By Christopher Franey & Rafael Encinas
Welcome back Comic Book Fans to another exciting tour of Ed Brubaker’s Captain America alongside Grant Morrison’s Batman. Bruce Wayne is back and we see how he views the Bat-Family in Batman: Bruce Wayne the Road Home tpb (collecting Bruce Wayne: The Road Home – Batman and Robin #1, Bruce Wayne: The Road Home – Red Robin #1, Bruce Wayne: The Road Home – Batgirl #1, Bruce Wayne: The Road Home – Outsiders #1, Bruce Wayne: The Road Home – Catwoman #1, Bruce Wayne: The Road Home – Oracle #1, Bruce Wayne: The Road Home – Commissioner Gordon #1, and Bruce Wayne: The Road Home – Ra’s al Ghul #1).
The action continues for Steve Rogers and Bucky Barnes as we check out Captain America: Two Americas tpb and the Marvel event, Siege; with Cap’s adventures we suggest the following reading order: Captain America: Who Will Wield the Shield?, Avengers: The Way Things Are, Siege: The Cabal, Siege 1 – 3, Siege Captain America 1, Siege 4, Captain America 602-605. Rafa and I will be sharing our views, joys, and bummers on these stories and to help the reader Rafa will be in ITALIC FONT and I will be in BOLD FONT, so Rafa why don’t you open it up with The Road Home?
Batman: The Road Home is an interesting tpb because it attempts to be a prelude to Batman: Incorporated. The basic structure of this tbp is separate stories about different members of the Bat Family, and it serves as a way for Bruce to get insight into his teammates and to gather reconnaissance on what has been going on in his absence. I understand that it tries to bring Bruce back into the fold, but unfortunately, it just reads as convoluted and a bit boring. Don’t get me wrong, I liked that DC attempted to bring Batman back into the DC universe by having him reconnect with his allies, but there were too many uninteresting plots, and the overlying theme of Vicki Vale trying to expose Bruce Wayne as Batman felt forced. Some issues were okay like the Red Robin and Batgirl one-shots. We got some respect put back on Tim’s name (afterall, I felt like Tim was under-utilized all of Morrison’s Batman run), and we get a good redemptive look into Stephanie’s new role as Batgirl and Bruce’s acceptance of her in that role.
However, some issues were absolutely boring garbage for me. I am sorry. I try not to see the negatives and try to highlight the positives of every comic I read, but the one-shot about the Outsiders was long and boring, and I felt like it had no connection to anything in Morrison’s story, hell, even the overall Batman story at large. What was the real tragedy was that they were focusing on an introspective look at the Outsiders and there was no mention of Cassandra Cain, who was super important to Batman’s contingency plan should he perish. Also, the Ra’s story was something that I had to force myself to get through as well. What about you, Chris? What was your experience with Batman: The Road Home?
I am right there with you Rafa you nailed it; sadly these issues didn’t provide much but exploit the Batman “Returns” saga and this was a collection of loosely connected “zero issues” just getting our attention and then hoping to farm us out to those series. I really did have to force myself to read through this and it could’ve/should’ve been shorter. The only good I got from this was part one focusing on Batman (Dick) and Robin (Damian) and they were fun and kept their voice in this issue. Getting to see Tim Drake (Red Robin) was great and like you mentioned he didn’t get much of a chance in Morrison’s run so I would highly suggest reading his Red Robin series which was fantastic. After those two points I really didn’t care for much and I really felt so sad for Vicki Vale as she was just a plot device and we won’t hear from her again. I’m just glad that that read is done…so let us go to something worthwhile and talk about Marvel’s Siege event!
Marvel’s SIEGE event was such a home run. I forgot just how good of a story it was. What I found most interesting about this story was the way in which it served as an end to an era of comics and brought us into Marvel’s self-appointed Heroic Age of Marvel comics. At four issues, it is a blockbuster of an event that serves as the ending to all the plots brought out in Civil War to Secret Invasion to Dark Avengers. Here we get a satisfying conclusion with both Steve and Bucky who come to terms with their new-found places in the new Marvel landscape. SIEGE is great because we see Steve’s return as earned and important. Norman Osborn has corrupted what the Avengers had originally worked so hard to protect. Seeing Steve rally the troops together and then lead them in a full on assault against Norman’s Dark Avengers and the Void was just an iconic comic book event.
The action hits hard and feels important. It after all, becomes the catalyst for Steve Rogers’ new position as head of SHIELD. This event was great because we get the Avengers back together again. No Civil War politics. We have Steve, Tony, and Thor together again, and every time I read it, I feel like a little kid again. It is redemptive and long-term storytelling comes full-circle, and it feels great! But, it doesn’t end there! Besides the explosive action and violent gory moments (Sentry loved ripping people in half), there was also a lot of subtle and heartfelt storytelling as well.
We see this in two other Captain America stories. The outcome of Siege puts Captain America in a favorable position for once, making Bucky the official new Captain America and making Steve Rogers the new Top Cop of SHIELD. I liked this parallel, and I really enjoyed the tie in story Siege: Captain America, as well as “Captain America: Who Will Wear The Shield?” where we get a down-to-earth story of two men just trying to figure out who will be Captain America. It is both introspective and down to the grassroots which explores how both men are able to carry on their respective missions in their own ways.
It is cathartic to see Bucky realize that he was “meant” for the Shield, and to see Steve recognize he needs to stand up and become something bigger than the symbol. For me, seeing Bucky and Steve try to save some civilians after the fall of Asgard is truly brilliant storytelling. The fact that we have these two larger-than-life men taking the time to help a family in the midst of an earth shattering conflict is very telling. These two men truly are heroes, and it is shown through actions; not words. I get goosebumps just thinking about it. What were your thoughts on this chaotic storytelling, Chris?
Siege was a huge story back in the day; it felt like the end of Bendis’ Marvel which started with Avengers Disassembled. The hits would just keep going onto Civil War, Secret Invasion, Dark Reign, and now finally here. The best part was seeing the big three of Captain America (Steve), Iron-man, and Thor. It had been so long, like close to 10 years!! This event was done excellently and I like that it was a smaller format; four issues instead of six which just made each one that much more deeper instead of filler. Honestly it showcased just how crazy and tragic the Sentry was. This moment hit me right here with Steve and Bucky:
I love the fact that Bucky isn’t having it from Steve; he knows that if he is going to suit up he has to wield the shield and it plays so great to Bucky’s improv style of heroics. That mannerism is why I like Bucky and Dick Grayson, they roll with it. Siege was just so awesome and honestly I would recommend following up with the New Avengers book as it was great and had some awesome Bucky Cap moments. Then the ending with that last page of the heroes together just gave me chills and really had me so hype for the “Heroic Age” that was coming next; which was just perfectly timed with DC’s Brightest Day…everything was in the light and positive! Any moments of Siege that didn’t sit well with you Rafa?
The only thing that I thought could have made this event better would have been if we got more of an iconic battle between Norman and Steve. Don’t get me wrong. I love how it was Spidey who clocked him, but I felt that Osborn was taken out too easily. But, to be fair, the whole point of this battle was to show off how immensely powerful the Void was! Seeing Sentry descend into such a powerful monster was actually horrifying! I am glad the good guys made it out in one piece! However, I think overall, this was some climactic fun that felt epic in every sense of the word. It was a good end and transition into the Heroic Age of Marvel.
You’re totally right with that, it was a showcase for the Sentry; like every time he slammed into Asgard I felt like I was watching a horror version of Superman going back in time like he did in Superman: the Movie. Let us jump into our last part of this read with Captain America Two Americas…and WOW that was so good. I love how Brubaker totally revived the “Mad Cap” and made him such a worthwhile villain. Like Bucky and Mad Cap are totally in the same boat with being heroes who turned into monsters, but Bucky came out of it and chose redemption. I really liked how no matter what Bucky still tried to see a good man inside Mad Cap which just makes Bucky’s road that much more. Like he could easily have called the man a monster and be done with it, but he tried so hard to save him, yet Bucky isn’t a total fool as in the end he knew what had to be done.
Mad Cap was such a great add on to Brubaker’s run like he really challenged Bucky on so many levels and the similarities of both was just uncanny. I also loved getting to see Sam Wilson (Falcon) get some action in these issues as well. I hope when Disney+ is doing research for Falcon and the Winter Soldier they look to these issues. What are your thoughts on this trade Rafa?
I share the exact same sentiments that you shared, Chris! What I think makes this story work so well is that we get some closure into MadCap’s story. At first glance, this is a straight up James Bond level villain with his maniacal plan of blowing up the Hoover Dam. But it also has very real world politics with the issues of radicalizing hate groups and trying to return America to its old greatness. This type of storytelling that is both whacky fun but also steeped in real social problems makes for a great read, and it makes it really resonate with me that much more.
At the end of the day, I feel bad for Mad Cap, and I like how we are able to see how Bucky could have become a tragic figure like him if he did not have Steve there to help him. But this story also showcases how Bucky is now so much more than just his relationship with Steve. He also has Natasha who sees his worth, and he has Sam as the perfect “buddy-cop” partner who has his back. It is these little nuances in the storytelling that really make you appreciate Bucky’s journey that much more! This was some fun reading that also had some very real moments that I appreciated. Brubaker once again knows how to deliver!
Perfect observations and I really like how you touched on the fact that Bucky does have that supportive family with Steve, Natasha, and Sam. That really does affect us on how we view ourselves and our actions. Well folks we hope you enjoyed our thoughts and views on these stories. Join us next time as we read Steve Rogers Super-Soldier tpb (collecting Steve Rogers: Super-Soldier #1 -4), Captain America No Escape tpb (Captain America vol 1 #606-610), and Batman Incorporated tpb (Batman Incorporated vol 1 #1-8 and Leviathan Strikes). You can find Rafa on twitter as @Mobilerafie and myself as @StuffIShudSay, thank you for joining us here at Geek Elite Media and as always, GEEK OUT!
By Christopher Franey & Rafael Encinas
Hello again friends and we welcome you back to our adventures in these amazing runs which also happens to feature the returns of Steve Rogers and Bruce Wayne. I think we are in for amazing stories as we take a look at the trade paperbacks of Captain America: Reborn (featuring Captain America Reborn 1 – 6 and the digital prologue) with Batman & Robin: Batman & Robin Must Die! (featuring Batman & Robin vol 1 13 – 16 and Batman: the Return) alongside Batman: the Return of Bruce Wayne (collecting Return of Bruce Wayne 1 – 6). To make things easier in this discussion Rafa will be in ITALIC FONT and I will be in BOLD FONT. So, Rafa why don’t you open things up and treat us to your awesome insights to Captain America Reborn by Ed Brubaker?
Thank you, Chris! As always, having you to share in this experience makes reading through these tales that much more fun and insightful, and god! This was both a fun and insightful run of Captain America. Once again, Ed Brubaker knows how to set the pace to lead to an extravagant, memorable, and meaningful epic that could honestly be its own movie. Captain America: Reborn, like Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne, as you will read shortly, is a culmination of events carefully set in motion. Brubaker has done a fantastic job of spinning his story of legacy, sacrifice, and redemption. We started this run with two best friends in Bucky and Steve, and now we get a return to greatness with an awesome team-up of two Captain America’s that just feels so triumphant!
This is the payoff to all of Brubaker’s groundwork which is the actual return of Steve Rogers; the return of Captain America. We continue to get premium quality in writing with all conspiracies and mysteries laid out for us. This is Brubaker’s crescendo, his climax into Steve Rogers’ ultimate clash with The Red Skull. What I love about this story is how Brubaker explores Steve’s history once more to ultimately bring him back into the present. It is interesting how this espionage, action-thriller transforms into a science fiction adventure with time travel guns and Nazi mind prisons. It is a story of the unstoppable will of a man who refuses to let evil win. The return of Steve Rogers felt great, and I absolutely loved it. What were some things you loved about this story, Chris?
This was a great read and like you said, Rafa, it builds off of so much that Brubaker has created which helps me as a reader feel invested and validated with Cap’s return. Plus two Captain Americas fighting side by side was such a great visual that I enjoyed and look forward to what is next. Ed did so much with this series that there are so many talking points to look at; if we start with Steve Rogers himself, talk about the agony of having to be a passenger through your life but not being able to do anything for fear or destroying the timeline. That was a very clever trap that Red Skull and company created for Steve and I like that Steve actually found a way to use their own plot against them by way of the Vision. Once again the villains are just so much in this series but it works magnificently because at the time Marvel was going through the Dark Reign.
It was great to see Norman Osborn get involved, Dr. Doom has to share his genius once again and not let it be unsaid either, then to see Red Skull, Crossbones, and Sin all working this plan together was just awesome and not wasted pages or needless crossover. Sharon Carter had great moments as well with deciding to stand and face her actions in order to save Bucky; Sam “Falcon” Wilson also had great moments of being a hero saving the day. I even forgot how much Hank Pym was involved in this, of course as the Wasp…yup strange times at Marvel. Of course the big payout moment was the heroes having to fight to save Cap’s body while Steve and Skull fight over the mind, but when that finally happens and we see Bucky and Cap reunited, I can hear the audience jump up and scream! This was a great adventure and I really enjoyed revisiting; just a stronger testament to how amazing Ed Brubaker is as a writer. What would you say was your overall favorite moment Rafa?
That is hard, because there are so many standout moments. If I have to pick a favorite moment, I would have to say it’s the fight between Bucky Captain America and Red Skull Steve in front of the Lincoln Memorial; I mean talk about the symbolism and stakes in that fight. I really enjoyed how Red Skull was fighting both Captain Americas on both a physical and mental plane. It is a fight you feel invested in. After all the groundwork that Brubaker puts into his epic story, watching Steve overcome the Red Skull’s mind and bringing himself back is awesome! This to me is what makes all of Brubaker’s run so important. Also, I really enjoyed the moments where Steve is trapped in time. You can see how someone could become crazy from experiencing that.
Particularly, I love the scene where he relives the moment in which Namor dislodges him from the ice. The way he pleads for his friend to look at him feels so helpless and so sad. It was a poignant moment that showed me a man that was just tired. It is these moments where Steve is humanized, where he is made to relive the trauma of his life as he is trapped in the timeline of his past that makes this so much more endearing. You actively root for Steve to escape. Overall, this was something I truly loved about Brubaker’s Captain America; Steve is a man I want to root for.
Spot on observation that was a harsh moment and honestly when he couples that with saying he wished his eyes were closed makes me think how hard being the ice really was for him. Bryan Hitch did such a great job with that facial feature that I can’t help but feel for him. So now that we have shared about Steve’s return it is time to talk about the return of the Bat. For this read we would recommend the following road map of starting with Batman & Robin vol 1 #13 – 14, then Return of Bruce Wayne 1 – 6, back to Batman & Robin vol 1 for 15 – 16, and ending with Batman: the Return. Rafa why don’t you open this up for us as I know you really get into the mind of Morrison.
Thank you, Chris! Morrison is just one of those writers who does some truly weird things, but that just adds to the magic, and there is just so much magic in these stories! Morrison’s third volume of Batman & Robin, as well as his Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne read well separately, but are even better when read together as one cohesive story. Again, thank you Chris for providing the recommended reading order for these two tpbs. Volume 3 of Batman and Robin is entitled Batman & Robin Must Die, and it is a return to form for Morrison. This volume plunges us into the depths of a Gotham that has been doused in fire; a metaphorical fire that threatens to burn down the city. Doctor Hurt is back and with his 99 Fiends and Professor Pyg, he really causes some strong conflict for Dick and Damian.
The theatrics are turned up to eleven, and the art by Frazer Irving is truly something beautiful to behold; the way he commands texture and shadows is masterful and makes the reading feel much more pulpy which may be a way to pay homage to the Batman stories Morrison plays with. Personally, this volume felt like it could have been directed by Quentin Tarantino; akin to the likes of Kill Bill, it felt like an epic in the making. Morrison sets the stage for something big to happen; for some kind of payoff. And this is where I think this is a great read. It shows exactly how bad Gotham can get without the real Batman, and this is perfectly where The Return of Bruce Wayne comes in.
Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne read so much better this second time that I read it. It is such a weird story, and it feels like Morrison has a fun time putting it together. The insanity of the plot with Batman never really dying (from back in Final Crisis) but instead being booby-trapped as a doomsday weapon by Darkseid and aimed at the 21st century is just peak Morrison. It feels so over-the-top, but in a good way. It plays to the campy absurdity of Batman’s original stories, and I think this makes it so much more endearing. I love how each chapter takes us into a new time period where Bruce is basically summoned to be an avenging demon, a dark angel of retribution! No matter where in the timeline Bruce ends up, he is always ready to help those that need help. We get a prehistoric Batman vs. Vandal Savage brawl; we venture to the Vanishing Point while Bruce takes on a hyper-adapter in an “old Salem-esque” Gotham; we get some pirate shenanigans; we get Jonah Hex taking on Cowboy batman. It is awesome because we get an anthology of different Elseworld Batmans, but it is all in continuity and it serves as a vehicle to explore the legacy of Batman, while at the same time bringing him back to the DC landscape.
Batman’s venture through time leads us to one undeniable fact: there will always be a Batman in Gotham. It feels poetic and it is just a really cool concept that is fleshed out really well. This is important because the story therefore becomes so much more than just a fun series of stories focused on different forms of Batman; ultimately, it builds upon itself. With all the talk of the bat-people, Barbatos, and songs of prophecy and superstition, this all creates a meta analysis of the Batman mythos. Both in the comic and out in the real world, we are allowed to see how the legend of the Batman gains notoriety based off of others misconceptions. This is how Batman works. It is not just his detective skills or dope fighting skills that make him a threat. His genius and his power stem from the fear and superstition that people build into his legend. This is just a man after all, but a man who allows others to feed into the legend of the dark knight. What did you take away from Morrison’s writings this week, Chris?
Doctor Hurt is a super scumbag!! What a villain and I was so excited to see him back for his part in the “modern day” by trying to summon Barbatos and also getting to learn more about him. I will have to keep reading his appearances even after Morrison leaves the Bat books because I’m sure I’ll love to hate this character even more. Honestly that reading order helped make this even more exciting. With those two issues of Batman and Robin setting up just how lost Gotham City is getting, how wicked the bad guys truly are, and the fact that the Joker is going to help was just drama!! Then shifting gears to the Return of Bruce Wayne was interesting and like you said it created a bunch of Elseworld style tales but they are in continuity while also playing with DC Comics’ history of characters like Vandal Savage, the Black Pirate, and Jonah Hex.
I really enjoyed when Bruce got to the Pulp era in issue 5 and we come to find out the dame he helps sets him up for that crazy video that has been floating around since R.I.P. man did Morrison plan! But I have to say that if I read Return of Bruce Wayne on it’s own I don’t think I would’ve liked it as much, but adding Batman and Robin to it just made it so much better. Like Return of Bruce Wayne #6 felt very weak in regards to Bruce is back, but when he made his return in Batman and Robin #15 that was the moment I wanted to stand and cheer! Plus we still get great addons with issue 16 but seeing Bruce, Alfred, Gordon, Dick, and Damian fight to save Gotham City’s soul which was just B-E-A-utiful!! I love that Batman: the Return also sets the direction that Morrison will be taking Batman and family along with that introduction of Leviathan and some of those members; it helps that I remember some of the conclusion so it was exciting to see those seeds be planted.
I completely agree, Chris, that Batman: The Return was a great way to see how Morrison would be navigating into the next piece of Batman’s story in Batman: Incorporated. Like you, I think it is excellent to see Morrison planting the seeds for what comes next. It makes all the interconnectedness of his stories that much more exciting. All the lunacy and theatrics aside, The Return of Bruce Wayne and Batman & Robin Must Die both conclude into something truly cathartic, and something worth your time. In an adventure with Vanishing Points, time paradoxes, ancient bat demons, and designer drugs, we get a conclusion that reinforces the idea that Bruce has never been alone. Morrison’s Batman story is one of isolation vs. community. Morrison cleverly both narratively and symbolically “isolates” Batman through the introduction of Dr. Hurt’s isolation experiments at the very beginning of his run, but he then slowly introduces elements that shake this concept to its core.
Batman gets a son. Batman gets an heir to the Batman mantle in Nightwing. Morrison begins developing a sense of community for Batman. It takes all of the intertwined events of Batman: R.I.P., Final Crisis, Batman & Robin, and The Return of Bruce Wayne that allows Bruce to see that Batman has never been alone. Watching Morrison lay the groundwork for some truly thematic storytelling while still telling that story inside a bat-shit crazy narrative is both impressive and exciting. While we get lost in the absurdity of the drama, we don’t realize the nuance and attention to detail that Morrison puts into the Batman mythos. He creates a humanized Batman that may come from extravagant legend, but when all is said and done, Batman is still just a man. A man who dares to do the impossible. A man who, with a little help from his friends, is able to make the impossible a reality. I for one am so happy to see this fully realized version of Bruce. I look forward for what’s to come.
So I have to ask Rafa because I know you love toys even more than I do…what did you think of DC Direct’s offering of Return of Bruce Wayne figures? Did you get any of them and what are your thoughts on them regardless of owning or not?
I actually never picked up any of these figures. At the time they came out, I wasn’t really into them. As we all know there are three things that are absolutes in this world: Death, Taxes, and Batman Toys. However, I do think they are a really cool concept, and I am a big fan of owning them one day. By far, the Prehistoric Man-Of-Bats is my favorite but that cowboy Batman also just looks so cool. It is the fact that we can recreate these stories with these “elseworld” Batmen in plastic form which is insanely great! Now you can create your own Return of Bruce Wayne Story. Or you can even just put them in your office, and when they catch your eye at the end of a long day, you are taken back to these wonderful stories and your spirits are filled.
I tell you I miss DC Direct and am very sore that they didn’t make a Dick Grayson Batman figure, but maybe in some other Elseworld…oh well. Come back next week and join us as we continue to welcome back Bruce to the cowl and see how Steve helps to liberate Marvel from the bad guys as we read Batman: Bruce Wayne the Road Home tpb (collecting Bruce Wayne: The Road Home – Batman and Robin #1, Bruce Wayne: The Road Home – Red Robin #1, Bruce Wayne: The Road Home – Batgirl #1, Bruce Wayne: The Road Home – Outsiders #1, Bruce Wayne: The Road Home – Catwoman #1, Bruce Wayne: The Road Home – Oracle #1, Bruce Wayne: The Road Home – Commissioner Gordon #1, and Bruce Wayne: The Road Home – Ra’s al Ghul #1) and a double dose of Captain America with the Two Americas tpb and the Marvel event, Siege.
For Cap’s adventures we suggest the following reading order: Captain America: Who Will Wield the Shield?, Avengers: The Way Things Are, Siege: The Cabal, Siege 1 – 3, Siege Captain America 1, Siege 4, Captain America 602-605...I know but you’ll thank me for it after that mess, haha. Please feel free to reach out to us and let us know your thoughts and opinions as we would love to get your views as well as share this excellent read of comics with you all; you can find me on Twitter as @StuffIShudSay and Rafa as @Mobilerafie, please check out all Geek Elite Media has to offer on this site as well as our podcasts and social medias and always remember to GEEK OUT!