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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.