Bruce Wayne’s epic journey through time continues in THE RETURN OF BRUCE WAYNE #3. Having narrowly survived the perils of both prehistoric and puritanical Gotham, Bruce now finds himself thrust into a pirate adventure worthy of a Robert Louis Stevenson novel.
This issue opens with a FINAL CRISIS flashback to the moment when Batman fires a God-wounding bullet into Darkseid in an effort to save the world from anti-life enslavement. As a consequence, Bruce himself is hit with the Apokoliptian Omega Effect which traps him in a series of harrowing periods in history. In the following pages, Bruce struggles to remember who and what he is. This won’t be an easy task for the time-lost hero who is immediately confronted by a band of surly pirates who have already taken a young man, who identifies himself as Jack Loggins, hostage at knife-point. It seems Bruce has been mistaken for the legendary Black Pirate, captain of the Black Rose. Naturally, the villainous Blackbeard is after an Indian treasure hoard hidden deep within the Gotham County catacombs. A treasure whose whereabouts are known only to the Black Pirate.
As the pirates and captives begin their journey into the caves of Gotham, the young man taken hostage begins to impart his knowledge of the cave’s booby traps to the group. Solely on the names of the obstacles, Bruce is able to instinctively escape their mortal danger.
The story abruptly cuts to current day continuity and the discovery of Batman’s cape and cowl deep within Bludhaven’s Command D. This would appear to be a direct nod to BATMAN #701-2 where Grant Morrison and Tony Daniel re-team to tell the exciting 2-part, untold tale of Bruce Wayne and his adventures between BATMAN R.I.P. and FINAL CRISIS. This scene also references Superman following Bruce to the “end of time,” which we saw in issue #2 of this series. If one were interested, the further adventure of time-traveling Superman can be followed in a “companion” limited series to THE RETURN in July called TIME MASTERS: VANISHING POINT. In which a group of DC’s heroes accompanies Superman on a mission to find Batman.
Eventually, Jack Loggins reveals himself to Bruce as the mythical Black Pirate and presents Bruce with his signature cloak. Bruce is able to momentarily escape and with the aid of his new cloak, some bats, and the remaining Miagani tribesman living within the caves, kick some serious pirate booty. The revelation that the Miagani have preserved Batman’s costume sparks some memories within Bruce. He is becoming more aware of his past and what to expect in the future. He also imparts this knowledge on the young Jack Loggins who will eventually place his transcribed memories into a small casket adorned with a bat symbol. This is a reoccurring story thread that will surely play a significant part in future issues.
As in the previous two issues of the series, the book closes with a glimpse into what the immediate future has in store for Bruce Wayne. It appears as though he’ll be facing off with DC Comics’ iconic bounty hunter Jonah Hex. The final page features a Batman riding horseback and donning his signature utility belt. And most importantly, true to his staunch beliefs…no sidearm.
The only negative mark against this issue is a quick comment from Damien to the “new” Batman…”Don’t we need to get back to the Joker?” My guess is that the confusion this line caused me is a result of scheduling. With the Joker laying low since BATMAN R.I.P., I have to assume that this is related to BATMAN AND ROBIN #13 which has been delayed in shipping. But it’s clear that the genius mind of Grant Morrison has created a hearty circulatory system of stories that runs throughout BATMAN R.I.P., FINAL CRISIS, BATMAN AND ROBIN and THE RETURN OF BRUCE WAYNE resulting in an epic tale with a life of its own.
The illustrations featured in this book are simply stunning. Andy Kubert unquestionably continues his mastery of the cover art duties in this series with aplomb. His image of a swashbuckling Batman is not only suitable for framing but worthy of mounting on human flesh and worshiping en masse. Often in comics, an awesome cover can castrate interior artwork and render it underwhelming. Not in this case however. I haven’t seen Yanick Paquette’s outstanding artwork since he last teamed with Grant Morrison on SEVEN SOLDIERS OF VICTORY. But perhaps that is just because he’s been working on THIS book ever since then. Paquette creates a hyper-detailed world of high-adventure that makes me wonder if artists working on subsequent issues will be able to measure up. Apparently, Dark Horse Comics’ artist Georges Jeanty has been named as a last-minute replacement penciler for long-time Morrison collaborator Cameron Stewart. I’m not familiar with Jeanty’s work, but a truncated work schedule combined with the high bar set by Paquette has my expectations for a Wild West Batman a little low.
Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne #3:
Reviewed by Hayesstronaut