Grant Morrison's run continues this week with both Batman: The Return and ComicsAlliance is here, as usual, to break down the books page by page and examine them in the context of both Morrison's body of work and the history of the character.

We'll get to Batman Inc later, but first up is the Return one-shot. In this issue you'll see Grant Morrison writing a full Bat-Family for the first time in his run, Bruce and Damian test driving their working relationship, and the introduction of a group of shadowy new villains.Page 1: We begin with what Morrison calls in the script (printed in the back) "the coolest DCU natural history sequence ever." Note that this bat is over 40 years old -- Morrison also notes in the back that, in his mind (and, therefore, for our purposes, in ours), the bat that inspired the idea of Batman is the same as the one that scared the crap out of little Bruce when he was a kid. The next four pages treat us to deliciously over-the-top Frank Miller-esque noir narration about this "old bastard bat" that I'm sure I don't have to tell you represents Bruce himself, especially the old bastard of Dark Knight Returns.

Page 5: Bruce rings the Bell of the All-Over and becomes a Bat. The "weird figure of the night" line was used in a number of the original printings of Batman's origin, much like "Who He Is and How He Came to Be."

Pages 6-7: This character is Batman.

Page 8: Hussain Mohammed is new; Leviathan is, as far as I can tell, brand new. I'm assuming he crashed this kid's birthday party judging by the streamers.

Page 9: The building he's jumping off of is, according to Morrison, the Burj Al Arab in Dubai.

Page 10: As always with Bruce, the victory is in the preparation. So of course he prepared voice-activated mobile airbags.

Page 11: This is the first time we see Sheikh Ibn ali Farouk, who shows up later. As far as I can tell, there's no relation between these guys and the oil sheikh in the Black Glove, but it's certainly not out of the question.

Pages 12-13: As if the Dubai rooftop jump wasn't enough, there's the Tumbler to make it pretty damn obvious that we're looking at a heavily Chris Nolan-inspired Batman in this book, which we'll see even more in upcoming pages. Also, holy crap, Morrison actually included Stephanie and Tim for once.

Page 14: This new memetic approach really ties in with both the ending of #700 with the Bat-legacy going on into the future and his experiences in Return of Bruce Wayne discovering just how important and potent his totem has become. As the book's title, "Planet Gotham," implies, this is the end of the "my city" phase.

Page 15: I have absolutely no idea why Internet 3.0 has vehicles, cheat codes and weapons, but ... okay, I guess I'll roll with it since Morrison is clearly looking for a digital excuse to do an issue with Barbara Gordon Batgirl. I imagine we'll find out more about Steph's mission in the Batgirl ongoing.

Page 16: G.I. Robot is from Weird War Tales, and we actually last saw him in Final Crisis and the entire New Krypton kerfuffle in the Superman titles. However, it's likely the rogue incident here is referring to Andy Diggle and Whilce Portacio's arc in Batman Confidential #1-6.

Damian's apparently the best with the videogames and it couldn't be more obvious Lucius's dialogue is being written in the voice of Morgan Freeman.

Page 17: The jet-suits here are evocative of the Bat-robots that patrolled Gotham City in Kingdom Come.

Page 19: Of course fathers and sons rarely work well together.

Page 20: Traktir and Spidra are brand new, and presumably won sort of big superhero crisis that occurred in that pit. We'll meet the Heretic soon enough, who's apparently an agent of Leviathan.

Page 22: So Heretic was being built here at the super-soldier facility, in Silo X, and was called "Fatherless." The entire Traktir/Spidra thing seems almost like a parody of Final Crisis: Superman Beyond, with Traktir freaking out at a "vampire man" in the "final arena" to save his wife.

Page 23: I'm guessing that Heretic has either some kind of future-sight or is in fact from the future. There's definitely a connection existing with the Bat-mythos, considering he's wearing a clear riff on Batman's outfit. Perhaps he IS Damian.

Page 26: Damian Wayne, taking his ball and going home, just as in the first arc of Batman and Robin. Alfred must be getting tired of having to sew that patch back on.

Page 27: And here we have the reason Bruce is basically raising an army: he saw something while bouncing around through time that he's trying to stop. I realize these similarities are just coincidences, but the way the plots in the Batman titles have been mirroring the events in Ed Brubaker's Captain America since the return of Jason Todd is just utterly bizarre. Both Steve Rogers and Bruce Wayne have become uber-versions of themselves coordinating vast crimefighting empires fighting against shadowy organizations while their original scope is being taken care of by their former sidekicks.

Page 29: The script at the back dictates that this page should have had a look at the logo of KULTEK (which sounds like a sinister inversion of Technoccult from The Invisibles), which is a stylized version of the Kali Yantra, a type of tantric sigil. Not only is it not shown on this page, but when it's on a screen on the next, it's just the actual Kali Yantra rather than any actual stylization for this organization. I'm quite thankful for these script pages.

In any case, Kali's the goddess of death and change, a perfect totem for supervillainy.

Also, the script calls for the guy on the screen to be a hooded figure rather than the ugly, burnt thing we see without any actual hood. Perhaps it was meant to evoke Libra?

Page 30: I have to wonder if a kid named Omar shooting an adult is a Wire joke. In any case, this wraps up this issue and sets up the ongoing megaplot which seems a whole hell of a lot like Secret Avengers or especially Secret Warriors which already has an evil super-organization called Leviathan.

Links to my other annotations:

- Return of Bruce Wayne #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6; Batman #700, #701, #702; Batman and Robin #14, #15, #16

- original Batman run and previous issues of Batman and Robin

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