“Dark Night, Dark Rider”
The second to last page of The Return of Bruce Wayne #4 gives us the most telling image of the issue as we see Wayne Manor in the middle of construction. Two-thirds of the way through the story we see that most of the Bat-components are almost in place.
For further proof, flip on over to the splash page, where we see our proto-Batman--tall and dark, he has the cape, the mask, and even the utility belt. In an era where guns are commonplace, we finally have a Batman who deviates from the norms of combat, using Batarangs against gunfighters even though this seems like a highly illogical idea in the Old West.
All that’s missing are the ears. Instead, there’s a cowboy hat. So we’re so close to having our Batman, but the hat signifies that, no, we’re not quite there yet. This is not our Batman. This is what the Lone Ranger will look like in the modern day “reimagining.”
It’s hard to write any pretentious rot about this issue, however, because “Dark Night, Dark Rider” has proven the weakest installment in the series so far. We get the least amount of Batman in this issue over the previous ones (sometime I forget he’s even in it) but that bit is intentional. This is the mythical, night stalker kind of Batman, the one we see in Batman Begins sneaking around the warehouse and picking off thugs one by one and generally scaring the hell out of everyone. Thus, much of the narrative weight goes to Vandal Savage and his cronies, including DC gunslinger and cinematic turkey Jonah Hex, who’s been hired to take care of this weird Batcowboyman who’s been spooking the locals.
Curious that this issue lacks any scenes with the superhero search party, which was always a good companion to Bruce’s time-hopping adventure as it reminded us just what was at stake and why we should care about Bruce Wayne being a pirate or a cowboy. There’s a bigger story at hand than just the immediate plot of Batman surviving another adventure in another era. Instead, this issue relies on a bit of a mundane cliffhanger, but hopefully we’ll get more cosmic weirdness in the next issue.
For some reason, the script never connects, and I blame it on the late addition of Georges Jeanty of Buffy the Vampire Slayer in the place of frequent Moz collaborator Cameron Stewart. Jeanty’s pencils feel rushed with a lack of distinction among characters (I think Jonah Hex was the guy with the scar, but I can’t be too sure) and often have to resort to letting Tony Avina’s colors do all the work as far as conveying mood and atmosphere. It seems like part of the conceit of The Return of Bruce Wayne was getting a different top-tier talent to draw each issue, and Jeanty’s work (at least in this comic as I remember his Buffy work being at least serviceable) doesn’t hold up next to Chris Sprouse, Frazier Irving, and Yanick Paquette. And next up is Ryan Sook, for God’s sake.
That said, this issue feels like a misstep in a potentially great series. Morrison’s script barely shows through the less-than-stellar art, but I keep faith that the remaining two issues will show the book getting back on track barring any other shocking artist changes. Cameron Stewart, you are missed.
What did you think of this book?
Have your say at the Line of Fire Forum!