You may find this difficult to believe, but Bruce Wayne wasn’t actually dead. As a matter of fact, he’s back from the proverbial grave and his first order of business is clear. Test the worthiness of his immediate and extended family of crime fighters. This is the equivalent of abandoning your home for a year and coming back to find your family in the house. Then you wage an attack on the home to see how they do. Welcome home, Bruce!

The overarching theme for these 4 one-shots is consistent. The omniscient narrator of these books is documenting his observations regarding the members of the Batman family. While Bruce was ‘dead,’ each hero made adjustments to their role within the crime fighting community. They adapted to fill the considerable ravine left in the wake of Batman’s presumed death. Everyone came together to protect the legacy of the bat and the identity of Bruce Wayne.
For all intents and purposes, each costumed bat vigilante performed admirably. Now Steve is back from his journey through time and we get to find out if he gets his shield back. Oh wait, different book.

Bruce Wayne: The Road Home – Batgirl
Writer: Bryan Q. Miller
Artist: Pere Perez
Colors: Guy Major
Letters: Dave Sharpe
Cover: Shane Davis and Barbara Ciardo

The writing style on Batgirl allots for simultaneous dialogue, monologue, journal documentation and yet even another voice that appears to be a neutral narrator. A ‘mysterious’ costumed protagonist confronts each of our heroes in a series of strategic challenges. While the identity isn’t revealed until the end of each respective issue, it doesn’t take a detective to figure out that the guy who can kick everyone’s ass, happens to wear a yellow utility belt, and is featured in a comic carrying the banner “Bruce Wayne: The Road Home” may be somebody we’re all somewhat acquainted with.
To add to our confusion, one only has to delve into the history of the Batgirl character. She was originally Barbara Gordon, then Cassandra Cain and now Stephanie Brown. I can hear many of you thinking to yourself, ‘Well, that’s not so bad!’ Okay, how’s about the fact that Stephanie Brown was Spoiler, then became Robin until she was ‘killed.’ That’s what I thought.

Does this current iteration of Batgirl get to keep the cowl? Will she even want to keep it by the end of this issue? I can only speak for myself and say that by the end of the issue, I wouldn’t have minded giving the comic back.

Rating: ★★½☆☆

Bruce Wayne: The Road Home Batman and Robin
Writer: Fabian Nicieza
Artist: Cliff Richards
Colors: Ian Hannin
Letters: Dave Sharpe
Cover: Shane Davis and Barbara Ciardo

Splash pages are specifically created to capture the reader’s attention. Unfortunately for DC editorial, they weren’t paying close enough attention when the solicits for this issue hit the marketplace. Somewhat unobtrusively placed in the background of a huge explosion, one can pretty easily make out 4 distinct letters. 4 letters when placed as displayed says something naughty: something really naughty.

Here, let me show you:

It’s too bad the change to the art was made. It would have been an appropriate precursor to warn the unsuspecting reader of what was to come. Except maybe it would have carried a question mark. As in, what the #!@% was I thinking buying this book?

The narrative is easier to follow in The Road Home, Batman and Robin. The issue follows the same path as the others in these series of one-shots. Bruce is back and wants to know if you’ve been bad or good, for goodness sake. It’s not as if his ‘death’ wasn’t traumatic enough of an experience. Then you’ve adapted to the situation and tried your best to keep the Batman mythos alive in his absence. Now he’s back and wants to tug on your strings like a puppet. Bruce Wayne; millionaire playboy and class-A @$$hole.

Is Dick Grayson and Damian Wayne a strong enough unit to continue forward as crime fighting’s most famous duo? Speaking of units, Bruce will have approximately 22 pages to determine that very question. Any guesses as to the outcome?

Rating: ★★½☆☆

Bruce Wayne: The Road Home – Red Robin
Writer: Fabian Nicieza
Pencils: Ramon Bachs
Inks: John Lucas
Colors: Guy Major
Letters: Dave Sharpe
Cover: Shane Davis and Barbara Ciardo

One positive that Bruce Wayne: The Road Home – Red Robin has going for it is that we finally get an inker. Don’t get the wrong impression, the visuals are still subpar and muddy with virtually no time spent on backgrounds. But at least there’s another creator to help share the blame.

Bruce tests Red Robin, but the dance doesn’t last as long as it does for the other books. Maybe Bruce feels some commensurate guilt over the fact that Tim Drake has suffered more loss than the Scott Pilgrim opening weekend box office numbers. Drake was one of the few members of the bat family that passionately believed that his adopted father was still alive. Turns out he was right, but that doesn’t mean that pops isn’t going to throw a series of tests at you to determine whether you get to keep the cape.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Bruce Wayne: The Road Home – The Outsiders
Writer: Mike W. Barr
Pencils: Javier Saltares
Inks: Rebecca Buchman & Walden Wong
Colors: Pete Pantazis
Letters: Dave Sharpe
Cover: Shane Davis and Barbara Ciardo

I’ll be the first to admit that I haven’t followed The Outsiders for a couple of years. The last time I picked up an issue was when they were featured as part of a crossover with Checkmate. Now, a few years later, I’m back and I don’t have a clue who any of these characters are. Writer Mike W. Barr was involved with the series when it first launched in the 80s. I haven’t seen much from him recently, and I pray that this is not his platform for a comeback. Because if so, the readership is going to deliver a merciful TKO.

Bruce feels awfully bad about abandoning this latest group of Outsiders. In fact, his guilt is so overwhelming, that he puts the remaining members through the paces in order to test their worthiness. By page 9 I was actually sighing to myself, realizing that I wasn’t even halfway through the tedium of this issue.

The writing is stiff and the dialogue is laughable. The scenes confrontations are contrived and poorly conceived. The art is unimpressive and if not for the fact that I needed to include this for review, I would have stopped reading at the staple. This is the worst of the 4 books, by far.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

The Bottom Line

Looking for a positive, I have to give DC a shred of credit for only charging us $2.99 to experience Bruce Wayne: The Road Home one-shots. None of these stories challenge the status quo. Occasionally Bruce will mention the need for family and staying positive within the pages of his journal, but his actions don’t even remotely reflect his observations. Bruce comes across as an emotionally detached absentee father who stumbles back into the lives of his kids and wants to see how worthy they are of his love. I hope he only gets supervised visitation.

Overall Rating: ★★☆☆☆

The Author

Mike McLarty

Mike McLarty

A San Diego native, Mike has comics in his blood and has attended the San Diego Comic Con every year since 1982. His comic interests are as varied as his crimes against humanity, but he tends to lean heavily towards things rooted in dystopian themes. His favorite comic series is Warren Ellis’ and Darick Robertson’s Transmetropolitan. Spider Jerusalem is the best character ever devised. Mike realizes those statements will alienate a good portion of his potential audience, but those are the facts. You are unlikely to find a single collector with a better Transmetropolitan art portfolio than the one he has in his possession. He is an Assistant Editor for the upcoming Transmetropolitan Charity Book.

He also occasionally freelances for various other comics websites, which he promotes through his homepage (www.comickarma.com), Twitter and other inherently intrusive forms of social media. Mike firmly believes that the best writers come from the UK. This could be because he’s of Irish descent; not so much based on physical geography as the fact that the Irish like to drink heavily.

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4 Comments

  1. Jericho
    October 18, 2010 at 9:01 pm — Reply

    I’m still waiting for the day when Batman and The Joker switch identities — even if only for a 4 issue saga. If not done already in the past, I think that would be a great story; especially f written by the grade A talent and inked by talented artists. As for Bruce Wayne’s return? Meh. Seen this all before with “Steve”. In the words of a famous hobbit — “There and Back Again”. Thanks for the review!

  2. Gibralter
    October 19, 2010 at 10:49 pm — Reply

    And this is why I hate the way Bat-man has been handled the last couple of years.

  3. philfromgermany
    October 20, 2010 at 2:58 am — Reply

    @Jericho: The Batman story you’re looking for is called Joker:Switch aptly enough. :D

  4. Damascus
    November 19, 2010 at 11:57 pm — Reply

    In regards to Batman and the Outsiders, it was going pretty good, the team was an odd assortment but they could have been really effective. The bad things happened when Blackest Night came around, and the New Krypton war thing and right after that Dan Didio took over the writing and it got real horrible, real fast.

    My problem with the New Krypton thing was that they tried to avoid dealing with that even in the Outsiders, but it still affected the characters in stupid ways. Partnered with Didio’s complete and out of nowhere change in Geo-Force’s behaviors and way he treats his fellow teammates, he starts coming across as a total douche and he teams up with a clone of the Eradicator Superman which gets all the Outsiders labeled as terrorists and they can’t come home. So some of the team steals a ship and flies back to the states and basically during the flight the war starts and it’s completely over by the time they land. That was pretty convenient and unrealistic that a “war” would last 3 hours or so, I mean Grenada lasted longer than that. Anyway, if the Outsiders sucked, it didn’t have to be that way, Didio needs to stop writing entirely or at least try to transition characters from one point to another more organically.

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