Fans of epic fantasy are used to long series – The Wheel of Time & The Sword of Truth come to mind. But I don’t know that even the most hard core fantasy fan would read 51 books in a series without some complaint.
I bring this up because Final Crisis is the series that set the stage for several stories that came after, including Battle for the Cowl and Blackest Knight and, eventually, The Return of Bruce Wayne.
Final Crisis was horrible. Absolutely freaking horrible. It’s one of those rare times when I wanted to track down those responsible and extract from their lives the time stolen from my own while reading it. That’s how bad it was. Superman battles Space Vampires – how’s that for bad?
It culminated with Batman shooting Darkseid, who uses his Omega Beams in retaliation. Think of Omega Beams like Balefire (keeping the whole Fantasy/Wheel of Time thing going here) – Since he is a god, Darkseid can use his Omega Beams to essentially erase you from existence. There is no coming back from that.
Unless, of course, you’re a major character in a comic book universe and worth, all on your own, billions of $$$’s in future book sales. Then you ‘return’…
We all know Bruce Wayne; playboy billionaire whose parents were killed when he was just a kid, murdered right in front of his eyes by a guy with a gun. The trauma of seeing his parents gunned down gives the boy a singular focus to make sure that no other children ever have to go through something similar.
Hence, Batman was born.
To be fair, in the beginning, Batman was not so altruistic. His origin as we know it, the death of his parents, didn’t even appear until Detective Comics #33 and he didn’t have an aversion to guns before that, nor after that. It took them some time to decide that he should be solidly in the ‘against guns’ column. I mean, he used to carry a gun on his utility belt:
Here, he uses his gun to kill a Vampire:
Here’s an advertisement where Bats is flashing his pistol (having recently been fired):
And, of course, here he is fighting the Nazi scourge with a machine gun (while he and Robin grin like fools, no less):
So – the point is, Batman as we know him today took some time to evolve. Eventually he became the guy who wanted nothing at all to do with guns – they were the easiest way to set him off, really get him angry.
I point all of this out because to see Batman raise a gun to kill Darkseid – it just wasn’t in character. He doesn’t do that. It’s a line he doesn’t cross – Grant Morrison disagreed. He felt that if the stakes were high enough – essentially, all of reality, all life at stake, then Batman would pick up a gun and use it.
It’s done – can’t unwrite it. Batman picked up a gun and shot Darkseid, who in turn, used his Omega Beams to kill the Bat.
Or so we thought for like a second. I don’t think Tim Drake was the only one who saw the body and thought, “What? No way – he’s totally not dead.”
And, like Tim, you’d be right.
Darkseid, being a god and all, was able to devise an entire plan to destroy the world in those milliseconds between being shot and seemingly killing the Bat – all of which is detailed, such as it is, in The Return of Bruce Wayne, a sprawling tale of a Batman bouncing through time, slowly making his way back to present day Gotham while the Justice League searches time so they can stop him from returning.
Immediately after reading this book, I tweeted. Here’s my unedited comment:
This book comes in six parts – written by Grant Morrison – so let’s take a look at them each in turn.
Part One: Shadow in Stone
Batman versus Gotham Cavemen.
Part Two: Until the End of Time
Batman vs Cthulhu and vs Gotham Puritans.
Part Three: The Bones of Bristol Bay
Batman vs Blackbeard in caves below Gotham searching for Pirate treasure.
Part Four: Dark Night, Dark Rider
Oh, look – Jonah Hex… if you thought they couldn’t possibly do something worse to Jonah Hex than the Jonah Hex movie, you were wrong. You were very, very wrong.
Part Five: Masquerade
Wait – did I even read this part? I think I skimmed it due to my brain starting to shut down. Was this the Sherlock Holmes bit?
Part Six: The All-Over
Oh, thank god… It’s over…
Plotline – right, sorry – so – the big plot was that Darkseid is stupid and Grant Morrison is stupid and I hate this freaking book.
You probably want more than that (so did I). Okay, here goes – Bruce Wayne is some sort of timebomb. Darkseid’s plan was for him to bounce through time, collecting Omega Energy to somehow destroy the world when he returned to his time. He is followed through time by a Cthulhu like monster. The Justice League travels in time to try and find him but somehow Bruce Wayne figures it all out, travels to the future and then sprinkles clues to himself throughout time before wiping his own memory.
Somewhere, my brain pretty much shut down and I just turned the pages while frowning.
In the end, Bruce Wayne does NOT destroy the world but he does die for real so whatever Darkseid infected him with can drain away and then the Justice League brings him back to life. It ends with Bruce Wayne back in the batcave. cape and cowl in hand, ready to get back into action.
The whole thing was just an excuse to see what Bruce Wayne would be like in different periods throughout time. Turns out – HE’S FREAKING BRUCE WAYNE! Uhh, surprise – He’s still a dick! He’s still right all the time (cuz everyone else is wrong – duh), still a detective, still trying to figure out whodunit. It’s like the idea was pitched: “Hey, let’s tell some stories of alternate universe Bruce Wayne’s in all different time periods!” and someone said, “No – even better – let’s make it our Bruce Wayne!” And when someone else said, “No, no – that’s stupid”, they fired that person and moved ahead.
It’s a horrible story and I wish I could unread it.