Ah, false advertising, how I love you.
Looking at the cover of “Bruce Wayne: The Road Home: Oracle” #1, you might think this is a one-shot about Bruce Wayne returning and interacting with Oracle. (Especially with the big “one-shot” #1 on the cover.) But if you’re like me and you bought this because you like the character and also think Marc Andreyko is a great and underrated writer, you’re in for a slight surprise. It’s the second-to-last issue in a much longer series involving Bruce Wayne trying to save Vicki Vale while dressed up as someone calling himself “Insider.” (Clearly, Bruce is having the same problem Steve Rogers is over at Marvel. You die, your protege takes your place, and when you come back and decide to let him keep the role, it’s awfully hard to find a new code name that sounds even remotely interesting.)
That’s the bad news. The good news is that if you strip all of that out, it’s not that bad. Andreyko assembles a fairly amusing group for Oracle to command, a mix of past and present Birds of Prey members plus a few oddballs thrown in for good measure. Some parts feel a little forced (Bruce lecturing Barbara on knowing loss, in particular, is a little cringe-worthy and over-earnest) but once the action kicks in, it’s fun. Some of the dialogue is pretty funny, and Andreyko has a relaxed, going-with-the-flow writing style here. In what could probably be an overly generic story, there’s still room for some of Andreyko’s wit to slip in.
Agustin Padilla’s art is perfectly serviceable. There are some parts that are just all right (those early close-ups on Oracle in particular), but Padilla does interesting things with shadows and shading as the book progresses. It gives characters (and fabric in particular) a real texture and weight, and it’s those scenes outside in the dark that are my favorite. Whenever it’s a brightly lit room, that part of Padilla’s art goes away, and it shifts back over to generic.
After reading “Bruce Wayne: The Road Home: Oracle” #1, I have absolutely no interest in reading all of the other one-shots to get the rest of the story. I’m slightly ticked that considering this was labeled as a one-shot, that it most clearly was not. (By way of comparison, things like the “Joker’s Asylum” one-shots earlier this year were billed the exact same way, but really were a series of one-shots.) That said? I still got some fun out of Andreyko’s script, and I’ll keep an eye out for Padilla down the line to see what else he does and how his style matures. There are worse fates.