Though Bruce Wayne returned last week, this one-shot by Grant Morrison and David Finch marks the return of Batman to full-time crimefighting as Wayne goes forward with his plans for Batman Incorporated. While the idea of a franchised Batman empire -- a war on crime on a global scale -- is new to the character, his focus and drive are the same as they've always been. Morrison makes it clear that Batman is thinking bigger, but the thought is essentially the same one he's had all of these years. As the beginning of this new take on the character and the Bat-Family, "The Return" is a great beginning, full of energy, enthusiasm, and clues for what's coming next.
Morrison keeps the pace of the issue brisk to include plenty of action as well as explanations of the new status quo. Every little detail isn't laid out, but the broad strokes are touched upon, including what happens to the other members of the Bat-Family like Dick Grayson and Damian Wayne, the current Batman and Robin. It's no secret that they will remain Gotham's protectors, but how that comes about is shown through another attempt by Bruce and Damian in working together as Batman and Robin. It doesn't go well by Bruce's standards and Morrison alludes back to the early relationship between Dick and Damian with the young Robin tearing his symbol from his chest and quitting. Again. It's the perfect reaction of a petulant child that's hurt and desperate for approval.
The story told here is focused on setting up a new threat for Batman Incorporated to deal with, Leviathan. Not much is revealed about the organization other than it looking like the opposite number to Batman Incorporated: a terrorist corporation dedicated to evil. One of their members, the Heretic, features a Batman/robot/Arab look to him and speaks in vague words that suggest he knows a lot more about Batman and his allies then they know about him.
Among these clues of what's to come is a confidence in storytelling that Morrison has a clear idea of what he wants to do. His Batman here is like a man who has so many ideas that he can't slow down for fear that he'll forget what he wants to do. He's not the idle, brooding Batman, he's an active and enthusiastic one. That's a big change from how the character has been portrayed for a long time; for the first time in years, Bruce Wayne seems excited to be Batman and that excitement can't help but rub off on the reader.
The choice of David Finch to join Morrison in kicking off this new status quo for the entire line makes sense with Finch writing and drawing the new ongoing "Batman: The Dark Knight," but Finch's art doesn't always seems in sync with Morrison's writing. Morrison has a more energetic, 'bright and shiny' feeling in his writing than Finch's art provides. The opening scene with the bats is flat-out ugly and not the "coolest DCU natural history sequence ever" that Morrison calls for in his script (some of which is provided as bonus material).
That said, Finch's art isn't always out of step with Morrison's writing. A scene where Bruce and Damian wear jet-suits to investigate a Leviathan site used for bio-experiments has a fight sequence where Finch's rougher, sketchy line work gives the proper 'dirty' look to the scene. The superhuman looks like a freak and the fight, in mud, is messy and suitably ugly.
Though the art is a mix of good and bad, Morrison's writing is spot on to make "Batman: The Return" the exciting first chapter in a new era for the hero and his allies. A larger mission, a new enemy, and plenty of new ideas are provided, but they all adhere to the same basic concept of Batman. "The Return" is a brisk, entertaining read that kicks off the Batman Incorporated era with style.