Reed Richards was yelling at me after my last post:

November 14, 2009 at 8:08 pm (Comic Books)

Dude was right. And so I’m back. I’d like to say it’s for good, but lord knows I can’t keep a blogger’s promise to save my wordpress account password, so, let’s just see where it goes. At the very least, I’m back into reading comics regularly. Could writing about them be far behind?

Batman and Robin #6

Not if they’re all like this one. Reading this in 6 issue chunks is just depressing. It started off so well:

batman-and-robin #1 pg 1The sound effects becoming part of the page, the cluttered design with the car just popping off the page towards the reader. Even the incompetent goons from the first issue had charm, the tuxedoed Johnny Storm, the Siamese acrobats, all had a great design and just appeared on the page without back story or motive: just menace. And it worked so well. Even the start of Philip Tan’s tenure was interesting, Jason Todd worrying about the right tone to strike for the press release, Dick Grayson going over the Batman routine (The “Art of Waiting”m he called it) with an impatient Robin, and last issue had a couple memorable lines (“This is what happens when the crime fits the punishment”, Dick comments on Flamingo eating people’s faces after the Red Hood has established death as the sole penitence of transgression) as well as some good set-up of the story to come (The Red Hood’s reckless killing as limiting Batman’s info, the cops’ main connect to Mexico killed in the slaughter).

I’m not even sure how we got from #5 to here. If the class will take out their copies of both issues, Batman and Robin lay defeated and unconscious, the Red Hood and Scarlet saying they’d take them to their hideout. But, interrupting that, The Flamingo appeared on his bike (“Death come to Gotham”). At the start of #6, however, Batman and Robin are tied up in ropes and an elaborate killing mechanism (a million calls will turn on a web cam, unmasking the duo to the world), but the Red Hood and Scarlet remain fixed in the exact same alley they were at the end of last issue, the Flamingo finally initiating his fight with the two. However the two had the time to put Batman and Robin in bondage is beyond me.

But now, we have The Flamingo, described in #4 as an “eater of faces”, a villain played for menace and visual design only, and, okay, Frank Quitely can handle a purely visual villain so well, referencing Purple Rain (Jog’s finding, not mine) while giving a decadent grin to running over a superhero:

But Philip Tan just can’t handle him. From turning his sly, too pleased grin into an outrageously large smile to beefing up his shoulders and thighs so he doesn’t look the slightest bit effeminate or slight as a superhero, he’s just a silent Lobo with a costume change, all buff and not an actual new type of threat. In a move that should surprise none, his body type matches Batman and the Red Hood. Tan doesn’t do different body types. Not in the contract.

It doesn’t help that Morrison isn’t trying, either. He arrives on the scene at the end of last issue, the “coming of death” as the last issue put it, and for the entirety of the issue he remains silent until he’s easily subdued by fists and a teenager’s biting teeth. Robin’s exclamation at the moment of victory, “I expected scary, not gay”, could stand in for a reader’s, the deliberate and stereotypical effeminacy of the Flamingo an insult to injury. Morrison has written a transgendered hero with such depth, but Death in pink clothes is nothing more than a bad punchline, played for nothing more than trivial laughs and pages of Philip Tan’s drudgery.

And, to further frustrate, the issue doesn’t even have a consistently bad art style! It starts off bland enough, thick pools of shadows and intense faces:

But, later, it looks like Jonathan Clapion (inker) got a little rushed and just sent some pages direct to Alex Sinclair (colorist, who does the best job of any at keeping the comic interesting, filling some pages with unpencilled smog, and filling backgrounds with intense textures). The effect is an almost impressionistic stab at watercolor through digital means, with an enjoyable looseness, the visuals of the page more freely expressive. Pay special attention to the leather chair and Alfred in the bottom right corner:

If only the entire comic could have been done in such a rush!

And Jason Todd’s return has been notable only for its blandness. He came back as the Red Hood a couple of years ago under Judd Winick’s control, and he was able to make his return much more dramatic, the tension between Batman and his largest mistake at least attempted to be compelling. But Morrison, full with another dynamic to exploit (Jason Todd against Dick Grayson, the failed Robin against the successful, the rebellious against the loyal!), but the only time Morrison begins to develop this dynamic, we get an insane Jason Todd emoting from the soapbox about how much better he is than Batman because he “beat his archenemy” (he didn’t, his sidekick did) and accusing Dick Grayson of killing Batman, two moments completely out of the blue played for shock value from a Lazarus-pit-deranged villain.

This issue has no denouement, no resolution outside of one side smashing the other side up so good they can’t fight back anymore, besides the tantalizingly good one page dealing with Scarlet, The Red Hood’s sidekick. But even then, as a character not given any voice before, who’s had to construct her own confidence as the page’s bear out, a foil to Dick Grayson as Batman from before, the resolution of all her hard work is the ability to take off her Dollotron face, and become someone else. All of this told in one or two page segments over the issues, culminating in her finally being able to take down The Flamingo whereas before she’d only played obedient sidekick to The Red Hood, a great moment of character development spread out over the three issues. Then Morrison shoves her off the page with a deus ex machina resolution to her problem, riding into the sunset to intrigue us readers no more. I’d like to see more of her, later, but with Bats coming back, she’ll probably pull a Seven Soldiers and disappear into the aether.

And, next issue, there’s even more status quo change with Batman coming back, all this upsetting the six issues we’ve had so far of the new Batman and Robin, cutting short any development this pair could have. The first three issues were Morrison at his best, recreating Gotham, Batman, and Robin with one fell swoop of psychedelic noir goodness, but these last three issues have been violence for no reason stopped by resolutions without reason. Maybe Stewart can pull some clarity from Morrison.

And have you guys heard about his new Vertigo mini-series? Joe the Barbarian? That thing does not look good, as a children’s story (the toys come alive!) turned into a vertigo mess, described without irony as Home Alone by way of Lord of the Rings. At least Sean Murphy, the artist, is a little interesting, able to texturize a bland manga style into something remotely resembling visual inventiveness. Eh, we’ll see. This is one of the bland Morrison moments barely worth experiencing.


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