The story begins with a tribe of cavemen who go by the name of The Deer Tribe and who upon discovering a space vehicle crashed wonder if its part of the sky that fell. They then notice a trail of footsteps leading from the capsule to a cave nearby. They wonder if the tracks belong to one of the “Shining Ones.” One of the cavemen says that if the Shining Ones come again then it is some sort of end. As they make their way to the cave one of them throw a rock into the cave causing bats to fly out from the cave. We then see Bruce Wayne emerge. The cavemen all speak in a form of broken English and Bruce talks in sentences where words are combined into one word.
One of the cavemen introduces himself as “Man” son of the “Old Man” and the youngest caveman is “Boy” the grandson of “Old Man” and the son of “Man” who is learning to be a Young Man. There is of course one caveman who is called Joker. Man, Boy, and Joker walk into the cave and find Old Man dead, as Bruce is walking out, utility belt in hand, to the space vehicle where he finds Superman’s cape, he then proceeds back to the cave.
Later on in the night, The Blood Mob attacks with their leader Vandal Savage. Bruce who acts on his pure instinct grabs Boy and hides him while he goes and fights. Both Man and Joker are killed while Bruce is captured and named “Man-God” by Savage. At the Blood Mob village Savage proclaims that he’s brought his village gifts from the forbidden land that he took from the Shining Ones and claims that he has defeated the Man-God just like he defeated a large bat beast as we see a cloak and bat head. Savage then says he will eat the Man-God as soon as the sun rises on the Man-God’s suffering. We then see Boy in a mask and wearing Bruce’s utility belt wielding a shield with a large bat symbol on it, he cuts Bruce from his restraints. Savage then wakes up and Bruce attacks using all of his gadgets to defeat him. As the mob runs after them Bruce and Boy jump off of a cliff and into a river.
We then cut to Superman, Hal Jordan, and Booster Gold next to the time sphere, Superman says that they just missed Bruce, as Hal says Bruce has no memory of who he is or what happened to him, while Booster Gold says that no one, not even Bruce could survive this. Superman replies by pointing out that that’s what Bruce does, Survive, while commenting that if Bruce survives this and makes his way back to the 21st Century on his own then everyone dies.
We then see Bruce in the water (Boy is gone), in a new era with a huge water monster behind him as a nameless woman says “Master Demon. Whatever you are. What horse is this you rode in on?”. Bruce holds a sword as the monster rises up.
With the Return of Bruce Wayne I have to admit I was hesitant to pick it up, one because I didn’t know how this time traveling thing would play out and two because I had been reading Batman & Robin (also by Grant Morrison) and I think Dick and Damian do a good job in their current respective roles. So when the first issue of The Return of Bruce Wayne had hit the stands I resisted it for 3 days. But curiosity got the best of me and I caved in and bought it.
When I got home I immediately started reading it. After my first read through I found it hard to read. It was confusing and served no purpose in telling the story of Bruce’s return, with a minor exception for the end. So I re-read it. Still didn’t get it. So I re-read it. Nothing. By the time I was about to start my fourth read through I had grown so frustrated with the content that I had to close the book, stand up and take a deep breath while I cleared my mind. Then out of nowhere I realized that the problem wasn’t the content or Grant Morrison’s writing, it was me. I had been thinking about what I know and what SHOULD happen in the strict terms of this story.
The foundation of this issue isn’t the basis for anything except your own mind. Bruce Wayne/Batman as a whole or absolute system or as we know him isn’t what we think he will be after all of our readership. All these thoughts and ideas we have created for him in our own minds that bring him to a whole is subtly broken down and laid on the floor in front of us as we open to the first page of this issue. By that I mean (now strictly hypothetically speaking), Grant Morrison’s Bruce Wayne/Batman is a brand new forging, forged not by him but by us. There is no need to refer to our Year One’s or whatever back issue you want to throw out there that defined Batman as you, yourself know him, it is already within you stirring and mixing the old and the new in your mind as you read these brand new pages. Morrison creates this “new” Batman by starting off in the middle of nowhere, with no back-story as to how we got here, erasing Bruce’s memory, by breaking our understanding of the English language, and most importantly by letting the pictures tell the story. The pictures serve as an emotional narrative that we use to forge our new memories of the Dark Knight. We can refer to our memories as children or as adults reading our eyes out gathering all this random information to (in our minds) not have these random pieces of information scattered all about but to put these pieces together to create Batman as we see him in our minds eye. What Grant Morrison does is break down this Batman and scatter all these pieces of information so that its laid out in front of you as brand new thoughts and ideas, but as he does this He’s building a new Batman using our memories. Batman will never be the same as we let go of the old one and let in the new one as you now see him. Grant Morrison not only helped break down and rebuild our image of Batman, he started anew, building the Dark Knight from the ground up not by forcing his hand or convincing us or saying this is your Batman, this is your ideas, and thoughts, and feelings but by simply showing us the door.
All in all, great issue. The art looked like a throwback to the older days of Batman while hinting at a new style or direction which only enhances the experience. Not really recommended to the newer reader but highly recommended to all of us who have been with Batman for all these years.
Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne #1:
Reviewed by Dane