ROBOT OVERLORD: Now that my central processors have been adequately repaired, it’s time to return to a normal schedule…

MATTHEW: I’m pretty sure we’re going to have a not so regular schedule considering today is a holiday.

ROBOT OVERLORD: SILENCE! It’s time for your two favorite meat bags to dive back into an important comic book of the week, and give their thoughts on Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne #2.

Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne #2
Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist: Frazer Irving
Letters: Jared K. Fletcher
Covers: Andy Kubert and Razer Irving
Editor: Mike Marts
Publisher: DC Comics

Previously in Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne: Lost in time, thanks to Darkseid’s Omega Effect, Batman spent some time in the stone age, matching wits with prehistoric geniuses like Vandal Savage, and that one guy who invented fire. Just when things started to get interesting Bruce Wayne find himself in the early days of Colonial Gotham, with a woman on his side, and a giant monster at his back.

STEPHEN: Oh boy… where to begin. I’m sure time travel takes a lot out of you. It always seemed to cause some confusion when Scott Bakula would make the jump, or when Phineas Bogg and Jeffrey Jones found themselves lost in time. Heck, even Marty McFly almost made out with his mom when he traveled back to 1955, so finding himself in Ye Olde Gotham has to mess with the head. So much so, that his rescuer – a woman named Annie, who many think is a witch – cons him into thinking he’s the regional witch hunter brought in from Boston to kill a dragon lurking in the woods. Matthew, PLEASE MAKE SOME SENSE OF THIS!

MATTHEW: I wish I could help make sense of this, but on my third run-through of the issue, I’m still kind of at a loss as to what has happened…   Bruce has been sent back through time by the Omega Effect, and is somehow moving forward in time to end up masquerading as Mordecai Wayne, witch-hunter, using his knowledge of forensics to solve murders that otherwise would have led to women being drowned as witches.  I think…  I’m not sure why there’s a woman wearing Superman and Wonder Woman symbols on her dress, or what all is going on with Cthulu attacking…

STEPHEN: Let’s not forget the Vanishing Point sequence, that finds Rip Hunter, Booster Gold, Green Lantern, and Superman at the very end of time, confronting the Archivist as the time station begins to break down. Apparently, they are there to find their friend Bruce’s timeline, but little do they know that Bruce is right before them. Somehow, he’s become the Archivist and travels back in time to try and rescue his beloved Annie. Before he’s able to escape, Superman tells him he must not travel back tot he 21st century, or risk destroying the universe.

I think it is this jump in time that doesn’t make any sense to me. Either Bruce has jumped into the Archivist, or he’s lived all this time to become the archivist isn’t quite clear, and I think Morrison ripping on Darren Aronofsky’s The Fountain, it’s a strange moment that finds Bruce completely aware of what is going on around him, to the point he has no problem hijacking the Time Sphere and finding himself in the age of Pirates.

MATTHEW: I don’t know exactly.  I read it as The Archivist being a future-past version of Bruce, further down his personal timeline than Solomon Kane Bruce Wayne…  maybe?  I’m kind of at a loss here.

STEPHEN: And to further complicate matters, DC has a new mini-series called Time Masters: Vanishing Point featuring the stranded time travelers. The series doesn’t arrive until July, and promises to be the launching point for the search for Bruce Wayne, yet it appears Morrison has already beat them to the punch. It’s almost like there is no planning going on at corporate in order to dovetail these series into one another, and it looks like the larger story is going to be D.O.A. If Time Masters and Bruce Wayne are to be clue to the next big DC arc, then DC sure has heck better get their ducks in a row, because this SNAFU is already leaving a bad taste in my mouth.

MATTHEW: Well, if Countdown to Final Crisis taught us anything, it’s that even the best intentions can lead to disaster.  I suspect that the plans on one side or the other have changed as this series and that series have evolved in directions that might be different from where they intended to go, but in either case I am not really interested in reading Vanishing Point from this issue.  But I will say this, I LOVE Frazer Irving’s art on this book.  Dark and surly and entirely fitting a confusing time-travel adventure, it really made the early portions of the book bearable for me, since the narrative and I were on different planets.

STEPHEN: I couldn’t stand the art in this issue. While others are praising Irving’s work, I wonder if he shouldn’t go back to Life Drawing 101 and learn how faces are structured. Whether it is Booster Gold’s elongated face on page 6, Bruce Wayne’s smashed in nose on page 14, that magically rebounds to normal shape a panel later, or that fact that so many of the male characters look alike, it’s maddening. Well, actually, the fact that Wayne and Brother Malleus look alike is okay as it is later revealed that they are related. And, until we learn that Mordecai is Bruce Wayne, the shadow created by his hat brim representing the Bat-mask is going to be lost on many.

MATTHEW: I look at Frazer’s art the same way I look at Bill Sienkiewicz or Mike Mignola (whom I can’t help but remind you that you love.)  It’s not representative of real life, but it’s evocative and emotional on it’s own.  There’s a slick sort of classical painting technique thing that I don’t have the vocabulary to describe in Irving’s art, and I’d love to see him on something that I can make head or tails of.

BOTTOM LINE: LUKE WARM

STEPHEN: There’s a lot going on in this series, and I have a feeling that unless readers are familiar with the rest of Morrison’s DC writings, they are going to be lost and lost big time. There are big holes in the plot, confusing character appearances (more of an art issue than a story telling one), and big jumps in logic that really push the limits of disbelief. I thought Morrison was back on track, following the Final Crisis debacle, but now I’m not so sure. Unless you really are dying to see what happens next, for me Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne, receives a tepid 2.5 out of 5 Stars.

Rating: ★★½☆☆

IN A NUTSHELL: DON’T BUY THE HYPE

MATTHEW:   There is, flat out, TOO MUCH going on in this series for me, and the concepts here are designed to make awesome covers and action figures rather than a coherent narrative.  (It does both of those things awesomely, however.)  Since Batman’s death in Final Crisis didn’t really follow from what went before, or connect much to what came after, this is by-the-numbers lunacy from Grant Morrison.  When I connect with his writing, Grant is one of the writers I swear by, but this has the triple negative of being an incomprehensible story that unwisely resurrects a character that I’m not all that fond off in the first place.  Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne #2 earns a big “I don’t get it” from Matthew, and 1 out of 5 stars overall.  I wanted to love it, but it just wasn’t giving me anything to work with.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

ROBOT OVERLORD: There you have it Dear Readers, two arguments that lead to the same conclusion. What say you? Was the issue better than the overall rating, or better than you thought?

Overall Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Until next time, I am your Robot Overlord, commanding you to have a good day!

The Author

Robot Overlord

Robot Overlord

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23 Comments

  1. Leroy Hart
    May 31, 2010 at 4:27 pm — Reply

    I dunno, guys…I’ve seen about a dozen reviews, and yours are the only negatives, and many of said-reviews spelled things out pretty clearly. Maybe check-out http://www.comicsalliance.com/2010/05/27/annotations-batman-the-return-of-bruce-wayne-2-spoilers/ and it could help explain things for you.

    • May 31, 2010 at 6:00 pm — Reply

      Perhaps all the others are blindly following the sheep? Of course, as we are oft to say, You mileage may vary – just because everyone else likes it, doesn’t mean we have to. Cheers!

    • May 31, 2010 at 8:45 pm — Reply

      I dunno, guys…I’ve seen about a dozen reviews, and yours are the only negatives, and many of said-reviews spelled things out pretty clearly.

      Here’s the thing about that… I don’t like to read a lot of other reviews, from a very practical standpoint. If I were to unintentionally digest and repeat someone else’s words, that would be VERY BAD.

      Second statement of note: I have very seldom found that someone else’s enjoyment of an issue IN AND OF ITSELF is enough to make something work for me. All that someone enjoying the Return of Bruce Wayne proves is that mileage may vary, and I already knew that.

      I feel no obligation to go and look up what this book is about, I feel no fear or concern about being the only negative reviews that you’ve read. I appreciate your help, and if and when I get the urge to figure this series out (which will probably happen after it’s all been released) I’ll make sure to give this a look.

      I don’t speak for Major Spoilers, but here’s a Matthew statement of policy: I don’t promise to like something because it’s popular. I don’t promise to champion a book because of good intentions. I will do my research when necessary, but sometimes I just won’t get the gist of a particular issue. I will tell you how I honestly feel about a book in a way that I hope is clear. I buy comics because I love them, and I review things through the lens of everything Matthew has read, done, and experienced. There are many reviews out there, but this one is mine, drill sergeant! :D

      In short, I’m glad a dozen reviewers agree and enjoy the book, but I’m perfectly comfortable in the minority camp.

  2. Brian G.
    May 31, 2010 at 4:39 pm — Reply

    First things first. If you have to read a comic 4 times to enjoy it … it wasn’t a good read. Grant Morrison fans are notorious for saying that his work needs to be reread until understood in my experiences.

    The way I (finally) saw the issue is that Bruce is still jumping though time and is currently in Ye Ol’ Gotham. Superman and crew lost Bruce’s “Omega Signature” in the stone age and travel to the “end of time” to pick up where he went to. They talk to the care taker of the last thing in existance and find out that Bruce is in Ye Ol’ Gotham but not before they discover that this giant sized alien with long neck and egg shaped head is really “Bruce that has traveled all the way to the end of already” and watch as he steals their ride. Meanwhile, Ye’Bruce discovers that as he travels time he brought a 4th dimensional creature with him that is doing nasty things. (Future Bruce told us about the creature and where he came from.)

    So … long story short … eventually we’re going to have Bruce Wayne try to stop Bruce Wayne as Superman and pals face down 3 minutes until the end of time and they die.

    The only other note worthy thing in the issue is that Ye’Bruce is creating a journal of his lives to remember who he is and what’s happening to him. He hires an artist to draw himself in the book that is handed down through the artists family. I’m sure Yar’Bruce is next to track down the book. (BTW… i call cave Bruce … Ug’Bruce). I’m sure this book will eventually become a supercomputer that will be renamed whatever the Vanishing Point’s station is called.

    I didn’t come by this explaination on my own mind you. I know about 5 other people who read this and together we had to figure out what we were looking at. All of us having read the issue multiple times were still confused.

    • May 31, 2010 at 6:02 pm — Reply

      Sounds like there are many others suffering from the same problem we are…I don’t think understanding what is going on in the panel that is confusing, but rather the jumps in logic and time that make little to no sense.

      • Brian G.
        May 31, 2010 at 8:11 pm — Reply

        I do find that the story seems a bit … erratic. Not to mention that this artist tends to make Ye’Bruce look like every other male of the time.

    • Astrodinosaurus
      May 31, 2010 at 6:29 pm — Reply

      ^What he said. Except that I came to a completely different conclusion from you guys and instead enjoyed issue 2 thoroughly. I also have to comment on the:

      “If you have to read a comic 4 times to enjoy it … it wasn’t a good read.”

      I don’t think anyone ever said you had to re-read a Morrison book to get enjoyment out of it. Instead I think most GM readers agree that you are able to get new enjoyment out of re-reading a GM story by constantly getting to notice new details and layers to the stories. That said all of his stories (The ones I’ve read rather) are perfectly understandable during the first read. I suspect the problem mostly comes down to reading habits.

      The problem I suspect is adjusting our reading and refraining from going ADD all over the pages. Not that comics aren’t a chaotic medium with art distracting from the writing and vice-versa. But this is the business we have chosen.

      So I will argue that if we read the book calmly, its not that confusing at all. Its not unless we speed through it that the clever becomes confusing and the jumping back and forth inspires an epileptic episode. I think maybe we as comic book readers need to be better at adjusting our reading pace from book to book. And how we go through the pages and from panel to panel. We must let the words and illustrations dictate our speed rather than just going at one constant speed through all of our books. I let this last principle decide a huge part of how I read my comics, I never read comics without a little break in between issues and I never go from something like Deadpool directly to a Morrison or Ellis book in one sitting.

      So! I strongly believe that If a person isn’t actively monitoring how they read a book then they are simply doing it wrong. And the enjoyment then hinges not on how the book is put together by the writer or the tastes of the reader. But instead on something ridiculously random like where it lies in the reading pile. In-between two ongoings? Lodged between a oneshot and a conclusion? Following two fast paced books while it is of a different nature?

      I hope I won’t grow to deeply into this bad habit myself at some point, though being new to the medium (relatively) I’m sure I will. And since ALL comics come out the same weekday and we all feel that hunger to blast through them. I think we need to think more about how we consume our comics. The industry in this regard I feel is forcing itself on the artistry.

      The antidote to getting lost in this issue I imagine is this: We should pace our reading according to the story, try and remember the details of the previous issue before we even open up on issue 2 (If this is a problem, flip through it), in this case look at the issue as more than one story and instead akin to a an intertwined anthology, admit to ourself that we are not supposed to have(or make) all the answers to the mysteries just yet for unlike JJ Abrams, Morrison does deliver answers in the end.

      I hope somebody will read through this (loooooooong) comment of mine. Because I really think our individual reading habits are an issue we all have to think about. And I hope that some day we can all agree that Grant Morrison can do no wrong ;)

      • Brian G.
        May 31, 2010 at 8:09 pm — Reply

        I don’t think anyone ever said you had to re-read a Morrison book to get enjoyment out of it.

        I’m just saying what I’ve been told through my experiences in life. I’ve had 3 different people tell me that to understand Morrison’s work, it requires multiple readings. That’s just my experience. If you can enjoy the book then I am overly happy for you. I, however, don’t enjoy the note taking that I must do to understand what he’s trying to tell me. This is a feeling that too many of my friends and others have expressed as well.

        • Astrodinosaurus
          June 1, 2010 at 9:34 am — Reply

          The keywords here are “understand” and “enjoy” … You use them interchangeably.
          We don’t have to completely understand something to enjoy it. In fact not getting that last percentage won’t make it a bad read. That part just means you/we/me didn’t catch that obscure reference to Hinduism that was made. And that part was likely put in the book to strengthen a message most people likely already caught.

          But yeah I will admit I am a fan of “literary archaeology”. But that’s just a second layer of enjoyment, rifling through all of those hidden treasures and whatnot. Its never been necessary to “get” it all to enjoy it. At least not when reading Morrison in my humble opinion.

          • Brian G.
            June 1, 2010 at 10:00 am — Reply

            Don’t get me wrong. I love things with deeper layers than what’s on the surface (Lost for example) but I had trouble reading/understanding/enjoying this issue when it pertains to story outside of the Puritian Gotham events.

            The important thing is that you enjoy the book. I tend to feel, however, that the volume of people who have voiced difficulty reading this (and other of his works) have to be taken into account when deciding if he’s sucessful in telling a major story like this that was intended to be told to fans of Bruce Wayne across the board.

          • June 1, 2010 at 10:14 am — Reply

            The keywords here are “understand” and “enjoy” … You use them interchangeably.

            I did, and probably still will. If I enjoy a book, I will work to figure it out, no matter how obscure it is (witness Big Numbers or the sublime joys of Tales of the Beanworld.) If I can’t figure it out, I may not enjoy it.

            In college, I used to hang out with a pretty girl who worked at the record store, and I got to listen to the guy she worked with explaining how people just didn’t “GET” the Smiths, and so they didn’t listen to the music because it was superior to all the swill we liked.

            I love Grant Morrison, ever since I read Zenith and the New Adventures of Adolph Hitler back in the day. His work is dense and multi-layered, and there are times when I just don’t have the impetus to penetrate all those layers. I appreciate those who love this series, and will champion Grant’s work on Animal Man, or New X-Men, or Seven Soldiers, or Flex Mentallo, or JLA. Heck, I’ll even talk with you about St. Swithins Day, if ya want. But I haven’t enjoyed the Return of Bruce Wayen, not because I didn’t GET it, but because my attempts to get it were unsuccessful, and I’m not getting the requisite pleasure out of additional attempts to do so.

            In short, this book was a chore, and I’m not going to expend more effort until more context is available. Your mileage, as always, may vary.

      • May 31, 2010 at 8:50 pm — Reply

        I hope somebody will read through this (loooooooong) comment of mine. Because I really think our individual reading habits are an issue we all have to think about. And I hope that some day we can all agree that Grant Morrison can do no wrong ;)

        With all due respect, I think you’re overthinking it. :)

        For me, comics reading is an organic experience that comes from a weird Zenn Diagram where pictures, words, and the dichotomies of each intersect. I grab a book, I read a book, I process a book and I move on. I will come back to those that enthralled me, but I don’t monitor my reading habits any more than I monitor my fecal output… It’s just not something that my brain considers integral to my excretory and/or reading processes. As always, YMMV…

      • brainypirate
        June 1, 2010 at 11:49 am — Reply

        > “So I will argue that if we read the book calmly, its not that confusing at all. Its not unless we speed through it that the clever becomes confusing and the jumping back and forth inspires an epileptic episode.”

        Wow, that was condescending. Especially since you’re new to the medium (by your own admission) and the reviewers have (I assume) much more experience with comics than you have. And are you really going to assume that everybody who reads this issue slowly will avoid confusion? I have a feeling that the people who’ve needed to read the issue 3 or 4 times probably have gone over it quite thoroughly, since that’s usually what happens when a comic is confusing: you look more carefully for clues that you missed.

        I’m glad to hear that others found this book confusing. To my mind, some of the problems really come from the writing: some of the details would have made the story easier to follow had they been revealed earlier. You know how some people have trouble telling stories because they forget to mention important details? That’s how this story read to me.

        I teach literature, and I sympathize with my students who get frustrated with texts that are deliberately difficult to follow. I think there’s a big difference between saying that a text rewards second and third readings and saying that a text REQUIRES second and third readings just to make sense. The problem is deciding when the difficulty level is truly integral to the text and when it’s just a sign of bad writing….

        • Astro Dinosaurus
          June 1, 2010 at 1:01 pm — Reply

          WOAH hold ye horses. I was talking about my own experiences for starters… It was just a point I thought was important. So unless I was condescending towards myself? (Okay I admit I am a fan of self-deprecation ;)) And I don’t think its condescending to say that if a re-read is thought to be vital to understanding then that the initial read through might have been a bit to sped-up.

          And also!
          I’m not saying pacing is a fix all, I wasn’t at any point talking about Matthew or Stephen (not sure where you got that) and I was talking about how people -felt- about the book -quality- after re-reading as opposed to slow-reading, NOT whether they understood parts of it or not. I was saying read it like -this- and it might be more fun. And NOT read it like -this- and you might understand it you poor unwashed peasant :)

          The review just inspired me to think about what some of the problems the comic reader has when faced with a bunch of different (In Morrison’s case parallel) writing styles and how that requires adjusting a persons own reading….I wasn’t saying that why/why not they didn’t’ like it. I’m saying that’s why I did like it.
          I just thought it was an important point to bring up. Mostly because my POV is the only point I can bring up without being presumptuous ;)

          That’s my whole comment…Stuff that’s in this book that’s different from others. And might be what’s throwing some people off and stuff that used to throw me off in general.

          • Brian G.
            June 1, 2010 at 1:32 pm — Reply

            Your use of the word “we” made us think that you were talk about more than just yourself.

            I felt slighted by it too.

          • Brian G.
            June 1, 2010 at 1:33 pm — Reply

            ^talking (typo)

  3. Astrodinosaurus
    May 31, 2010 at 6:45 pm — Reply

    Another thing that’s helpful when pacing oneself is reading not just novels, short stories or comics. But reading all of it. Because some times the lines are blurred and having experience with reading it all is a huge help then. Morrison’s writing IS crazy and does go from being an epic poem to a straight forward comic and a pulp tale. But its noticeable and understandable if you are willing to spend the energy and adjust to it as a reader.

    I’m done now I SWEAR!

  4. Astro Dinosaurus
    June 1, 2010 at 1:50 pm — Reply

    @Brian G

    I like using “we” instead of “people” or some people.. Since it implies this is stuff I’m guilty of myself and some other people must be to. I’m not presumptuous enough to know who of you specifically share my faults if any…But I’m sure someone beside me do…Myself and that guy whoever he is = We.

    • brainypirate
      June 1, 2010 at 7:22 pm — Reply

      If you sincerely mean that you didn’t intend to criticize Matthew and Stephen, then your wording is just as confusing as Morrison’s story! ;)

      You said, “if we read the book calmly, its not that confusing at all”; yet both Matthew and Stephen mention being confused by the story:

      “STEPHEN: …his rescuer – a woman named Annie, who many think is a witch – cons him into thinking he’s the regional witch hunter brought in from Boston to kill a dragon lurking in the woods. Matthew, PLEASE MAKE SOME SENSE OF THIS!”

      “MATTHEW: I wish I could help make sense of this, but on my third run-through of the issue, I’m still kind of at a loss as to what has happened…”

      “STEPHEN: …There are big holes in the plot, confusing character appearances (more of an art issue than a story telling one), and big jumps in logic that really push the limits of disbelief.”

      “MATTHEW: There is, flat out, TOO MUCH going on in this series for me, and the concepts here are designed to make awesome covers and action figures rather than a coherent narrative. …this has the triple negative of being an incomprehensible story…”

      Ergo, by your logic, Stephen and Matthew must not have read the story calmly. :-/

      • Astro Dinosaurus
        June 1, 2010 at 7:40 pm — Reply

        Nothing is a cure all, not even reading something calmly that I must admit. But I was replying to Brian who was commenting on some things about Morrison which then lead me to talk about some of the things that has helped me digest the more intricate stories. Seems there’s a horrible image out there of what Morrison writing is like.

        Matthew and Stephen I have all the faith in the world have the ability to read comics at the right pace. Regarding those guys It just seems they are demanding answers to some things Morrison isn’t willing to give up quite yet. How you judge that is more a matter of taste. And there is a difference between wanting information you haven’t gotten yet and getting -confused- which requires being unable to link together information you have been give. See I think Matthew and Stephen aren’t really confused rather just annoyed at Morrison’s storytelling something I don’t know if its possible NOT to be. (You take the good with the bad and all that) Guess I use the word “confused” differently.

        So no that’s neither what I meant or what can be taken from my logic…But I apologize for my confused wording…I am a confused person…Maybe that’s why I enjoyed the issue. :S

  5. litanyofthieves
    June 2, 2010 at 2:50 pm — Reply

    My personal conspiracy theory is that the whole “Bruce Wayne as BATMAN IN THE PAST” is something foisted on Grant so they can sell “Witch-Hunter Batman” and “Cave-Man Batman” variant action figures. Therefore, in a clever protest, he has just made up a bunch of crap that is terrible and passed it off as “Deep” in a sort of anti-comic art Dadaist statement.

    That’s how my mileage varies, and I’ll not listen to even the most rational, logical arguments against it! ;)

  6. ~wyntermute~
    June 2, 2010 at 10:53 pm — Reply

    I cannot express how much of a mess I feel this issue was. Art, story, storyLINE, characters…. DOG’S BREAKFAST is too generous. I read it “calmly”, and with a pretty decent understanding of Rip Hunter/Booster Gold/Vanishing Point, and I’m thoroughly confused about this “Archivist” guy. Did he exist pre-g-mo? It took me two or three page re-reads before I “got” that it was supposed to be Bruce.. And cthulu? And witch hunting? And…. Oh man, this needs an editor, BADLY. Too much clutter, and I’m sure “it will all be explained in the end” but the alienated feelings inspired by this issue won’t fade quickly.

  7. June 7, 2010 at 12:44 pm — Reply

    As a side note to the others:
    I just want to say thank you for making the Quantum Leap reference.

    I compared the first issue to Quantum Leap, and it was wonderful.

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