There are four Road Home one-shots this week, and four more over the next fortnight, and DC is doing its damndest to force us to buy them all, if this comic is anything to go by. For after a pretty standard-seeming Steph vs Mystery Villain scenario, the issue ends with a dollop of snoopy Vicki Vale subplot carried over from, I think, Red Robin, and some Bruce Wayne business obviously begun somewhere else.
Don’t ask me where. One of this week’s other three Road Homes? This week’s Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne, which I’ve not got to yet? Bruce Wayne’s Garage Sale, which I expect exists? There are no helpful notes or page one recaps to tell us – you’re on your own, kids. So I’ve no idea why Bruce Wayne is back, clad in a suit of many powers and leading Batgirl – Stephanie Brown – on a wild bat-chase. I’m just disappointed that five minutes into his latest life and he’s already testing one of the young heroes who has done just fine protecting Gotham in his absence.
Thank goodness for Alfred, telling Bruce that ‘you didn’t need to test the young Miss Brown’s mettle’. It’s a shame Bruce’s god complex doesn’t allow him to hear what Alfred is saying; instead he implies that Steph needed his blessing to be Batgirl.
Then we have Bruce suggesting that Steph and crimefighting partner Wendy ‘Proxy’ Harris bear watching, as they’re both the daughters of criminals. Thank you Bruce Wayne, love puppet of Talia Al-Ghul.
Finally, we have the revelation that he had Cassandra Cain step down and hand the Batgirl identity over to Steph. Mr Manipulation strikes again and let me tell you, it fair gets on my tits. I was hoping for a new era in which Bruce drops the ‘My Gotham, My Rules’ kick, but it looks as if he’s returned from the comics-dead with twisted ego intact.
Well done to regular Batgirl writer Bryan Q Miller for negotiating his way around this editorially mandated storyline, having already spent a year proving to Steph, and the readers, that she’s earned the Batgirl mantle. Hey, anyone for a storyline in which the Batman Family members put Bruce in the ring with Batmite and Bathound to prove that having been away for ages, he still has bat chops? Let them judge him for a change.
While this issue doesn’t have all the usual Batgirl goodness, with no room for Steph-centred subplots, our girl’s personality is intact, shining through as she tells Bruce some home truths. And Barbara Gordon, aka Oracle, is on good form as she stonewalls Vicki Vale and clones her smartphone.
The art by Pere Perez is crisply attractive, following the lead of regular penciller Lee Garbett, and the cover by Shane Davis is pretty, showing us the red letter day day Steph won the Batman Family’s Standing On One Leg contest.
Overall, though, I’d prefer the most bog standard issue of Batgirl over this ‘event’ comic, with its grafted-on Bruce Wayne business and reader-unfriendly approach.