Jul 11, 2016

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 503: Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne #6, December 2010


What do I say about this comic? Batman, Bruce Wayne, battles his way back to his own time in a suit made from the caretaker robots at the end of history, carrying with him enough Omega Radiation to blast a hole in time (a Darkseid-shaped hole, that is) and hunted by a living curse. Time breaks apart in his wake, and we're treated to that most Morrisonian of comics techniques, the displacement of panel structure - it's one of those moments where you recognize creators who understand not only how to tell stories with this medium, but also how the medium itself is the message. It's a fundamental aspect to the critical practice of reading to recognize that a medium doesn't just facilitate the transmission of narrative, but narrativizes itself. There are particular ways that a medium affects the way one can tell stories through that medium, and great creators know this and can manipulate this to create novelty.

It's interesting that this series is called The Return of Bruce Wayne. The title has a number of interpretations. First, and most literally, it's about his return from the death that is life to his own time. But he's also an amnesiac for most of the series, so it's also a story of the return of a history, of a context for the base personality. This story has had a particularly anti-Lockean stance with regard to personality, I think. But then, we're dealing with a character, not a person and, as today's comic reminds us, a myth. Myths cannot be blank slates - that would sort of defeat the purpose. There's another aspect to this return, though, that's very interesting. The re-assumption of Bruce has been an ongoing story (perhaps the ongoing story) for all of Morrison's run, and from the very beginning, from Alfred, the man who kept Batman alive, this thrust of this narrative has been the recognition that Batman's crusade has never been a lonely one - of all the superheroes in the DCU, he has the largest extended family. He's never really been alone. Batman fights crime to keep the thing that happened to him as a child from happening to anyone else, and the thing that happened to him was loss, loneliness of the most awful kind. But he also fights this loneliness by creating a family around him, one also dedicated to stopping loneliness. He doesn't fight crime. He fights the consequences of crime.

We'll return to Dick and Damian and the sticky place they find themselves in, caught in the middle of The Joker and Doctor Hurt's weird little war tomorrow. And then Bruce comes back, and everything, once again, changes. Onward.

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