Friday, October 22, 2010

Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne #5 by Grant Morrison, Ryan Sook, and Pere Perez

We've reached the penultimate chapter of the return of the one, true Dark Knight. And although this issue takes place just after the death of Bruce's parents, it has several ramifications in the "present day" battle with The Black Glove.

The issue is book-ended by a meeting of several DC heroes with Tim Drake, who is presenting his findings proving that Bruce Wayne is alive. Although they want their friend back, the heroes understand that Bruce Wayne's return to the 21st century. The story goes on to explain several components about Dr. Hurt's identity (is he really Thomas Wayne?), the Wayne’s new familial history thanks to Bruce's time jump, and the tone is extraordinarily reflective of old noir detective stories. There's a femme fatale, a rugged hero, all the way down to Venetian blinds in a detective office. From the Paleolithic era all the way through to the Wild West, Grant Morrison shows that he's very efficient at making you feel like you're actually in that particular period of time. Beyond all of the period components, Morrison manages to throw in some genuine Batman moments with him being the World's Greatest Detective down to some good ol' fashioned ass-kickery. As each issue goes along, regardless of the self-reflexive Morrisonian philosophy and mind trips, this has the undertone of a Bruce Wayne/Batman story more so than anything else out right now.

Ryan Sook provides 21 pages of artwork, and the rest are done by Pere Perez. Sook's work is great with detail, his faces are all different, the wrinkles in the clothing are realistic, and his shadow work is fantastic, not only for the images rendered here, but for playing into the tone of film noir. While this isn't truly noir (it's not black and white), Sook's style has the predominant feel necessary to pull it off. Perez's finishes are rather close to Sook's, it seems like he went out of his way to make the art style changes as low-impact as possible, and he does a good job of it. Jose Villarrubia's colors in this issue are appropriately washed out, evoking the colorless world of noir while still keeping the foot in the door of four color comic book action. This entire series has been a lesson in how to make an environment feel different through each time period. Seeing the collected edition will no doubt increase my respect for it.

We have one more issue until the full-on return of Bruce Wayne, and it looks like he's bringing the full-blown apocalypse (Apokolips?) with him. I wonder, how will he kick its ass?

Won't be long until we find out


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