I’ve not read all of Morrison’s previous run on Batman, but I’ve read enough of the trades, and RIP itself to appreciate exactly how good this issue is. Here we start to see Morrison’s masterplan unfurling, bringing together various plot threads from throughout his run. We also get some interesting tidbits on Bruce’s family history that sets up the Return of Bruce Wayne series itself to be very interesting, as the question of how involved Bruce actually was in his own family history is raised.
There’s also some tantalising hints about Doctor Hurt, who terrorised Bruce throughout Batman RIP and who claimed to be Thomas Wayne, as we learn that there was a black sheep in the Wayne family, also called Thomas Wayne, who claimed to have summoned a demon. Again, this is something I strongly suspect will feature in the Return of Bruce Wayne mini-series. I’d be surprised if a time-lost Bruce didn’t stumble across Thomas, perhaps setting in motion Doctor Hurt’s plan against him in RIP.
It was really nice to see Dick, Damian and Alfred all working together to try and unravel the mystery of Bruce’s disappearance, looking for clues Bruce may have left throughout history in Wayne Manor and the Batcave. The only slightly strange note here is that everyone suddenly knows that Bruce is lost in time thanks to the Omega Effect. Its not actually clear when anyone found this out. Granted Tim found the cave painting Bruce left behind, but that’s still a heck of a logical jump.
Damian’s development also continues to be a real draw in the series. Here we get to see that he’s actually developed a fondness for Grayson, and his new role as Robin, as he questions what will happen to him once Bruce is back as Batman. Dick’s ill-timed joke about the situation only makes things worse, as he doesn’t realise how much impact taking Damian under his wing has actually had on the boy. Things only getting worse when Damian realises he’s been programmed by Talia to kill Dick, as Talia’s patience with Damian’s stint as Robin is at an end. You really feel for what Damian’s going through, and its a testament to what an interesting and enjoyable character Morrison’s created.
And throughout the book, with all this going on, we also have the mystery of Oberon Sexton. Who Dick turned to for information about Doctor Hurt and the Black Hand, and who later turns up at Wayne Manor in time to keep Damian safe from a group about to attack. Who he actually is is yet another mystery in this series. This issue would certainly make me wonder if he’s actually Bruce (and if so, pairing him and Damian in the next issue should be interesting), but I also can’t help but wonder if that’s not a bit obvious for Grant Morrison.
As you can tell, there’s a heck of a lot going on in this single issue. Its a real testament to the writing that none of this comes across as rushed, and all starts to tie together the last few years of Batman books so beautifully. I’ve got high expectations for the rest of this story now, and I can’t wait for the Return of Bruce Wayne, even if I do think that DC could get another year out of Dick and Damian as Batman and Robin easily. And that’s all down to the quality of the story being told here.