Overview

Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne #4

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Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne #4

Credits

  • Words: Grant Morrison
  • Art: Georges Jeanty
  • Inks: Walden Wong
  • Colors: Tony Avina
  • Story Title: "Part Four: Dark Night, Dark Rider"
  • Publisher: DC Comics
  • Price: $3.99
  • Release Date: Jul 28, 2010

With Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne #4, author Grant Morrison may have penned his most straightforward and linear issue of the series thus far; however, it is also the first issue where the art fails to live up not only to Morrison's evolving story, but to the levels established by preceding artists on the book.

For issue #4, readers now witness Bruce Wayne's Western adventures in Gotham City, a definite throwback to the Detective Comics stories of the 1940s and 1950s where the backup story of Pow-Wow Smith was set in a frontier Gotham environment.  How Gotham City can be both a colonial port city in one book and a frontier cattle town in another is somewhat astounding, but those are merely semantic details.  Regardless, Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne #4 lives up to its Western iconography as it is by far the most violent of the series thus far. 

Centered on the mysterious and unknown bat insignia-inscribed "casket," the latest story finds Vandal Savage returning to Gotham and his underlings seeking out the assistance of legendary bounty hunter Jonah Hex to protect them from the shadowy figure who stalks them.  Yet, in terms of story development, Hex plays a rather minute role in the unfolding drama as an Indian named Midnight Horse and a man named Doctor Thomas (Hurt perhaps?) assume a more significant part.  While the true nature of the "casket" remains obscured, Morrison provides a subtle hint and potential connection to Final Crisis.  Just as Superman unlocked the miracle machine by whistling a song, so too does Catherine who opens the "casket" for Bruce Wayne.  Although there has been some disconnect as Bruce transitions between historic eras, this is also the first issue where an event in the end of #4 directly affects his reappearance in twentieth-century Gotham City.

In terms of story and narrative, this is a succinct and well-paced Western tale and Morrison does a fantastic job of working within the Western formula and genre while still advancing his plot threads of Bruce's temporal shifting.  The only weakness for Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne #4 lies within the art of Georges Jeanty.  Even though Jeanty brings a different style and interpretation to the story, it is inconsistent in parts, starting off quite strong in the beginning and waxing and waning throughout the remainder.  For example, his depictions of Hex, particularly the character's first appearance in the tale, as well as characters within the background appear as awkward and at times muddled.  Additionally, in a sequence where Bruce launches his assault on Savage's men, his face and mouth are just strange.  There are other examples readers may find, such as renditions of Doctor Thomas; and, while these don't detract from the story's overall impact, they are noticeable, especially in a book that has seen the stellar efforts of Chris Sprouse, Frazer Irving, and Yanick Paquette.   Yet, it should be recognized that Jeanty was not originally assigned to this book and the resulting artwork may reflect that subsequent lineup change for this issue.

It is great to see Batman both simultaneously within and outside his Gotham element in this series and Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne #4 continues Morrison's innovative reinterpretation of time travel within the DC Universe.

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