The All-Over: ‘Return of Bruce Wayne’ #6 [Annotations]
Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne #6 finally drops this week. As the issue title "The All-Over " suggests, Morrison's grand Batman epic so far seems to have come to a fairly final conclusion. Or so I'd think if I didn't know Incorporated was coming up. I'm surprised with just how much this final issue resolves, wrapping up plot threads from Final Crisis and "Batman R.I.P." all the way back to 52 -- this really feels like a conclusion.
Inside: The Bat-God incarnate, the final fate of Darkseid, deep time probes and getting by with a little help from your friends.
Page 1: Picking up right from the end of #5, this shows the Archivists at Vanishing Point retrieving Bruce from the current century. Since Bruce's life story is the last story to be archived for the recreation of the Universe, the defining elements of Bruce's life -- Martha's pearls, his bell, Joe Chill's gun -- are "frozen in time forever," explaining why they've reoccurred throughout time and the course of this series, especially given events to come with the archive itself.
Page 2: It's interesting that they say the Linear Authority has vacated the station when in actuality Rip Hunter just locked them all up, but it's probably safe to say Time Masters is playing off this title way more than vice versa. Note Bruce's suit has suddenly lost the pinstripes.
Page 3: I really can't help but reflect on how similar Bruce being kept in the Archivist is to the last season finale of Doctor Who. This also makes it clear that the archive of the universe is being sent into the black hole at its center - a sort of message in a bottle, an informational last son of a dying world.
Page 4: Nice speedsuit, douche. This page relates the hyperfauna to both Darkseid and Annie's curses; the "haunted house on the road of town" archetype is almost definitely based on both Wayne Manor and the Last Watchtower from Final Crisis. The final element of Batman's story - the bullet - joins the gun, the bell and the pearls to complete the sigil and the history of the universe.
Page 5: Bush robots: real concepts! It's safe to say the final three events are Batman's arrival, Superman's arrival/Batman's leaving and then the heat death of the universe. Once again, "Batman needs a disguise" repeats itself as a motif.
The Hole in Things continues. They keep referring to the Nichols Engine, which, in this case, I figure has to be Bruce -- he's been creating his own gaps in the archive, and he'll fill them in with himself, therefore filling the holes in time with the legend of the Bat. Did the universe create Batman or did Batman create the universe? Only God and Grant Morrison know.
Page 6: We revisit part of ROBW #2, except we see that Rip actually literally leaves the keys to the time sphere in it.
Page 7: Flashback to Batman: Year One, and the explanation of the bells, something that makes me feel like an absolute idiot for not catching. Of course a bell is an iconic part of Batman's origin; it's what he rings when he realizes he'll become a Bat. Morrison also does something very interesting with Miller's original narration. The original line says "He can stop the bleeding in time," but here Morrison breaks it up into two sentences to fit the current narrative : "He can stop the bleeding. Bleeding in time." The "THERE you are" is in white lettering in a black word balloon. That's Darkseid speaking, as we'll see later, not Bruce.
Page 9: I have no idea what incarnation of the Justice League this is supposed to be - Jade joined up after Starfire left. We'll just chalk it up to the bleeding in time.
Page 11: Oh Hal, you're always so imaginative with your magic wishing ring. I do love how Skeets is the only person smart enough to realize that, hey, it's Batman, he probably has our backs.
Page 12: That's right: instead of waiting for the time sphere to be made for himself, he just ganked Rip's and let it be made for his bros, thus taking the Hyper-Adapter with him and not them. Batman is solid like that.
Page 13: I wonder if this is all connected to what Superman did with the Miracle Machine, like this is the physical process of his wish to reboot the universe.
Page 14: This is a lot like the Amazo suit Bruce was wearing in the Road Home oneshots, actually. Maybe he keeps this new functionality in his new Incorporated digs.
Page 15: This is definitely taking place at the same time as "Batman and Robin Must Die!"w which really makes putting them in different trades kind of mystifying. This definitively answers why Tim was absent for all of that arc, though.
Page 16: It's nice to see Morrison giving Tim his big moments in this issue -- he's still Bruce's Robin, it seems. Note how Bruce's cape tendrils are already starting to resemble the Hyper-Adapter.
Page 20: First off, I absolutely ADORE how Bruce gets around the Hyper-Adapter trying to force him to tell her nothing by saying "nothing."
Page 21: Batman's life, broken down in time as it breaks down into individual panels around single moments. Orion's belt, the eclipse, the Hanged Man, the pearls, the horse's head, the roses - all of the symbols that have repeated through his adventure. The top-left and bottom-right symbols are, of course, incredibly important, since by being a Bat Bruce is himself a "hanged man," the Tarot card representing an apotheosis after a trial. [And probably who Spearhavoc was referring to in Action Comics #894 -Laura]
Bruce even has one eye here, following the Odin myth (with whom the Hanged Man is often associated), since he's died and come back and in the process gained wisdom - wisdom we'll soon see as the First Truth of Batman. This is Morrison's Bat-God Incarnate.
Page 22: Darkseid tried to weaponize Batman, so Batman's going to weaponize right back.
Page 24: The Hyper-Adapter, having bonded with the bush robot archivist, takes the form of Barbatos as it's sent back in time by Bruce, where it promises to "take control, adapt, escape and return." Which is exactly what Darkseid did to Bruce, but Bruce managed to fix the "destroyed" part. The Barbatos bush robot then becomes -- I seriously can't believe this, this is so awesome -- the giant bat that scared the hell out of Dick Grayson, the giant bat Vandal Savage killed that Bruce wore in the first issue, and, as we'll see later, the bat that came in through the window and inspired Bruce.
Page 25: I really wish we'd gotten this right after B&R #15, since I'd almost forgotten about the "Gotcha!" note, but it's really nice to see it explained.
Pages 26-27: Lee Garbett absolutely ASSASSINATED on this spread. I completely adore it, admittedly more than his other work in this book - he should switch up his style more.
In any case, here we are on the remains of Apokolips, with Darkseid's giant statue head. This ties everything back to Bruce shedding his demons in the desert in 52, and the isolation experiments, and the cave in Nanda Parbat, those moments when time compressed for him, all of those times were this time, here, where Batman faces down evil on a metaphorical stage and defeats him by being. It also confirms that Metron was the dude in the wheelchair warning Bruce last issue, and that the current nature of reality is his design. I imagine we'll see more of this in Multiversity. In any case, Bruce defeats his demons by creating Batman again, because as Morrison is about to show us:
Page 28: Batman was created when Bruce Wayne asked for help, not when he went on his mission of vengeance. Bruce was just a lonely, angry dude until he asked for help. Bruce never could have done what he did alone - he always had Alfred, or Dick, or Tim, or Harold, or even Jason. Batman was created when he asked for help, and the bell he rings upon conceputalizing the Bat is the Bell of the All-Over for Evil.
Page 29: That's right: Diana declaring Bruce must die actually meant "we have to lower his body temperature to zero while he has a full-on trip-out sequence."
Page 30: Bruce is referring to Doctor Hurt here, who, if things had come out on time, we would have discovered the exact origin of at the beginning of next issue. It's probably fair to say the Barbatos that infected Hurt was the same as the Hyper-Adapter AFTER Bruce sent IT back in time. Doctor Hurt's life is basically Hyper-Adapter: The Return of the Omega Sanction. People who said Hurt was Darkseid, as much as I thought it was ridiculous, were right all along. It's probably safe to say he wrote the Crime Bible as well.
Page 31: And Bruce spells out what the art implied with the bell-ringing, neatly setting up his new mood for Incorporated.