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Friday, October 15, 2010

Return of Bruce Wayne #5 Review

It's been a wild, oftentimes incoherent but ultimately satisfying ride back home for Batman in the pages of Return of Bruce Wayne, Grant Morrison's crazy idea to have Batman travel forward in time to live out (or redefine) his very own mythos. He's been a prehistoric barbarian, a pirate, a cowboy and a witch hunter, and now in Return of Bruce Wayne #5, Bruce finds himself in the age of speakeasies and gangsters, in a murder mystery involving...his own mother?

The series' readability is really hard to pin down, with Morrison waxing cryptic on us one issue, then giving us a straightforward story the next. And while the latest issue gives me goosebumps with just how awesome a Grant Morrison noir tale starring Batman reads like, it's disjointed and cryptic events feel incomplete. As if everything you need to know for this issue to make sense is in other books, specifically the books you're not reading. Forgive me for not being a regular reader of all things Bat.

While that takes away points from the book, I can't take away the great character moments that take place here. The little nuances and parallels really set the mood whenever they appear, whether it's a old rich dude in an iron lung trying desperately to talk to (or warn?) Bruce about our hero's impending doom, or the allusions to the circumstances surrounding the death of his parents (the pearls, oh the pearls). The latter scene becomes heartbreaking once the issue heads to its climax, but I think it's better seen and read than described, especially when you have Ryan Sook on art.

This is the first time I've seen Ryan Sook's work, and boy am I impressed. His designs are great, his linework has that smooth Adam Hughes look to it, and he brings the 1930's to life in every page. Awesome, awesome stuff. I think I'll have to look for Ryan Sook's other work.

Return of Bruce Wayne #5 is begging to be good, what with it being the issue leading up to the stunning finale. But even with Prohibition-era goodness, great art and an interesting premise (Bruce investigating his mother's murder at the hands of his -- gasp! -- father?!), the meat of the event just isn't there. It's served elsewhere in bite-sized chunks you have to go out of your way to find. That kind of story isn't something you pay 3.99 for. This book gets a 3 out of 5.

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