Annotations: ‘Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne’ #1 [Spoilers]
I'm behind on my annotations on the last arc, but anyone who's read me pre-Comics Alliance knows that I have a deep, abiding love for dissecting and analyzing Grant Morrison's extended run on Batman, in all of the forms and titles it's been taking in my previous annotations on Morrison's "Batman" as well as "Final Crisis" at Funnybook Babylon. This week, I'm taking a look at "Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne" #1, released today. Spoilers, obviously, below the jump.
Page 1: This is the time-capulse rocket sent off by Lois and Jimmy, along with the final edition of the Daily Planet, at the very beginning of "Final Crisis" #7. As shown on the second-to-last page of that issue, when it was launched from the Final Watchtower, it traveled through time (since Earth had, at that point, entered the Black Hole at the Base of Creation, breaking the laws of physics and time) rather coincidentally to what seems to be the exact moment Bruce Wayne arrived in the past after being shot with the Omega Effect by Darkseid in "Final Crisis" #6. The skies are likely red because the Crisis is, in a fifth-dimensional sense, still going on; as remarked by Brainiac 5 at the beginning of "FC" #6, Darkseid's presence on Earth in the 21st century caused ripples and disturbances across the entire timestream.
Page 2: The "Da" in "Da-man" likely is short for dad, since Boy is speaking it to his father. The "old man" these cavemen are referring to is Anthro; his story about the Shining-Cart bringing down the fire refers to the very first sequence of "Final Crisis," where Metron appears on prehistoric Earth to bestow Anthro with the gift of fire, as well as the inspiration that leads to the intertwining paths of human progress of magic and technology which culminate in the "ultimate technology", the Miracle Machine, that grants wishes. The fire, in short, was and is representative of man's ability to make real the ideas in his head.
Page 3: The "All-Over" that Surly here is referring to is likely the Final Crisis.
Page 4: Hairy. Chested. Love. God.
Page 5: After saying it out loud a few times different ways, I have decided that "Wayrameye" is pronounced "Way Ram-Eye", or "Where am I?", "Woddizdizplaze" is definitely "What is this place?" He's probably speaking perfect Modern English, but since we're experiencing this from the POV of Anthro Jr. Jr. and his Deer People, his speech comes out as slurred and confusing compared to their halted grunt language.
Page 6: So the cast of characters: Giant, Surly (he wants to be called Serious), Joker, Man and Boy (who is on a quest to learn to be Young Man). Saying that Morrison is consciously writing broad archetypes is probably a safe bet. Bruce, as we can see, immediately has a better relationship with Surly than with Joker -- which, well, we could all pretty much see coming.
Page 7: "Thayawlmannsted. Umsarry" is "The old man's dead. I'm sorry" -- Bruce is referring to Anthro, whose body he found on the last page of "Final Crisis."
Pages 8-9: Bruce investigates the rocket, but it seems everything inside is all ruined - Superman's cape is fine, but the portable Bat-Signal is broken and the Daily Planet print run is all shreds and pulp. The three symbols near the Metron sigil that Anthro drew were drawn by Bruce, and serve as his S.O.S. to the 21st century. Why he remembered those symbols is still unclear.
Page 10: I really, really, really doubt that the similarity between the necklace of White Fawn (who was never an established Anthro love interest) and Martha Wayne's murder-iconic pearl necklace is in any way a coincidence. It'll serve a symbolic role later in the story.
Page 11: What we're seeing here is the birth of oral tradition -- Old Man isn't around to tell the stories anymore, so Man will have to become the new Old Man. This is, essentially, the beginning of history. I do wish all these cavemen weren't so damn white, but... what can you do. "Lokka!" is probably "Look out!"
Page 12: Much like the last time Bruce was amnesiac during "Batman R.I.P.", his muscle memory kicks in and he instinctively defends innocents at cost to himself.
Page 13: The Blood Mob kill Surly and Joker, and now Morrison's starting to set up the pearl-necklace iconography for Boy -- his dad's clutching it, and he's watching his father (and family) die.
Page 15: They're really continuing the Vandal Savage=Cain motif here, with him using a rock to beat Bruce. I doubt it's THE rock, since this is surely long after Vandal's first murder, but the symbolism is unmistakable.
Pages 16-17: Making it explicit that this is Vandal Savage, future supervillain and longtime enemy of the Deer Tribe. Morrison changed Anthro's tribe name from the Bear Tribe (the affiliation in the original Howie Post stories) to this for a symbolic reason that'll become clearer later. The term Savage uses to describe Bruce, "Man-God", is also how the New Gods-created neanderthal superhero Aurakles was described in "Seven Soldiers" #1. The bat-beast that Savage is referring to is likely the gigantic bat on a stake they've got chilling in their camp.
Page 18: Note how Savage decides to wait until the sun is up to kill Bruce. This could be a statement on his "Man of Bats" name, and the vampirism associated with it, or it could simply be Savage intuitively understanding that Batman loses his power of mystery in the day.
Page 19: It's great how they keep thinking that Bruce is actually a straight-up god, when he's bone and sinew like the rest of them. Hell, he's less godly than the immortal Vandal Savage.
Page 20: Yet another elaborate deathtrap. It's a shame that he doesn't have a Robin around, whose customary role is to be his backup and get him out of these kinds of situations.
Page 21: I imagine the bat moving in the final panel is a delirium-induced hallucination, much like Dick's thrashing fit in the caves below Wayne Manor in "Batman and Robin" #12.
Page 22: This is a pretty awesome Steranko-esque page -- kudos to Chris Sprouse. It's clear that this hallucination is reminding Bruce *just enough* of who he is to know what the bat means to him.
Page 23: Boy is now a Robin analogue for this prehistoric Bat-world, complete with carrying a shield (and a pack on his shoulder) to make clear his role as Squire to the Dark Knight. He also, of course, fulfills the role of Robin, as described by Dick Grayson in "Batman and Robin" #7:
Page 24: Also instinctive for Bruce: loading up on medication. The penicillin is probably about to save his life, considering I doubt his modern immune system is equipped to deal with prehistoric infections and diseases.
Page 25: Kill a God and eat his heart? Man, I thought "Countdown" and "Death of the New Gods" were over.
Page 26: Batman and Robin: Together again for the first time.
Page 28: Boy/Robin's line makes clear that the Miagani -- the traditional Bat Tribe that lived around Gotham, introduced in Jim Starlin and Bernie Wrightson's "Batman: The Cult" -- were an evolution of the Deer Tribe inspired by Bruce's presence. Simultaneously, it sounds like the bat-god they worshipped after Bruce's absence became Barbatos somehow, and was then summoned by Thomas "Simon Hurt" Wayne in 1765.
Page 29: Did... did Grant Morrison just play "Mortal Kombat" for the first time or something? Seriously, I'm surprised he didn't have Batman go "GEDDOVAHEA" or something before shooting the grappling gun at Savage.
Page 31: Batman is the night! He fears no solar eclipse. I expect that the solar eclipse is no coincidence, and that Bruce's time-jumps will somehow line up with that phenomenon.
Page 33: Backing that theory up, it seems like Batman begins to disappear as soon as the sun is fully eclipsed by the moon.
Page 35: Vandal Savage gets a total future-supervillain moment here. His "DAMN YOU FOR REJECTING ME!" face is almost Luthoresque.
Page 36: Here we get the first hook into this summer's "Return of Bruce Wayne" tie-in title, Dan Jurgens's "Rip Hunter: Time Masters." Superman's understanding of Batman as the ultimate survivor parallels Morrison's own stated beliefs in interviews, but the final panel -- the apocalyptic countdown -- is totally new information to us. It's unclear whether this is some sort of side effect of the Omega Effect -- Darkseid's last blow to the world, as prophesied in the Crime Bible -- or an after-effect of whatever changes Bruce will undergo in his journey, that will lead HIM to become an apocalyptic force of destruction.
Page 37: Bruce wakes up likely in 1765 to become Mordecai Wayne. No idea who the lady is, and I certainly have no idea...
Page 38: ...what this Lovecraftian horror is, although Bruce with the sword certainly completes the whole Dark Knight vibe. Like you guys, for any clues on this, I think I'll have to wait another fourteen days.