[1 June 2010]
In what has become the most transparent marketing ploy on behalf of DC this year, The Return of Bruce Wayne hit comics stands to no great surprise and much cynicism (at least on this reviewer’s part). Even fans knew that when the Dark Knight was apparently “killed” by Darkseid while saving earth, the villain’s Omega Sanction would actually send Batman deep into the past where he would likely only be able to be saved by none other than hero of the timestream and greatly underrated hero of the DCU: Booster Gold.
Meanwhile in the Batverse, Dick Grayson has taken on the mantle of the Bat joined by Bruce Wayne’s son Damian as the most recent Robin. Lately, however, there have been clues that Bruce Wayne might still be alive—somewhere, sometime.
In The Return of Bruce Wayne part one of six, the character is found at the dawn of time, walking with Cro-Magnon humans . He has memory problems and language problems but is still partially clad in his costume (forget about the charred remains and cowl Superman held at the time of Batman’s death in the present). He is still predictably heroic and, ultimately, becomes a legend to the people of that era. However, a mysterious force is moving Batman through time along with something else—a great evil that, if Batman reaches the present, will destroy all life. There are countless problems with this storyarc. The first, of course, is the very premise comics legend Grant Morrison is putting forward.
Indeed, the initial great sin of this comic mini-series event is its predictability. If one of the two top DCU characters is going to be killed off, the creators, ultimately, need to have the strength to do one thing: kill off the character. Either that or don’t kill off the character. However, DC decided to hedge its bets and only apparently kill off the Dark Knight. The fact that fans could accurately predict the major structure of Batman’s return (wait, he never left) at the time of his apparent death brought the shadow of a lack of integrity on this storyline in the countdown to its release.
There is no mystery if at the time of Batman’s apparent death everyone knows that a) he is not dead and b) comics companies use the death of icons to boost sales when they come back to life. The veil of a superficial marketing scheme blots the face of this storyline from the get go. Will there likely be twists ahead in the timestream? One would hope. But, the basic storyarc leaves a great deal to be desired.
Second, since Bruce Wayne never really died the entire Dick Grayson-as-Batman storyline (which is working out quite well—especially in Morrison’s Batman and Robin ongoing series) is brought into question. Will DC have the guts to keep Grayson as Batman and find a new place for Bruce Wayne in the pantheon of superheroes until Grayson moves on? (As Marvel has done with erstwhile sidekick Bucky Barnes holding the title of Captain America with Steve Rogers’ return.) Will there be more than one Batman? Or was it all a shell game meant to keep readers’ attention long enough for Wayne to return to the present, get some rehab and return as the Dark Knight? If it was the latter, readers who like to invest their emotions in storylines will have had the rug pulled out from under them.
Future Science: Bruce Wayne makes use of lifesaving antibiotics from Batman’s utility belt
So, if DC is going to kill off a character they should have the guts to do it. After that, even if they decide, ultimately, to not kill off the character and have already launched multiple storylines with other DC characters in new roles, those roles should have some integrity and not, simply, be place holders for the following year’s attempt to get more people to buy their product.
And that gets, again, to the major problem with this storyarc. The integrity issue.
There have been so many well-crafted, even legendary Batman storylines one would think that the death and resurrection of the Dark Knight would be treated with extreme care. But, since he never really died and the manner in which he would be brought back was transparent to many readers, care is not really being used from even the planning stage. There is an inherent lack of integrity, duplicity and disrespect toward the intelligence of the audience in this arc that is unparalleled in the DCU this year. There is a lack of respect toward the iconic status of the characters involved and it gives the impression of someone toying around with the Bat and the time and money of the readers.
Readers and this reviewer both, expect more from the DCU and, especially, from a writer of Grant Morrison’s caliber.