Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Batman: Bruce Wayne - The Road Home

Writers: Fabian Nicieza, Mike W. Barr, Bryan Q. Miller, Adam Beechen and others
Artists: Cliff Richards, Roman Bachs, Pere Perez, Scott McDaniel and others
Collects: All eight "Bruce Wayne: The Road Home" one-shots

Kind of inevitable that DC would want to capitalize on Bruce Waynes return from that whole time traveling thing, right? So I can't blame them for this. But these kind of "shove some product out there to get some extra scratch" projects rarely produce anything of value. The Road Home is no different.

Taking place in some nebulous time period where Bruce is back but Dick and Damian have conveniently forgotten this fact*, dude decides "hey, may as well check up on everybody and see how they've done in my absence". Of course he doesn't tell any of them he's back and screws with their operations to test them. That's right folks, we're in Batstard territory; right after Grant Morrison went through all that work to close the book on the whole "Batman treats his comrades like crap" meme.

Meanwhile, Vicki Vales continued snooping into the identity of the Caped Crusader finally lands her in real trouble**, as someone has put a big ol' bullseye on her back.

Originally I thought this miniseries existed to show the Bat families reaction to Bruce Waynes return. Turns out there's only a little of that, since Bruce is hiding his return for most of the book. In order to give this story some manner of an overarching plot, Fabian Nicieza decided to use it to finish up the Vicki Vale subplot he's been toying with whenever he got hold of a Bat family book for a bit.

It's a good idea, but the problem is that Fabian only writes three of the eight one shots. The Vale plot is still carried through the others, but as a consequence it's decompressed. We take some slightly ridiculous turns - such as Vale getting herself involved in the Gotham Underground in her quest to prove Batmans identity, because that's somehow necessary and couldn't possibly go wrong - leading to things like Batmans rogues going after her for her knowledge when they have no bearing on the endgame. As a result, things lose focus and what could have been an interesting story had Fabian handled the entire thing is instead stretched to its breaking point.

Which is kind of a shame, because I like Fabians writing well enough when he's on his game. I think I would have enjoyed this plot with Vicki Vale chasing the identity of Batman and his family under normal circumstances, like a four or five issue arc in one of the Bat titles. Sadly, the patchwork nature of this format assures it does not get the sendoff it needed.

Outside of all that, there are some nice touches. I quite enjoyed the Batgirl issue, done by the usual creative team of her ongoing at the time, even if there was a bit too much Batstard involved. The Commishioner Gordon issue had some nice, moody art. It's just not enough to raise this fairly disappointing volume.

The Score: 5.5 out of 10

Don't bother. It's not really worth the money. A possible exception may be if you've been following the Vicki Vale story prior and want to see how it ends.

* That or Batman & Robin Must Die has yet to take place. I suppose, if you must place this somewhere in continuity - I say "why bother" since it's not that great, but some folks prefer knowing - it's probably right after Return of Bruce Wayne but before Batman & Robin Must Die. Kind of hurts the climax of that one, if you ask me.

** It seems the lions share of this subplot took place in Red Robin.

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