 , 663-683 and 700-702 )
    16 issues on Robin and Batman ( 1-16) ( cause Damian said so !)
    6 issues on ROBW

    Looking at he's going, he has 25 more to go.
    Batman : The Return
    Batman INC ( 2 years he said in an IGN interview ) (24 issues )

    That's 75! His longest run on a character ever. Even higher than his Invisibles. The most definite Batman run ever. Am I too much in love with Batman or G-Mo ? I don't care :P

    On an unrelated note.
    Also atleast he isn't like JMS who left Superman and Wonder Woman for Superman Earth One Vol.2. Whether that as editorial or not , I'm very disappointed with him. I might not have enjoyed his work there, but he's talked about 12 issues of grounded and then some epic war storyline and now it's concluding in 708 by some other writer. That's barely 8 issues. Some work ethic. Sorry

  8. Oddball, I have that graphic somewhere, although I can't remember if I made it or if some DC article included it. That said, I just looked at it once and stashed it away. I'll have a look.

  9. Well just want to say great post and can't wait for part 2

  10. Just to add this, Tim seems to be aware at the beginning of the issue of the state Gotham is currently in, i.e. Hurt and Pyg's viral drug causing the city to tear itself apart. So it's not just a lie, he knows that Gotham is in trouble, and that it needs Batman to save it.

  11. Spangle, I mention that in the next post! Yes, it seems like Tim might just be saying it to revive Bruce, but then on reflection it's clear: Gotham is in trouble!

  12. Impressive. Thanks for all your comments and analysis. Being able to understand most of the story makes it much more enjoyable.

  13. "It has destroyed Nichols' time machine so that Batman cannot banish it, but as always, he is a step ahead. As soon as the time sphere brings the rescue party into the fight, the three big guns of the JLA wrestle the Hyper-Adapter inside..."

    Just a small point, but the Hyper-Adapter disabled Rick Hunter's time sphere. The rescue party arrived in the ultimate sphere that was based on Nichols' machine.

    So at the end of the story the Nichols' derived sphere was gone and Rick Hunter's deactivated sphere remained in the Hall of Justice. No doubt he knew how to get it going again. ;)