Grant Morrison shook up the Batverse the very moment he put his fingers to keyboard and cranked out Batman #655. He did it again with Batman and Robin #16, that introduced Batman, Inc. If you’ve read the first issue, you know what Batman and Selina are up to, but do you know what happened between B&R #16 and Batman, Inc. #1? Batman: The Return is there to fill in that gap.

BATMAN: THE RETURN
Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist: David Finch
Inkers: Batt and Ryan Winn
Colorist: Peter Steigerwald
Letterer: Dave Sharpe
Covers: David Finch and Gene Ha
Editor: Mike Marts
Publisher: DC Comics

Previously in Batman: Batman’s just this guy, you know? He’s used his wealth and power as Bruce Wayne to fund his war on crime for years. He’s done good (and perhaps some bad), been killed, and brought back to life. Now it’s time to get the Bat-House in order and do something different.

BATMAN: IT’S CERTAINLY DIFFERENT

I will hand it to Grant Morrison, he came in and really shook up the Batman title of books, and though I’m still not entirely convinced his actions have been totally positive, he has given readers something to talk about. This issue fills in the gap created by the end of Batman and Robin #16, and Batman, Inc. #1, and it answers the question of how did Batman deal with his family, and more importantly, why he feels there needs to be a legion of Batmen running around the world.

While saving a young boy in a hostage situation, Batman uncovers a much larger organization called Hydra The Octopus League of Assassins The Hand Leviathan that is slowly trying to take control of the world. It’s that mystery organization that is the equivalent of the bogeyman governments tell their citizens about in order to do all kinds of shenanigans. But it appears that – for now – only Batman knows about it because a) he’s Batman, and b) it’s Morrison writing the book.

I do enjoy how Morrison is able to set up a story that has intrigue and mystery in it. I want to know what is going on, and this issue teases the reader with promises of something great to come. It’s not the jolly fun ride the first issue of Batman and Robin, nor is it the mind tripping roll through the metaverse that was Batman #655. This issue is something different, as we get to see a very driven Batman, and a very dark story starting to play out.

The biggest concern in this issue is in how Morrison sets up story elements that in order to work correctly, need to be adapted and accepted by the writers of the other books. And I think that is going to cause problems if everyone isn’t on board.

Morrison satisfies the Dick and Damian Batman and Robin team-up, and makes it clear they will be the protectors of Gotham. Red Robin isn’t addressed, and in the one panel he does appear, he’s barely in panel, and completely in shadow. Either DC has something planned for Tim, or Morrison doesn’t think enough of the character to give him any direction. Morrison certainly does muck around with the Birds of Prey and Batgirl titles, as he has Batman telling Barbara to get on board and become a new Oracle. Batman/Morrison also orders Stephanie to an English boarding school, in what seems to be nothing more than getting her out of the way – England already has Knight and Squire, and I really don’t see that trio teaming up easily.

HIGHLY DETAILED ART

While Morrison offers readers a more definite reason why Batman needs to go global, it’s the detailed art that draws the reader in. Here, David Finch fills the page with so much intricate detail that statues or 3D models could easily be created. The double-page spread of the Batcave alone could keep someone occupied for weeks.

The inking is a bit heavy at times, but I think that adds to the darker nature of this story, and when one compares the final art to Finch’s pencils, it’s easy to see how dedicated the inkers are to following Finch’s style. The coloring of this issue is also very interesting. Instead of really bright colors, that cause the image to pop off the page, everything is toned down, making it even darker than the heavily inked shadows. While a fire should be big and bright, the muted tones cast an ominous feeling on everything.

BOTTOM LINE: PICK IT UP

If there’s one thing you haven’t learned about Grant Morrison’s writing, it’s that he likes to drop little bits and pieces of major story elements throughout his books. While you can easily step into Batman, Inc. and not be confused or alarmed about what is going on, the moment Leviathan raises its head down the road, many are going to be confused if they haven’t read Batman: The Return. When Bane showed up to break Batman’s back, those who had read the Batman: Vengeance of Bane one-shot were in the know. I think the same thing is happening here, and makes this issue worth picking up. The Batman and Robin adventure with the freaky genetic experiments is a nice diversion as the story builds to reveal the bigger villain, the art is really well done, and a few future plot lines appear to be set up in this issue. All in all, Batman: The Return is a good book, well worth 4 out of 5 Stars.

Rating: ★★★★☆

The Author

Stephen Schleicher

Stephen Schleicher

Stephen Schleicher began his career writing for the Digital Media Online community of sites, including Digital Producer and Creative Mac covering all aspects of the digital content creation industry. He then moved on to consumer technology, and began the Coolness Roundup podcast. A writing fool, Stephen has freelanced for Sci-Fi Channel's Technology Blog, and Gizmodo. Still longing for the good ol' days, Stephen launched Major Spoilers in July 2006, because he is a glutton for punishment.

You can follow him on Twitter @MajorSpoilers and tell him your darkest secrets...

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4 Comments

  1. TVsBryanD
    November 22, 2010 at 7:10 pm — Reply

    Just a little confusion here. Shouldn’t you say that Batman was “killed” (with air quotes)? He was never REALLY dead, right? Not Bucky Dead… er, I mean Captain America Dead… oops, I mean Jason Todd dead… oh, forget it.

  2. November 22, 2010 at 11:18 pm — Reply

    I really dug this issue. I really felt vindicated when Damian is asking about being tested for worthiness, and if so, screw him. Bruce explains he’s already proven himself: what’s to test

    The failure of the Road Home 1 shots that I had such a problem with stemmed from my point of view which is stated by Damian. It’s almost as if Morrison is specifically going out of his way to distance his story from those other 1 shots. Intentional or not, Morrison illustrates his true understanding of Bruce’s inherent leadership skills.

    Great review.

    • November 23, 2010 at 10:07 am — Reply

      I can’t really justify this, but I think Damian was testing Bruce, the same way that Bruce was testing him. First of all it’s the exact same thing he did the first night with Dick, the pulling off the R trick. And then, in the end, he had the situation handled. It appeared that he screwed up but then came the reveal that he had planted a tracker on the bad guy.

      And isn’t that what Bruce always does. It always looks like things are out of control but in reality he’s looking at a bigger picture than you can see.

      And that’s why it’s got to be Dick and Damian not Bruce and Damian, because they’re too much alike. If they were partners they would both be trying to get over on one another all the time. Dick and Damian work for the same reason Bruce and Dick worked, because they complement each other. They aren’t competing for the same slot.

      I don’t know if that’s what he intended, but that’s what I came away with.

  3. Damascus
    December 9, 2010 at 3:06 am — Reply

    There’s already a major crime syndication in the Marvel U. called Leviathan. Guess DC ran out of good villanous group names. I mean Resident Evil was able to make “Umbrella” this horrible group that you just know how evil they are just by hearing the name.

    What I would love to see is a book to come out that focuses on Stephanie Brown at that boarding school in England. I don’t want her to necessarily be a Bat-character beyond the fact that she is who she is and knows who she knows. Just dealing with a new location and snotty bitches and stuff like that, but she has skill and expertise that she’s gained from rubbing elbows with Batman/Batman/Robin’s. Make a series like that, and I’ll read it. Especially if she doesn’t get involved with major villains regularly. They could do it like that show Unnatural History on Cartoon Network, and she just happens to be at a school where shenanigans go down all the time.

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