Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Review: Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne #1

Written by Grant Morrison; art by Chris Sprouse

I said last week that the book I was most excited about was Birds of Prey #1, but that was obvious a lie. There was one book I couldn't to read when I got back home from the comics shop on Wednesday and it was this one. We've all known for months that Bruce Wayne is trapped in time and that in this mini-series he's going to gradually make his way back from pre-history to the present. The concept is outrageous and it's the kind of thing that very few writers could pull off. Thankfully, Grant Morrison is pretty much at the top of the list of the few who could. Bruce Wayne hardly says a word. He basically just looks cool and kicks ass. And that's perfect.

One thing that really surprised me was how little time Bruce spends in this first time period. I had always imagined that Bruce would spend years, possibly even an entire lifetime, in each period before getting zapped to the next. But by the looks of it he was only in pre-history for a few days. The fast pace of the story caught me off guard, and based on the last couple of pages, it looks like this kind of frenetic rhythm is going to continue in the next issue. I don't really understand how that's going to work in some of the upcoming issues (like the one where Bruce is supposed to be a private investigator) but I trust that Morrison will find a way to make it work.

Two things that make me a little bit wary:

1. The appearance of Superman & co. at the end of the issue. I had hoped that this whole Time Masters parallel series was just a blatant cash grab from DC attempting to capitalize on the buzz surrounding Bruce Wayne's return and that it wouldn't actually play a major role in Grant Morrison's magnum opus. The way they show up a few minutes late and claim to have "just missed him" is tacky and nonsensical – you have a time machine, just go back 5 minutes into the past and you'll catch him! – and it feels like something that editorial imposed on Morrison, rather than an organic element of his story. I would be more than happy if that was their only appearance in the series, but I'm afraid that we're going to get this same ploy in every issue. Which brings me to my second point...

2. The structure of the story works well for the first issue – we get lots of references to Batman mythos and Bruce's brief adventure in caveman land is like a condensed and transposed version of his history. While this is a lot of fun, I sincerely hope that Morrison has more in store for us in the next issues, because following the same basic structure and pattern for every issue is going to get very boring and very repetitive. It's a big challenge to tell a full story in a completely different setting with a completely different set of characters in each issue.

This is a great start, though, and I look forward to the next issue, which is coming out next week!


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