Bruce Wayne: Fugitive #2 |
by various writers & artists
(DC Comics, 2003)
Bruce Wayne is at large and wanted for murder, having left both prison and his bodyguard, Sasha Bordeaux, behind. For once in his life, he refuses to deal with a problem, and it's more or less up to his adopted family -- Oracle, Robin, Nightwing, Batgirl and Spoiler -- to conduct a murder investigation for him. For the whole of this volume the spotlight shines on the Batfamily, some of whom believe implicitly that Bruce Wayne is innocent, some of whom aren't so certain. After all, Bruce has been through a lot lately, what with losing his city to an earthquake and a plague; his friend, James Gordon, to retirement; and Gordon's wife, Sarah Essen, to death at the hands of Joker. Who is to say what a man, already under emotional strain from the trauma he suffered as a child and laboring under the impossible burden of fighting all the evil that Gotham can deliver, is capable of once he snaps? Especially when one considers that Vesper Fairchild was about to blow the lid off his secret identity?
By now it's obvious that if Wayne didn't murder Fairchild, someone who knows he is the Batman did and framed him for it. Who could it be, and why would they have it in for Wayne? What is the real killer's motive?
Batman himself, who is working hard at alienating everyone who could help him, doesn't seem to care very much about anything where the murder is concerned. That lack of concern by definition includes his erstwhile bodyguard, whom he saw beaten nearly to death in front of his eyes in a prison cafeteria. Why he left Sasha behind, when he saw for himself the danger she was facing at the hands of a brutal prison gang leader, remains unexplained in this segment. Why the Batfamily, a team of detectives trained by the sharpest mind since Sherlock Holmes, leaves her alone except for a cursory investigation into her past, also remains an inexplicable plot development. But it's a development that deserves attention, since it's pretty much where the story, already running off the tracks, loses all plausibility.
On one hand, the writing is truly some of the best, with loads of action, excellent character description and a very dramatic cliffhanger of an ending. On the other, the story is by now collapsing under the weight of too many expectations. What began as a methodically plotted murder-mystery turns out to be a mess of one plot line too many and far too many supporting characters being showcased in what is rapidly becoming an overblown, melodramatic story that is not making very much sense.
It's certainly riveting. You do want to know what on earth is going to happen next, and on that level, Rucka and company write a very engaging story; however, it's hard not to feel as though the subject of Wayne's psyche is pretty much a worn-out topic these days. Rucka has done a damn fine job of exploring that terrain ever since No Man's Land. Unfortunately, the mental terrain of the Batman has been the main storyline since Bane.
The problem is one of venue. While a tragic hero like Batman is certainly a fascinating subject whose complicated psychology makes for an excellent underpinning to the drama that is his life, The Story That Is The Batman has, for the past several years, slowly but surely begun to overshadow The Stories About The Batman. Since the arrival of the first villain to usher in a plot to break Batman's spirit down piece by piece as a personal vendetta (take note here), it seems that most stories since then, while finely crafted and suspenseful, have been mere props used to explore the tangled relationship between the man and the mask he wears. It's a theme that's beginning to grow a trifle threadbare. There are only so many times that readers of Batman stories can delve into his mind before some of the mystery that makes the character fascinating in the first place is eradicated through overharvesting. Explore the core too much, and you risk the growing boredom of readers who have had far too much exposure to one subject for too long a time.
The story deserves credit for laying Bruce Wayne emotionally bare, with Rucka and company detailing every fulminating step in his fall from grace. But the plot itself is overripe with recycled themes and hazy developments that threaten to create enormous holes in the plotline. Still, if you've gotten this far in the saga, you might as well finish the job. The story concludes in Bruce Wayne, Fugitive Vol. 3.