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Lost in Time

June 20, 2010

At last, the promised return of Bruce Wayne from the beginning of time is here.  And now, the former Batman will travel through the centuries back to the present day, in each dressed up as crazy new versions of his costumed self.  Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne #1 and Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne #2 tell the first two stories, of caveman Batman and Puritan Batman.  In the first story, a group of cavemen find some kind of rocket.  Then, they find an amnesiac, mumbling Bruce Wayne nearby, in the cave where Anthro died at the end of Final Crisis.  When one of the cavemen is introduced as Joker, he reacts negatively.  They find and bury Anthro, then head off together.  When a rival tribe, led by none other than Vandal Savage, attacks, Bruce runs off with the youngest caveman, and they see everyone else get killed.  Bruce intervenes and gets captured, and Savage decides to eat his brain the next day.  The young caveman comes and rescues Bruce during the night, and Bruce makes a new costume out of a large bat pelt left nearby and his utility belt.  He and the young man defeat Savage and his tribe but flee when reinforcements come.  They jump down a waterfall, but Bruce doesn’t come up.  Savage, rejected by his tribe, hobbles away, and Rip Hunter, Booster Gold, Superman, and Green Lantern arrive in a flash of white light, looking for Bruce.  Bruce then shows up in Puritan America, rescued by some woman from the water.  And he’s brought a giant demon with him.  The time-traveling group returns to Vanishing Point and meet with a biorganic arachivist and get some information about the way that all the timelines converge, like a giant cosmic loom.  Batman is nursed to health by the woman, named Annie, and the demon is nowhere in sight.  He takes the identity of Brother Mordecai, who came to old Gotham to persecute witches.  However, he uses his talents to find out that a woman killed her husband.  Unfortunately, local Brother Malleus doesn’t like this, because he wants to find witches.  He tracks the demon into the forest, and Bruce warns Annie, telling her that Malleus might come after her.  He also deduces that he’s not really Brother Mordecai and that she is a witch, and that she summoned the demon and him, as well as killed the real Mordecai.  As the investigate a cave in which the Bat People of old (a caveman tribe, inspired by Bruce and started by the boy he saved), the demon arrives again, and Bruce starts fighting it.  Brother Malleus finds Annie and condemns her to death for being a witch.  In Vanishing Point, the Archivist stops providing info and reveals himself as Bruce Wayne, trapping the quartet in an impenetrable bubble.  Then, Superman reveals that Darkseid turned Bruce into a weapon, and that if he returns to his normal time, everyone will die.  As Annie is about to be hung, she reveals that she knows Malleus’ true identity: Nathaniel Wayne.  And she curses him and his family forever.  Such irony.  Bruce falls into the water as he fights the demon, and he reappears near a burning pirate ship.  And Blackbeard is standing right near him

Okay.  So absolutely no one can say that these ideas aren’t absolutely ridiculous.  I mean, caveman and Puritan/witch hunter Batman?  These are fanboy dreams.  I’m just glad there isn’t a ninja Batman too.  Also, this is totally overplaying Bruce’s survival skills, that he can survive being tossed around through time.  Like he can actually beat time or something.  And lastly, doesn’t the Omega Sanction, as Grant Morrison himself invented it, put you through progressively worse alternate universes?  Not through time?  I’m very confused there.  At any rate, all that aside, this is actually a fun story.  It’s weaving together all these strands left in Wayne Manor that Morrison has been hinting at in Batman and Robin, so that’s really fun to see.  And the overall story, the idea that Darkseid did this to Bruce to turn him into a final weapon against his enemies, is cool too.  But I wouldn’t exactly call this the smartest of Morrison’s stories.  Why?  Because although it’s well constructed, again, these ideas are really very silly at their core.  I know this is also partially an homage to some of the old Batman time travel stories, but those were silly too.  And in general, there isn’t enough time for us to really get into the individual stories.  Annie and the young caveman boy were interesting characters, and I’m curious to see how that curse plays out.  It was also nice to see Vandal Savage back in caveman times.  But each of those could have easily been longer and more detailed.  Chris Sprouse was an excellent choice of artist for the caveman story.  He seems to draw bearded, nearly naked, and hairy-chested men very well.  And silly though it was, the caveman Batman uniform was pretty cool.  The pelt really made him look supernatural.  Frazer Irving, unfortunately, was not as good.  I mean, he drew most of the story pretty well, and both Bruce and Brother Malleus looked great with their chiseled, angry faces.  It’s obvious that Irving has skill drawing people from this time period (see Klarion the Witch Boy), and his demon looked pretty cool too.  But aside from Bruce, Annie, and Brother Malleus, most other characters’ faces suffered.  In particular Superman, Green Lantern, Hal Jordan, and Booster Gold, whose heads were at times so skinny and disproportional that they looked like you could snap some of them off like a twig.  And the panel when Bruce came up out of the water looked like he didn’t have any lips.  I’m guess I’m not that big a fan of Irving’s.  Well, next we have pirate Batman.  I could comment on what some people are calling the metatextual references with the 3-Dness of the timelines and Superman’s comment, but I won’t, since I never read that part of Final Crisis anyway.  I’m looking forward to the next installment of this book, but mostly as a sort of popcorn comic book.  It’s decent fun, but a lot of it makes very little sense, and some of the core concepts are just too silly.  It’s still Grant Morrison, but I’m just saying.

Plot: 8.2      Art: 8.6      Dialogue: 8.7      Overall: 8.3

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