Graphic Novel Review: Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne

09:31 17 February 2012

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THE Batman is dead.

Bruce Wayne lost his life in final battle with the insidious New God Darkseid as part of the reality-shattering Final Crisis conflict, his desiccated remains retrieved by Superman for a private burial service afterwards.

Except he didn’t.

In fact, Darkseid sent Wayne spiralling backwards through time to a prehistoric era, and replaced his body with that of a failed experiment in cloning to prevent his comrades from trying to find him in the depths of history.

Stripped of his memories, his costume in tatters and his utility belt empty, the man who was Batman is destined to live out the rest of his existence struggling to survive in a world of barely evolved cavemen, forever cut off from his friends and family.

But Bruce Wayne is far more than just an ordinary man. His drive, determination, resolve and ingenuity has made him one of the most dangerous human beings to ever walk the planet, and thank God he’s on the side of the angels.

Not only does he succeed in establishing the roots of a bat-inspired mythology which will develop throughout the centuries, but he also begins leaving evidence and clues in the past which will prompt his allies in the present.

But as he begins to piece together his true identity, Wayne finds himself catapulted forwards in time, fighting evil in one era after another as he slowly reassembles the remnants of his shattered self.

Whether it’s tackling witchfinders in puritanical times, treasure-hunting with the legendary pirate Blackbeard, fighting as a masked outlaw in the Wild West or trying to bring justice to a Gotham blighted by gangsters, the essence of Bruce Wayne cannot be denied, as he bounces between eras on his quest for answers.

But as his Justice League allies come to realise that their friend is actually alive, albeit lost in time, they also deduce Darkseid’s games of destruction are far from over. For the closer Batman comes towards the present day, the more deadly he becomes… The New God has turned him into a doomsday weapon aimed at the 21st century, and if Bruce Wayne is ever to return, it could mean the end of everything.

The epic conclusion to the first stage in writer Grant Morrison’s epic Bat-saga, this volume features a who’s who of artistic talent including Chris Sprouse, Frazer Irving, Yanick Paquette, Georges Jeanty, Ryan Sook, Lee Garbett and Andy Kubert, each lending their remarkable stylings to a different aspect of Wayne’s journey home.

Not a book to read on its own by any means, as The Return of Bruce Wayne draws on several years’ of plotlines both in the main Batman book and the Final Crisis series, but a fitting coda to the entire Batman RIP narrative, and a first-rate exploration not only of Gotham City’s twisted history, but also cementing Bruce Wayne’s reputation as one of the greatest heroes not only of his era, but of many others besides.

Highly recommended.

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