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!