Bruce Wayne as Batman is by far the most iconic figure in the DCU, and certainly a mega fan-favorite. I have to admit that I am not a fan of Batman. Part of the reason is that so many marketing resources are spent on him, and him alone, when there are many other characters deserving of some attention. Also, he pissed me off when he judged Diana for killing Max Lord. For someone who wasn’t really feeling you in the first place, then you get all high and mighty on a one-time goddess? Bitch, please.
Fast forward to Final Crisis. I love Final Crisis. I know it got all smooshed and convoluted at the end, but the layers and implications of that story were fascinating to me. We all now know what happened there, and have lived an entire year without Bruce Wayne. True, I’ve had The Return of Bruce Wayne to chew on for the past six months, but it gave me sort of an odd feeling. It was Bruce, but it was him through time; Bruce doing the genius things that he does, but not quite the same as him being in the present DCU.
Ultimately, I think the stories told in Bruce Wayne’s “absence” have been iconic in their own right, and consisted of some really high caliber writing. There is something magical about Morrison’s Batman and Robin that has sated the appetite for Bruce. Damian has been a ton of fun, and one of the more interesting characters of 2010. Dick makes a good Batman. It works, it is believable, and Dick deserved the upgrade. Seriously though, Dick is no Bruce.
In case you hadn’t noticed, I’ve got it bad for Morrison’s writing in general. Truthfully, I have only been reading these stories because Morrison is writing them, and because I am sniffing at continuity from Seven Soldiers and Final Crisis. They just happen to be about Batman.
Now … the Batman is back. I was monumentally surprised at just how moving Batman: The Return was. His presence is undeniable, and it feels surreal. My heart actually leapt with joy reading Bruce as Batman.
Er, really? What the hell? I don’t even like Batman, but I missed Bruce?
Somewhere along the way, I started to feel a vacancy because of Bruce’s absence. Batman: The Return exemplified all the reasons why. The book was absolutely ideal. It was so authentically Bruce Wayne, and it rocked my socks off.
First of all, I was super-delighted by Morrison’s partial script included with the issue. There was jizz. In my pants.
DC could not have chosen a more perfect artist on the book. David Finch’s pencils created a profound and moving experience. It was dark and ominous, but beautiful and powerful. In a celebratory conversation about the issue, a fellow comic lover said it best: Finch’s art conveyed the gravity of Bruce’s return flawlessly.
There were also some perfect character moments. The giant voice-activated air bag to break his fall from a building, Bruce’s mention of Talia’s probable dismay at Damian’s current lot, the mission he and Damian went on and their banter, the access he gives Oracle to “Internet 3.0,” and the avatar ode to her as Batgirl. Squee.
By far, the book’s most poignant panel is Bruce and Alfred walking side by side up the stairs in the Batcave. It includes what may very well be one of the greatest lines in DC Comics history: “We soldier on undaunted, you and I, master Bruce. And if I may say so, sir … I couldn’t beg, borrow or steal a finer way to live my life.”
The void that existed in the DCU existed in me too, and it was filled by Batman: The Return.