Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne #6

Return of Bruce Wayne #6

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We’ve only got one issue left until Grant Morrison’s primary Batman saga concludes, but The Return of Bruce Wayne #6 sure feels like a finale to me. It ties up a lot of the threads that have been woven through Morrison’s run, both plot-wise and thematically, but it still leaves a lot open for future debate and dissection–what good Morrison comic wouldn’t? There’s definitely a lot going on here, but as I reached the last few pages I couldn’t believe it was almost over. The revelations contained herein shed some light on Bruce’s trip through time, but I still can’t help but wonder: is there more?

In true time-travel fashion, RoBW #6 skips around chronologically, though not nearly to the degree of the much-maligned last issue of Final Crisis. Bits of stories from previous issues, from the dawn of man to the wild west to the end of time, run together to bring us back to the “present day” where, spoiler alert, Bruce Wayne returns. Getting back home isn’t enough to save our hero, though, and once Bruce shows up on the Justice League Watchtower he and his superhero buddies still have a couple more battles to fight. Bruce’s life and indeed all life on Earth hangs in the balance as Batman must finally make a stand against an enemy that’s hunted him throughout time.

I can’t be positive, but it sure seems like RoBW #6 spills the beans on who Morrison has positioned as Bruce’s ultimate mystery enemy throughout his whole saga. Fellow Nerdy Nothings writer Spaceman Spiff was kind enough not to spoil it in his review of Batman & Robin #16 last week, but he came pretty close to guessing it in a private conversation with me, although RoBW #6 complicates things further than B&R #16 hinted at. At any rate it looks like we can now say with certainty both who Dr. Hurt is and what’s been fueling his mad quest to destroy Batman, and if this issue’s finally laid all of Morrison’s cards out then I’m a happy camper. It’s a great revelation that makes perfect sense and, frankly, is just a little funny. I’ll have a better grasp on it all when I do my Great Bat-Morrison Re-Read (title pending), but so far I’m a fan.

This issue’s got more than some wild villainy up its sleeve, though. RoBW #6 gives us one of the coolest Wonder Woman sequences I’ve ever seen, maybe the best instance of the Justice League working together in years, and some interesting new twists on Batman’s very origin. It also has the gall to suggest that Morrison’s Batman run actually began way back in 52, which means I have even more work to do to get to the bottom of it all.

Artist Lee Garbett (probably most familiar from his work on Judge Dredd or earlier Morrison Batman stories) brings a dynamic touch to this issue. His style provides a nice synthesis of stereotypically over-muscled superheroes and more human figures. I especially love the way he draws Superman; it’s nice to see someone bulk up the Man of Steel without making him look too cartoony.

If I have one issue with RoBW #6, it’s that the book feels like a finale that isn’t actually finished. I think this comic could’ve comfortably doubled its page count and still had more to say. Part of the problem may be DC’s scheduling; I imagine we were meant to read this before last week’s Batman & Robin #16, which may have made for a smoother experience. But given that RoBW #6 actually answers a lot of B&R #16′s questions, it may instead be intended as a coda to that story. Then again, perhaps next week’s Batman: The Return will bring both stories to a harmonious finale. Until then, I shall impatiently wait for the next new comic book day so I can have the finished product at last.

tags: batman, grant morrison, lee garbett

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