Although I hadn’t started off thinking “Hmnn, I bet it would be totally worthwhile to review each of the 6 issues of Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne”, I just can’t help myself. There are too many bat-books out right now to be fully invested in each one, so it all comes down to cherry-picking the ones you think might be the most interesting/rewarding, and hope that you’re not missing the party somewhere else.
And apparently, I just can’t give Grant Morrison enough of my money.
Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne issue 2 picks up where issue 1 left off. As each issue is only a few day’s to maybe a week’s worth of adventure, the whole six issues reads like it’s covering a month’s worth of Bruce’s life. Which is strange, because experienced from the perspective of those left behind (Dick and Damien in Morrison’s flat-out awesome Batman and Robin), Bruce has been gone something like a year.
Ah well - issue two is set in the grim and wind-swept days of Puritan Gotham, and between cavemen, The Crucible-style Puritans and (next issue’s) pirates, I can mos’ def’ see myself choosing some of these archetypes-as-enemies over others. Maybe it’s me, but pirates are always going to be cooler than guys who look like Thanksgiving table centerpieces. However, this issue benefits from having more going on plot-wise than I was expecting.
In the A story, Bruce awakens in the woods outside of Gotham during the time of the Great Witch Hunts, and takes up with a comely lass who aids him in his new identity as ‘Brother Mordecai’, a visiting witch finder who solves local crimes by looking for clues and deducing evidence. True, there’s some supernatural hoo-ha going on with a many tentacled beast in the woods (and Frazer Irving deserves props for making these monster scenes Lovecraftian enough without taking away from the book’s setting), but the enemy of the week this time is the cruel Brother Malleus. Like an old Hammer villain, he looks, acts and sounds exactly like the kind of guy who’d strip, drown and kill an innocent woman rather than admit that the Devil isn’t necessarily behind the every crime of man’s. Does Mordecai get outed, and does Malleus have a secret himself? Of course, but that’s not the point.
Because it’s the B story that got my curiosity piqued: Superman, Green Lantern and Booster Gold team up with Rip Hunter to go to the end of time, trying to find the right point in the right timeline to get Bruce to safety. If Bruce’s time-jumping actually takes him all the way back to the 21st century, he’ll blow up the whole world. Or something. (Before sending him back in time, Darkseid has re-made him as a Doomsday Device – I know, but go with me on this – and if Bruce isn’t “defused” before returning, then he’s “doomed” us all.)
And *this* is why I love Morrison’s writing. Even as Bruce is racing ahead, trying to reclaim his memory, himself and his place in the world, his friends are racing after him, trying to stop him. Loose threads become tight, even as more are introduced. And it’s the reader’s job to keep up. I can’t wait to grab the already-out thrid issue, and it’s not to see Bruce fight Blackbeard the Pirate (as far as I’m concerned, Ben Grimm took care of that guy decades ago.) It’s to see Morrison pull those strings even tighter.