Thursday, 21 May 2015

Batman: Bruce Wayne- Fugitive (Pre-52) Review

Batman: Bruce Wayne- Fugitive
Believe it or not, finding a front cover of this book is
impossible on the internet.

Writers: Chuck Dixon and Ed Brubaker (amongst others)

Artists: Dave Ross, Sean Phillips and Scott McDaniel.

Collects: Birds of Prey #43, Batman 603-607, Detective Comics #771-775, Batgirl #29, 33, Gotham Knights 30-32 and Azreal #91-92.

Background Information:

Okay, people who have started reading with the New 52, there are a few characters you need to know about. Firstly, Azrael was a knight who took over for Batman after his back was broken. He's crazy. Cassandra Cain is Batgirl instead of Barbara Gordon (she's in a wheelchair and answers to Oracle). Finally, Sasha Bordeaux is Bruce's bodyguard. By night, she's joined Batman in a costume and mask of her own.

Oh, also, Batman was accused of killing his girlfriend Vesper Fairchild.

Review:

I keep hearing about how much better DC was before the New 52. Older fans than I keep talking about how the New 52 butchered characters, and made everything worse. The New 52 killed comics, they say; the New 52 betrayed "real fans" (see: those who don't like the New 52); the New 52 let the dogs out.

I love it that someone at DC thought;
"I don't think enough people know that
Batman's parents are dead. Let's remind
them of it."
If I only read the first ten issues of the eighteen-issue Bruce Wayne-Fugitive I might have believed them. In the early part of this collection, we get a great mystery story. But the book is let down severely by a lacklustre second half. At best, Bruce Wayne- Fugitive is proof that the Pre-52 definitely wasn't worse. But don't start getting all nostalgic just yet.

Bruce Wayne is officially on the run. In the meantime, Batman- who clearly has no connection to
Bruce whatsoever- is working to find out who really killed Vesper Fairchild. In the meantime, Sasha Bordeaux is sitting in jail, determined to take the fall for Bruce, but struggling with doubts about whether she's doing the right thing or not. In the other meantime, the Bat-family are searching through the evidence of the murder to try and find out if Bruce really killed Fairchild. In the other-OTHER meantime, Azrael is going crazy because... well... he's Azrael; does he really need a reason?

There's a lot going on in the first ten issues of this book, and normally that would make for something disjointed. Here, though, the team of writers somehow make this volume something surprisingly coherent. Everything feels like a part of the greater whole. The best part about it, though, is the interaction between the bat-family. New 52 readers have been deprived of that since Death of the Family, and though it's sad to see what we're missing out on in the aftermath, the way Nightwing, Robin, Batgirl, Oracle and Batman work together like a well-oiled machine is glorious. I want to see this more, and it's sad that I probably won't (if for no other reason than the fact that Nightwing doesn't actually exist anymore... damn you, Geoff Johns), but you can't help but love seeing it while it's happening.

Just say "assassin training", Dick.
These first ten issue are incredible, and well worth the price of the book. But that's the first ten. It's the following eight that let the whole thing down. It's essentially eight issues of aftermath. Picture reading a novel where the epilogue is almost the same length as all of the chapters preceding it. Can you see the problem here? At the end of a collection, I want to walk away with a sense of awe. I want to feel certain that I've read something incredible. Finishing Bruce Wayne- Fugitive, I just felt tired.

The art here is insanely dated. The cartoony style of the art teams humans is definitely jarring for those who got their feet wet with Jim Lee, Tony S. Daniel, and the ilk. That said, there's a charm to it. I couldn't help but smile at the bright faces, the bendy limbs and the minimalist backgrounds. It's nice to look at, and could have aged worse, but it looks nothing like what new fans are likely reading at the moment.

I wish this collection only covered the first ten issues, it would have been a far superior book if it had. But as it is, Bruce Wayne- Fugitive only gets a three out of five other meantimes.

***

+ First ten issues are stellar.
+ Art has a certain charm.
- Eight. issues. of. epilogue.

Alternate Option: Batman: Hush

If new fans want to dip their feet in the Pre-52, they'll have an easier time with this.