Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne
The series picks up from Batman and Robin #12. The series will detail the journey Bruce Wayne takes through the timestream of the DC Universe after being deposited in the distant past by Darkseid in Final Crisis. Wayne will have to overcome amnesia and "history itself" in order to make his way back to present-day Gotham City and retake his rightful place as Batman. The series will run for six issues, each covering a different time period. The time periods will be that of prehistory, the witch hunts, pirates at sea, the wild west, the noir era, and present day Gotham.
What’s Good: It was kinda cool to see a Batman-Lone Ranger mash-up.
What’s Not So Good: What is the deal with the Native American guy? I found myself scratching my head a LOT while reading this issue and really didn’t enjoy the experience at all.
I also don’t understand why Jonah Hex needed to be in this issue. The movie already tanked! Since Morrison was completely neglecting the main story, why not do something cool and have Bruce and Jonah play a bit of cat-n-mouse in some old canyon? That would have been a lot more fun. And I thought Gotham was an east coast town? This whole thing is written as if it took place in 1870s Arizona.
I'm also not sure why Jonah Hex needs to be in this issue. He doesn't seem terribly necessary. I guess if a DC comic takes place in the Old West, even in an eastern city like Gotham, Hex needs to make an appearance!
I think of the Old West as being pre-Civil War. I guess you could call the post-Civil War era the Wild West, though it grew progressively less wild. More to the point, A Wild West story has to take place in the West. Gotham City is an Atlantic seaport located in New Jersey or thereabouts. There's no such thing as the Wild East.
Since I'm not spending $4.00 for a single comic book, I glanced at this issue in the comic-book shop. The young Indian man appears on 4-5 pages. He has his long hair tied behind his head and is dressed like a respectable citizen in silk shirt and pants. Kudos for not making him look stereotypical, at least.
White man's history
In this series, we see how the myth-making process works. What historical representatives does writer Grant Morrison have Bruce Wayne meet and become? Cavemen, Pilgrims, pirates, cowboys and Indians, and gangsters and G-Men. If you were to look at comic strips or Halloween costumes of America's past, these would be five of the leading subjects. (Never mind that America didn't have any cavemen.)
To many people, this is a fair approximation of what American history is about. Morrison could've had Bruce Wayne interact with farmers, abolitionists, labor unions, suffragettes, or civil rights leaders. He could've had Bruce Wayne fight in the War of 1812, the Mexican War, or the Spanish-American War.
But that wouldn't have sent the right message about America. Instead, Morrison focused on some of our mythical heroes. These people embody our romantic vision of America, Morrison is saying, and Batman belongs among them.
In this context, it's unsurprising that an Indian appeared as a minor figure. It's even unsurprising that his role was morally ambiguous. This is kind of how we view Indians: as minor players in the white man's American history.
For more on the subject, see How America Became Cowboy Country and Movies Convey "America's Master Narrative." For more on Natives and comics books, see Comic Books Featuring Indians.