Bruce Wayne: Fugitive is a storyline that ran through the Batman titles in 2002.
After the events of Batman: No Man's Land and Officer Down, it seemed that things were looking up for Bruce Wayne, especially as he was starting to rekindle his romance with Vesper Fairchild, a radio personality who broke it off with Bruce prior to NML. However, things quickly fell apart as Bruce would find Vesper dead in Wayne Manor with him as the main suspect. Even worse, the Bat-family has found evidence that Vesper discovered Bruce's identity and he killed her to preserve it. However, it seems that Bruce won't have any of that and is dedicating himself to being Batman 24/7 after escaping prison. Can the Bat-family figure out the truth of Vesper's death and if they can, can they convince Bruce to come back?
Bruce Wayne: Fugitive started out in a special one-shot called Batman: The 10-Cent Adventure, which was Exactly What It Says on the Tin - a 10-cent comic book - before starting the storyline properly with Bruce Wayne: Murderer?. Bruce Wayne: Fugitive began with Batman #600 and, despite the event running for five months through the various Bat-titles, a few of them actually skipped around as only a handful of stories focused on the crime being solved.
The storyline was collected soon after in three volumes, all under the banner Bruce Wayne: Fugitive.
The story provides examples of the following:
- Ambiguous Situation: While going over the clues, when it's made to light that Lex Luthor put in the hit, Bruce reassures Tim that he's certain that he doesn't know Bruce and Batman are one and the same. The ending doesn't clear it up at all, although as no subsequent storyline hints at it Bruce is probably correct.
- Bat Family Crossover: The story takes place across the Batbooks of the time including Batman, Robin Series, Nightwing and Batgirl (2000).
- Batman Grabs a Gun: In The 10-Cent Adventure, Bruce is seen purchasing a gun. Everyone thinks that he used it to kill Vesper. He bought it to overcome his distaste of them.
- Becoming the Mask: Reversed; Bruce breaks out of prison because he reaches the breaking point for being willing to 'pretend' to just be Bruce Wayne after spending weeks unable to become Batman while in jail.
- Big Bad Ensemble: Lex Luthor hires David Cain to frame Bruce Wayne for murder, but Cain has realised that Bruce is Batman and also now knows that he has taken in his daughter Cassandra, so he goes the extra mile and leaves fake clues that Bruce committed murder to hide his secret identity that only the Bat-family would find, in an effort to drive Bruce and Cassandra apart. This makes him as much of an independent threat as Lex himself and implies that he would have carried out the Evil Plan anyway even if the contract had been cancelled.
- Bittersweet Ending: Bruce is cleared of all charges and David Cain is put behind bars. However, Bruce has lost two people dear to him — the aforementioned Vesper and his bodyguard, Sandra Bordeaux, who ends up Faking the Dead to become an agent of Checkmate.
- The Bus Came Back: Alfred returns after resigning from Bruce's employment during Officer Down the previous year.
- Calling the Old Man Out: When Batman reveals his intentions on abandoning the identity of Bruce Wayne, Nightwing takes it hard. When Batman refuses to listen, Nightwing ends up starting a fight that ends in a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown on Nightwing.
- Chalk Outline: Shown from time to time.
- Clear Their Name: Bruce Wayne decides that being Wayne is a hindrance and decides to forgo that identity and be Batman 24/7. This forces the Bat-family to solve this crime on their own.
- Continuity Snarl: During Superman's appearance he's shown to have the classic yellow and red S-shield on his uniform, even though this took place during the time period Supes had switched to a black-and-red one following the events of Our Worlds at War.
- Crazy-Prepared: When reconstructing the moment of Vesper's death, Dick notes that the 911 call had to be pre-recorded and sent out just as Batman returned to the Batcave, as otherwise there would be the risk of him intercepting the call while he's out on patrol and taking off the cowl to find a suitable public venue that would provide a perfect alibi.
- Death by Secret Identity: Invoked and Subverted. When the Bat-family gets a hold of Vesper's laptop, it's revealed that she had discovered Bruce's identity and they figured that Bruce killed her and erased the data, which Oracle rediscovered, to hide the fact. It's subverted because she was killed by David Cain, Batgirl Cassandra Cain's father, who knew his identity and planted the evidence to throw the others off the trail, Oracle's later research confirming that Vesper didn't write the journal entries about Batman's true identity.
- Disproportionate Retribution: The entire reason the story is kicked off. President Lex Luthor, angry at Bruce for pulling out of his defense contracts to the US Government, decides to get rid of him by having one of his men hire an assassin to frame him. The person hired David Cain, neither of them realizing Cain knew Bruce was Batman. David did it to get back at Bruce for taking in Cassandra.
- Do Well, but Not Perfect: One reason Oracle suspected Vesper's notes were faked is that, when she runs a "fingerprint" program that lets her see even the keystrokes Vesper made before corrections, there is no trace of any such amendments; Barbara explicitly states "Nobody's that perfect", reinforcing the suspicion that the journal entries were faked.
- False Confession / Taking the Heat: Bruce's bodyguard, Sasha Bordeaux, is asked to sign a confession to say that Bruce did indeed murder Vesper. Sasha refuses and takes the bullet for her boss.
- Framing the Guilty Party: Discussed. While Nightwing refuses to believe that Bruce Wayne killed Vesper, when he is helping Cassandra reconstruct the crime scene he constantly points out that any evidence they find contradicting that idea could have been planted by Batman himself, even though he also points out that it's ridiculous to imagine Bruce framing himself for a murder. It's only when he and Batgirl are restaging the moment of Vesper's death that they're faced with a detail that Dick's certain Bruce couldn't have committed.
- Greater-Scope Villain: David Cain is the main antagonist, but he was an assassin hired by Lex Luthor, although Cain is also pursuing his own agenda.
- It's a Small World After All: Luthor had a government agent hire David Cain to put the hit out on Bruce Wayne. Bruce suspects that hiring someone who knew Bruce Wayne and Batman were one and the same was completely dumb luck.
- Name of Cain: The Trope itself kind of gives away who the true killer is.
- No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Happens at the end of the Fugitive storyline, by Batman towards David Cain.
- President Evil: Lex Luthor is the one who hired Cain and it happened during Luthor's tenure as the President.
- Prison Episode: A good deal of Murderer takes place in prison.
- Secret Identity Identity: Deconstructed. Batman claims that it doesn't matter if Bruce Wayne is framed for murder because Bruce Wayne is the mask and Batman is who he really is, and in fact he has even went to the trouble of devising new identities not just for himself but for all of the Bat-family so that they can continue their war against crime without worrying about it. This horrifies the Bat-family and infuriates Dick Grayson, who gives him a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown for even suggesting this, because Dick was adopted by Bruce Wayne and this is tantamount to Bruce telling him I Have No Son!. Bruce sees sense and admits that the real reason he is doing this is because he is trying to protect Batgirl, since the true culprit is her father.
- Spotting the Thread: Invoked. The main clue that leads Bruce and the others to Cain is the fact that Vesper was paralyzed used by a special nerve strike that only three other people used. This is deliberate, since one of those people is Batman himself, but of course Bruce knew that one of the others was David Cain. Cain did this on purpose in order to put suspicion on Batman while knowing that Bruce would immediately figure out it was Cain and not tell anyone in order to protect Cassandra, thus making himself look even more suspicious. On a wider note, this discovery also provides the Bat-family with their first bit of proof that Wayne didn't kill Vesper, as the scenario presented was Wayne beating her to death and such an attack doesn't fit the precision required for the aforementioned nerve-strike.
- Suicide Is Shameful: In the final part, David Cain is locked up, broken over his estrangement with his daughter Cassandra and hasn't eaten anything for two weeks. Batman comes to him to warn him that Deadshot has been hired to kill him. After David makes it clear that he has no intention of defending himself when Deadshot comes, Batman tells him that he's either a fool or a coward. When David asks what kind of coward would face certain death without hesitation, Batman says "One who knows it's easier to die than change."
- Suspicious Spending: A video tape of Bruce buying a gun is found.
- That Man Is Dead: After escaping prison, Batman decides that he's not going to be Bruce Wayne anymore. It takes encounters with Superman, Catwoman, and a dying police officer who wanted to solve the Wayne Murders to rein back on that idea.
- Villainous BSoD: When Batman and David Cain duel in the Batcave, the fight is stopped when Batgirl drops in and quickly unmasks, taking the fight out of David.
- You Have No Idea Who You're Dealing With: Batman tangles with an elite black-ops team who try to pull this on him:Team leader: You don't know who you're dealing with.
Batman: Deren, Robert. Age twenty-three. Gave a kidney to his diabetic sister two years ago. Probably needs the other one.
Wilson, Scott. Thirty-four. Football knee injury.
Kellerman, Dana. Twenty-nine. Took shrapnel in the shoulder during the Gulf War. Still takes pain-killers for it.
Goldman, Eli. Thirty-one. Allergic to penicillin. Joint wounds are slow to heal and prone to infection.
Baithswaine, Gregory. Twenty-eight. Perfect medical record. So far.