Review by Frank Plowright
The 2014 edition of Bruce Wayne, Fugitive combines what was previously three books, or at least the content from them not shifted into the similarly revised Bruce Wayne, Murderer? It adds chapters not previously reprinted, and re-sequences the material for a greater narrative coherency.
You may or may not want to read Bruce Wayne, Murderer? first. In that Bruce Wayne’s former girlfriend is killed, and he’s framed for the crime, with his bodyguard Sasha Bordeaux considered an accomplice. It’s inconvenient, but Batman is able to divest himself of his Wayne identity, and as the book opens he’s attempting to discover who was responsible for the murder.
This is an ensemble piece gathering elements from assorted Batman-related publications over which this story originally ran. As if that wasn’t enough to ensure a disjointed read, seven writers are involved, and an even greater number of artists. Their styles range from the controlled traditional storytelling of Steve Lieber to the graphic cartooning of Damion Scott, here more restrained than the distinct style he later developed.
Batman’s not the only person on the case, as chapters feature associates Azrael, Batgirl, Nightwing, and Oracle, and Alfred, Robin and Sasha Bordeaux all have significant roles. Despite the remastering there’s more than a sniff of padding within the ongoing plot, particularly with a three chapter sequence dealing with the unhinged Azrael’s reaction to Bruce Wayne being named a killer.
The big reveal chapter concluding the who and why aspects of the crime occurs midway through, written by Ed Brubaker. It’s disappointing, rushed and for full understanding dependent on material not included. The passage of time further accentuates this flaw, but Brubaker in combination with artist Sean Phillips also produces the best individual chapter. It’s centred on the fine idea of the detective who originally investigated the murder of Wayne’s parents needing Batman to solve one final case for him.
The second half of the book is the aftermath, with Wayne cleared of murder, what was previously volume three, and it elevates the overall quality considerably. The three part ‘Atonement’ by Rucka and Lieber turns the focus back on Sasha Bordeaux, whose chapters have already been among the better material here. Rucka drops a bombshell early, then reintroduces covert agency Checkmate, who’d featured earlier. He builds everything up to a fine heart to heart that would have meant more to readers who followed Bordeaux’s involvement sequentially in Detective Comics rather than reading it here, but it still works. It reinterprets elements of an earlier story in surprising fashion.
Following that there’s a well delivered 24 hours in the life of Wayne and Batman from Devin Grayson and Roger Robinson, and an all-out action two-parter in which Batman attempts to stop Deadshot killing someone. The final piece is a Batgirl tale with threads to a character involved in the main plot rather than the plot itself, but a decent tale from Kelley Puckett and Scott.
The re-worked version delivers a better read than the three individual books that previously presented this story. It’s primarily achieved by shifting some of the substandard content into Bruce Wayne, Murderer?, leaving almost all the better chapters here. As most of these occur once the main plot has been brought to a close, some may feel they’re better off investing in something else.