Thursday, May 13, 2010

Weekly Haul: The Return of Bruce Wayne #1, Savage Dragon #160, The Sword #24

This week commemorated new beginnings and bittersweet endings for many of my favorite comic book characters, most notably including Bruce Wayne in the highly anticipated Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne. I confess, I didn't read "Final Crisis," and if you didn't, either, we can both share in the general knowledge that the story supposedly ended with Batman's death by Darkseid's Omega beam -- and the general ignorance of whatever that means. Apparently, Bruce Wayne wasn't killed, just sent back in time, where he's now destined to fight his way back to the present. In this first issue, he mumbles and stumbles his way through Vandal Savage's tyrannical reign over primitive man, harnessing the superstition of a bat-god and recruiting a faithful sidekick along the way. It's a relatively straightforward tale by Grant Morrison standards, beautifully choreographed by Chris Sprouse. In my opinion, Sprouse succeeds in the heroic chin department, from his depiction of the Midnighter, to Tom Strong, now to Batman. The Morrison formula rings true, almost to a fault in such an anticipated storyline: supposedly, according to a time-jumping Justice League, if Batman makes it back to the 21st century on his own, "Everyone dies." Morrison used this motif in JLA many times: if the heroes win, they really lose, and in this case, we can only imagine what kind of cosmic ju-ju hangs in the balance of the Dark Knight's return. The proof is in the pudding, though; we know Bruce Wayne will return, hence the title of the series, so the fun isn't in the destination, but the journey.

Savage Dragon #160 concludes the six-part "Dragon War" story arc, with the now evil Dragon fighting his worst enemies, infused with his blood and powers. The past few issues have had Dragon eating easily besting his foes and eating his doppelganger's brains, and this issue really isn't that different, but the action is all kinds of bloody fun. The only significant development is Dragon sparing his children's lives -- this time -- despite the anticipation for their inevitable, potentially fatal confrontation. Despite the absence of plot in favor of unadulterated violence, the lingering questions is, what happens next? The lack of development results in endless possibility, a tool Larsen uses in his favor. Consider me a hopeless fin-addict.

This week's most bittersweet issue is The Sword #24, the series conclusion. I've been following this series from the beginning, a remarkable two-year run that inspired me to find the Luna Brothers' other works, including Ultra and Girls. This is their most impressive story to date, one I hesitate to summarize because I highly recommend it. I will say, The Sword is the perfect modern mythology, exploiting the timeless power of words and our inherent need to feel in control despite the circumstances against us. Dara is one of the most durable characters in comics, in more ways than one, and her journey is one of tragedy and victory and tragedy again. Despite her fantastical circumstances, we wonder if we wouldn't do the same thing in her place, and we both envy and feel sorry for her. You could almost say it's a double-edged sword.

That's this week, in a nutshell. Solemn endings and exciting beginnings -- thanks to the engaging mythos of comics.

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