Saturday, January 01, 2011

The Return of Bruce Wayne #3 "The Bones of Bristol Bay" and #4 "Dark Knight, Dark Rider"

The Return of Bruce Wayne #3 August 2010
"The Bones of Bristol Bay"
Grant Morrison, story - Yanick Paquette and Michel Lacombe, art - Andy Kubert, cover

This appearance is more of a cameo, really, but it does give us a little bit more than a last panel reveal of Jonah Hex. The bulk of the story is devoted to Bruce Wayne versus Blackbeard. The last two pages are what we are interested in...

We are somewhere along a coast and we meet two men in a graveyard. They are discussing that they have to meet a man here in a huge haunted house that has been haunted since Judge Solomon's brother died in the caves. They speak of the mansion never having been finished and how their lives have been messed up since going out west. They also talk of having to meet a big-time spooky gunslinger.

As they approach the mansion, a voice beckons them into the parlor and we see a hand of cards, Aces and eights, on a table.  The man, Jonah Hex, tosses a joker toward the table and tells the men he figures they're men of reason since they had the guts to meet him on cursed and haunted ground.

The men state that they have brought down some sort of fury upon their heads, it never tires, it never stops. They present a primitive Batarang, saying that it was dug out of one of their shoulders. Their boss will pay triple of what is in the bag they brought if Hex can kill this thing that is after them. Then they ask is Hex is ready to prove that he is the best as everyone says that he is.

The next page reveals Bruce Wayne/Batman is 1800's garb, astride a horse.

Statistics for this issue
Men killed by Jonah - 0
Running Total - 487 (432 past, 55 future)
Jonah's Injuries - None
Timeline - With the reveal of the Deadman's hand, I'm somewhat quick to assume that this takes place after the death of Wild Bill Hickok but there is no direct reference to a Deadman's hand so that is no help. I would probably have to know more about the timeline of the series to pin this one down more precisely. The hand of cards reveals more as told in the Annotation at Comics Alliance.

Page 30: The mansion here is Wayne Manor -- Judge Solomon Wayne and his brother Joshua had purchased it unfinished from Van Derm, largely so they could use the caves as part of the Underground Railroad. Joshua died, as referenced here, playing a masked avenger role to save some escaping slaves. Note Hex's hand of cards - 8A8A, or "H.A.H.A." (with H as the 8th letter of the alphabet), the Joker's Dead Man's Hand from "Batman R.I.P." -- named such, by the way, for being the hand Wild Bill Hickok had in poker when he got offed.. It's worth noting, though, that here the cards are all black, rather than black and red as in the Joker's hand -- perhaps representing that instead of the punchline of life and death, we're dealing with the death that is life?

Page 31
: Of course, the first panel here makes the Joker allusion utterly blatant.

One thing I especially enjoyed was the juxtaposition of Jonah Hex's scar next to the iconic Joker card. For some reason it gave me chills. It's a nice cameo with some nice artwork.

The Return of Bruce Wayne #4 Sept 2010
"Dark Knight, Dark Rider"
Grant Morrison, story - Georges Jeanty and Walden Wong, art - Andy Kubert, cover

I'll be covering this issue a little more indepth because Jonah appears throughout it more. The keyword is "appears". The story starts with the gents from last issue slaughtering a family, hanging the father, killing the young son, and making off with the daughter and a small box with a bat symbol on it. They ride off, leaving the mother holding her dead son, her husband's corpse hanging in a tree as the rain falls.

She prays for a dark avenging angel to rescue her and we see Bruce Wayne/Batman appear.

Gotham City: The two men have been joined by a third (who was also at the house) and Jonah Hex. They are explaining how they encountered this bat creature back west and that they have hired Hex to work for "Monsewer Sauvage". They enter a gambling hall and introduce Hex to Vandal Savage.

Savage is pouring himself a stiff dose of laudanum because, while he can't die, the cancer he has is still eating him alive. Savage asks Hex if he cut himself shaving (nice little nod to the original WWT tales, there) and says that he would offer Hex some, but doesn't want to ruin Hex's aim. Hex declines anyway and clarifies that he has been hired to kill a mystery man, at least that is all he could understand from Savage's lackys.

Savage explains about a cowboy in black that have been giving Chuck and Lucky problems and Savage wants an end put to it since they have work to do. Hex comments that Savage is paying and then asks about what is behind a nearby door since it smells like they are burning sage and something else it that other room. Savage replies that it's complicated and it has something to do with Bonaparte.

Just then the door opens and Midnight Horse stumbles out (thank you, Comics Alliance for helping me with that part). Horse remarks that he is no longer needed but if the box is opened it will be the end of the world. Jonah states "End of the world's extra" as Chuck tosses a roll of bills to him. Savage says that there is more, always more, as soon as that demon is put down.

We cut to outside the gambling hall in the rain (however, the artwork makes it appear to be a small western town, rather than large Gotham City). Four men confront Batman and they end up with batarangs in their shooting arms. Batman ends up on the roof, taking out a guard. Inside, Horse shouts that HE is coming for the box, causing Hex to ask what has Horse been chewing. Savage replies that Hex can have either money or answers, not both.

Savage tells Chuck and Lucky to bring in the mystery man so Hex can kill him and orders Horse back into the room to open the box. Now that seems weird, you hire the best bounty hunter in the world and send to grunts out to drag in a mysterious bat-man so the bounty hunter can shoot him. I would send out Hex to earn his dang money!

Hex says that they can spare all the hoodoo, just point him to the target (!?!?!? He's a bounty HUNTER!) so he can get out of there.

Inside the room is Thomas Wayne(?), questioning the daughter from earlier, getting her to open the box. Horse enters the room, there is an argument and Wayne shoots and kills Horse, sending him crashing through the door and back into the room with Savage and Hex. Savage asks Hex to help him fill some old saddlebags with gold bars. Wayne exits the room, holding the box and dragging the girl with him.

Outside, Chuck and Lucky are tracking down Batman in the fog. One of them gets jerked up into the shadows and the other turns and shoots the third thug as he's trying to help. Suddenly Batman jumps out of the fog (we then learn they are inside (?)) and kicks the remaining thug down into the gambling tables.

Outside, Savage, the girl, the box, and Wayne are making a break for it in a covered wagon through the streets of Gotham. Hex is riding alongside on his horse. Batman swoops down, landing on the wagon. Hex shoots at Batman, hitting him in the left shoulder, Batman throws a batarang, hitting Hex in the right arm and knocking him off his horse.

The wagon is careening towards the docks where Alan Wayne is contemplating suicide and as Thomas Wayne battles Batman, Savage is fighting the girl and then the whole shooting match overturns on the dock, narrowly missing Alan Wayne and crashes into the water. Batman encounters Alan Wayne and the girl, the girl opens the box by whistling to it, Vandal Savage knocks out Thomas Wayne before he can shoot everyone, Batman beats the crap out of Thomas Wayne as Wayne calls out to Hex.

Jonah comes striding out of the rain, holding a pistol on Batman. Wayne demands that Hex shoot, while the girl begs him not to. Hex replies:

and shoots Batman, causing him to fall off the dock into the water, never to surface. There is closing dialogue from Alan Wayne explaining that Hex rode off to meet his destiny, we see Jonah Hex riding into the sunset, looking at a batarang, his saddlebags stuffed with the gold bars. A few bars lay in the sand behind him and we are unsure if he has tossed them aside or they have accidentally fallen out.

Statistics for this Issue
Men Killed by Jonah -  0
Running Total - 487 (432 past, 55 future)
Jonah's Injuries - Batarang in right bicep.
Timeline -  Unclear, right after last issue.

It's hard to rate the 4th issue of a 6 part series when you don't follow the series, so I won't try. I'll just go into the characterization of Hex. Let me just say: What the HELL?!?!?! The whole idea of hiring a bounty hunter and having him just sit around waiting for some thugs to drag the prey to him is absolutely nuts. We should have seen Hex on the rooftops attempting to track Batman down. But since this is a Batman title, he gets all the glory and everyone else stands around letting Batman be all spooky and stuff.

Hex just working for the cash is nice, especially shutting up when Savage tells him that he can have money or answers.  Jonah shooting Batman in the end seemed appropriate, since he did have a score to settle for the batarang in the arm. And i did like the idea of Hex ending up with Napolean Bonaparte's gold, but it is very unclear as to why it's on the ground in the end.

The artwork was murky and made it hard to follow the story. The previous issue had art that I could follow, even though I didn't know the whole storyline.

I would give this about a 3 out of 10 for a Hex appearance, not great and Hex didn't do much, but it was better than his appearance in Swamp Thing.


Susan said...

Lord, I was SOOOO disappointed by this. Yes, it's a Batman story, but the art in Hex's cameo for #3 looked so good (that IS an awesome image of Jonah with the joker card!), whereas #4 looked like deep-fried monkey crap. Plus it made no sense, same as all the other parts of this story I sneeked peeks at. Thank you, Grant Morrison, for making me lose my taste for monthly Bat-books. :(

Another question mark on the continuity front: Hex also worked for Vandal Savage in Time Masters #3, which is set specifically in 1874. So either that series doesn't count anymore (which would be no big loss, as it made less sense than the Batman stuff), or the Time Masters incident occured afterward (which leads to the question of why Hex would work for such a nutter a second time!).

Dwayne "the canoe guy" said...

I haven't tracked down the Time Masters stuff yet, but you have to realize that Hex didn't know the name of Savage until he got into Gotham. By that point he probably thought "what the Hell" and went for the cash.

"Deep fried Monkey Crap". You just gave me an idea for some new Fair Food.

Dwayne "the canoe guy" said...

One other thing that tickled my senses was Jonah saying "Come into my parlor" from the poem The Spider and the Fly.

Very nice touch.