Monday, 19 March 2012

Books: Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne


Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne
Written by Grant Morrison
Art by Chris Sprouse, Frazer Irving and Yanick Paquette

Available now from Islington Libraries
You can reserve this item for free here:

PREVIOUSLY ON BATMAN (see: Final Crisis): Batman had a fight with Darkseid. Batman shot Darkseid with a gun (Killer line: "I made a very solemn vow about firearms. But for you, I'm making a once-in-a lifetime exception"). So Darkseid shot Batman with something called the "Omega Sanction: THE DEATH THAT IS LIFE." And so everyone thought that Batman was dead. Expect he's not - he's actually somewhere in... CAVE MAN TIMES! 


When I was younger I used to be a Batman purist. Out of all the superheroes out there - Batman (by far) was my favourite. He was (in the words of Private William Hudson): the ultimate badass. And (in that puritanical way that all teenagers seem to have) I was convinced that all the best Batman stories all took place in a realistic world (no monsters from beyond or extra-dimensional beings for me please) and all had Batman doing things ALONE (Robin The Boy Wonder? urrgh! Please! That's the most stupid thing I've ever heard).

As I've grown up - I've got a little more relaxed in my Batstandards. And a little more open to the idea that - damn you DC Universe! - that Bruce Wayne doesn't exist in a realistic world (no matter what Christopher Nolan may try to tell you): he's best friends with the likes of Superman (who - spoiler alert - turns out is an alien from a distant faraway exploded world), Wonder Woman (who comes from some place called Themyscira and is an actual real life goddess) and - not forgetting Aquaman - (who most bizarrely of all: can talk to fishes). Point being: Batman doesn't live in the same world as us - and while that may mean that it's harder to cling to the belief that maybe one day you could be best friends with him - it does mean that the type of Batstories you can tell are a lot more... open. And as Grant Morrison (who was head-writer for the Batman books for a good few years - The Return of Bruce Wayne sitting snug in-between his other books: Batman R.I.P. on one side and Batman Inc. on the other.).

So - if you're on board with the idea of Batman lost in the mists of time [1] (and - frankly - if such a slightly oddball pulpy concept doesn't appeal to you - then may I suggest that you give up on the whole idea of entertainment and restrict yourself to watching boring dusty art house films that seek only to recreate the tedious and dull experiences of day-to-day life?) - does this book deliver? Well... when it starts off I was hit over the head with a rush of pure joy. Batman with a fresh cool caveman spin? Yes please. The best way I can think to describe it: is that reading it feels like watching the best Saturday morning Batman cartoon you've ever seen: yes it's over the top (I'll say it once more: it's Batman and a bunch of cavemen!) but it also has a semi-mythical quality twinned with a feeling of epic-ness that made me feel that I was reading the most wide-screen Batman story ever: albeit - a wide-screen cartoon (I hope this is making sense).

We don't stick around in cave times for long - as each issue presses Batman forward through time - and takes in (as you can mostly see from the cover): pirates and witch-burning and cowboys - with appearances here and there from a few familiar DC faces (those of you who aren't DC fanboys may want to rely on some of the annotations out of there on the internet). With each historical period bringing out a different attribute of the Dark Knight legend: the scary side, the action side, detective side etc.

And - of course: because it's Grant Morrison - who's seemingly never devised an ending that doesn't attempt to shoot off in a dozen different directions with a go-for-broke energy that will either leave the reader either attaining some sort of divine comic transcendence or just feeling really confused: things get a little bit nonlinear in the final part - and those that haven't read the previous books may find themselves a little confused (and hell - I've read those books and even I had to resort to the wise minds on the internet (and particularly the iFanboy and the Mindless Ones (links below) to help me make sense of what it was that I had just read). But then - it is nice to have a comic that packs in too much - rather than most others out there that get away with putting in too little. And - it's cool to have a Batman book that practically demands that you read it again once it's done.

[1] A sudden thought: I wonder if Grant Morrison ever heard of Nick Cave's script of Gladitor 2 (yeah - I realise that this sounds like something I made up - but whatever). From this Cracked article: "6 Insane Sequels That Almost Ruined Classic Movies": "After doing Gladiator, Scott and Crowe were eager to do a sequel but had one little problem: As mentioned, the main character (Maximus) is unmistakably dead and buried by the end of the movie. Crowe thought there had to be a way around that pesky little detail and hired the legendary Nick Cave from Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds to come up with a "creative solution." The fact that the Gladiator 2 script was written by a famous rock star is the most normal thing about it. The story written by Cave opens with Maximus gladiatoring the shit out of some Roman gods in the afterlife until they agree to let him go back to the land of the living. The newly reincarnated Maximus then spends some time in Rome defending early Christians from persecution -- and somehow becoming immortal. During the next two hours, we watch Maximus kick ass throughout history, being present at every important war ever fought from the Crusades to Vietnam, like a more muscular Forrest Gump.The end of the script reveals that Maximus ended up working at the Pentagon, which makes sense because it does sort of look like a gladiator arena. We like to imagine that even at the Pentagon he was still wearing that same miniskirt from the first movie, if only to justify the word "gladiator" in Gladiator 2. Russell Crowe read this script ... and loved it. Seriously. Ridley Scott says they "tried to go with it," but the studio thought it was too over the top, for some reason. Eventually the two moved on to make Robin Hood, which might be more enjoyable if you pretend that Robin is actually an immortal Maximus in the 1100s."

Links: The M0vie Blog ReviewiFanboy Review of #6, Mindless Ones Return of Bruce Wayne 6 – the batmanotations / Return of Bruce Wayne PLUS barbatos.

Preceded by: Batman: Batman and SonBatman: The Black Glove, Batman: R.I.P., Final Crisis, Batman: Batman and Robin.

Followed by: Batman: Time and the BatmanBatman: Batman Incorporated.

Further reading: Batman: Year One, Mezolith, The Invisibles.

Profiles: Grant Morrison.

All comments welcome.

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