Batman is dead.
Bruce Wayne is dead.
That was the conclusion of the brilliantly written and well received collaboration between Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo: the Endgame series. The comic book run that nearly destroyed Gotham and ended with the deaths of both The Batman and the Joker in tunnels under Wayne Manor. But this being the comic book world we know full well that death, well it can be kind of fluid sometimes. So we now know that Bruce Wayne was resurrected using the same formula that keep the Court of Owls alive. Only Bruce came back damaged. With no memory, no skills and no sense of his former sense, Bruce came back without the Batman.
This led to the robotic, rabbit-eared monstrosity that is James Gordon in a Gundam suit pretending to be the Batman. As for Bruce, well in his new incarnation he working in a teen shelter, happy and content, but with the nagging sense of incredible loss. Also in the Batman Universe; in Eternal and Arkham Manor, the insane asylum known as Arkham was destroyed and Wayne Manor taken over by eminent domain to house the worse of Gotham’s criminals.
Now Wayne Manor is being returned to its rightful owner. Bruce Wayne. This is the story of Batman Annual #4 released earlier this month.
Beware, there will be spoilers here.
While I am not often a fan of comic series Annuals, this one should not be missed. With all that has transpired in the Batman Universe, Annual #4 is the first true Batman story to have hit the stands in sometime. Even more so, since Batman never makes an appearance.
Wayne Manor is emptied of all the crazy criminals it housed temporarily and Bruce Wayne is returning to his home. A home he doesn’t remember. He is being introduced to a life he once led but has no connection to. Along with him are Alfred and Julie. Waiting for him is Miss Geri Powers, ready to turn the keys of Wayne Manor back to Bruce. For himself, Bruce feels nothing for his home. He is reminded of who he used to be by those who love him, but in his heart Bruce does not know that person. It is an incredible emotional struggle for this new Bruce Wayne as he tries to come to grips with his prior self.
Unknown to everyone, is that there were three of the insane criminals that were not transported away. They have created an illusion of their removal and severed all communication with the world outside of the mansion. They have stayed behind to punish Bruce Wayne for what he has done to them. The three, Clayface, Dr. Freeze and the Riddler have stayed behind to show Bruce Wayne who he once was.
The Trio take Julie and Miss Powers captive as they show Bruce his past. The deaths of his parents, the pain and madness of the little boy he once was.
“…This is where it all started. This is what lies beneath the riddle of Bruce Wayne. Two bodies laying in an alley. Somebody has to have told you the story by now…”
They torture Bruce with clues of his past, insinuating that he has become so figure of great importance. What the trio believe is that in the time after the death of his parents, after Bruce exiled himself; he returned to Gotham and funded the actions of the vigilante known as the Batman. For this they will punish Bruce Wayne. The trio express their angst for the actions of the Batman and how he has destroyed their lives. A revenge they mean to take out on the Batman’s financier.
What they don’t expect is that this amnesiac, pampered billionaire to fight back. And he does. Bruce Wayne does.
This is Bruce’s story and in it are the elements for the true resurrection of what the rest of us in the comic book universe can only hope as being the return of the true Batman. In the moment when Bruce has the upper hand against a weakened and beaten Riddler he says:
“…You know what crazy is? Crazy is setting up a fun house because someone hurt your feelings instead of taking the chance to escape…”
That was right before he planted a boot to the face.
Bruce Wayne is back. Now let us hope the Batman is not far behind.