Tuesday, November 10, 2009


This issue doesn't even come out until Wednesday, but I've been chomping at the bit for the next installment, and since the Preview is up, I figured I'd start early. And how can you not start with Frank Quitely's variant cover, and all it's AMAZING "Purple Rain" homage.

First things first, since this issue is called "Flamingo Is Here", the cover features Flamingo, and we've been hearing hype about Flamingo for two issues now, let's talk about the guy for a second, since clearly, Morrison had an epiphany with this villain and decided to really roll with it.

Flamingo wears pink, as a flamingo bird is pink from eating shrimp. Our Flamingo eats faces. His outfit is that of a matador, in the style of "flamenco" (Spanish/Mexican neo-classical which goes hand-in-hand with matador style, and is also what influenced Prince's outfits, I'm sure), which sounds an awful lot like flamingo, and reall conveniently also adds to the fact that this guy is working with a South American drug cartel (although, I thought from Sasha's story he was Russian, I'll have to re-check). The Prince references couldn't be more convenient as well, A: Because Prince is notorious for wearing odd purple frocks and coats, and so "pink" translates well here ... and because as we Batman fans know, Prince is a very important piece of the Batman history, having written the ENTIRE soundtrack to the 89 Batman movie. I look at Flamingo here, and all I can hear is "Black and white, red and green ... the funkiest thing, you ever seen ... party man!" playing on his private jet as he eats faces and prepares to assassinate Jason Todd.

It's a perfectly Morrison conflux of influences into one streamlined character, and is really not at all like how Flamingo was depicted briefly in Batman # 666, so somewhere in deciding he'd use Flamingo in his Red Hood arc, he must've been listening to Prince, or maybe even watching Batman 89 for inspiration, and decided to make a villain into a total caricature of Prince himself. At any rate, Prince doesn't seem at all out of Morrison's influence style.

Now, on to the story itself, which we've only got four pages of:

Page 1: This page is hilarious, and a fitting tribute to all the times this has happened before - Especially evoking the 60's Batman TV show where at the end of EVERY Part 1, Batman and Robin were tied up in the villain's lair for the cliffhanger. This is one of the best Dick & Damian moments since the double-punch knockout of Mr. Toad in # 1. "Enjoying the work so far?" Dick asks the new Robin as they're both tied up in their underwear to chairs, rigged to a website that with enough E-Mails will turn on a camera and reveal the identites of Batman & Robin to the world. "Does he have any idea what we're going to do to him when we get out?" Dick asks, ready to render an ass-kicking to Jason for this bullshit. But obviously we know odds are they'll actually have to render that ass-kicking to Flamingo and save Jason's ass for his short-sighted mistake.

This "trap" they're bound in speaks volumes about what Morrison has done with Jason as well. For starters, the way he's broadcasting on the internet saying "Tonight's game is simple" really gives you the idea that in his laying low, he's really watched one too many movies. SAW is the one that comes to mind, although bucking the curb because he won't kill Dick Grayson, this is a nonlethal, but very embarassing and potentially dangerous trap regardless of the fact that nobody will die. Still, Jason is still redeemable. He's a wannabe Punisher, and a killer vigilante, but to Batman at the end of the day he's more a nuisance than anything else. And entirely sympathetic. At the same time Morrison is telling us "Batman and Robin's non-lethal mission is better than Red Hood and Scarlett's because it draws less heat to Gotham" ... we're simultaneously conflicted, because this guy Flamingo? We aren't going to cry if Jason blows his head off - we'll all agree that the world will be a better place if Jason Todd double-taps the pink right off of Flamingo's face.

We also get some of Jason's huge ego here. "One Million" phone calls will unmask Batman and Robin. He's operating a VIRAL internet campaign. Does he even have one million viewers? He's got a few, but one million?

And then, of course ... Morrison is being amazingly tongue-in-cheek here. Jason Todd has opened a phoneline that you can call and vote on Batman's fate makes me laugh my ass off. After all ... a phoneline vote is EXACTLY how DC decided to kill Jason off in the first place.

Page 2: Flamingo is here. This page is a splash, so I'll take a minute to talk about Philip Tan's pencils, which are servicable, but are a far cry from Quitely (and god knows, Quitely's variant covers make me literally die a little inside about the fact that he's not the one drawing these last three issues). Still, Tan is servicable, and Morrison's storyline caters to Tan's thick, muddy, 90's style enough that it "feels right", mood-wise. Apparently the Red Hood helmet can stop a .308 rifle round, by the way, before it shatters.

Page 3: Sasha, fiercely loyal to Jason already? Goes to show more of his sympathetic role here. Flamingo is a man of very few words, it seems. But is tough as nails. Filed-sharp teeth? Head-butting. He looks pretty large in size.

Page 4: He's curious about her face. He wants to eat it. He tries pulling the mask off, and we see the sickly green bonding agent that Pyg used on her. And he's not thrilled about it, but interestingly enough, the hideous doll mask saves her for a moment long enough to stab Flamingo in the leg.

Page 5: Jason is back up (probably with a ruptured ear drum ... .308 round to the helmet ... etc ...) and shoots Flamingo in the shoulder. A cry of "DIE!" and then a grazing wound must mean he's pretty messed up from the gunshots - punk loser or not, Jason was trained by Batman and is good with pistols (especially at this close range). That's the only thing that explains his wide miss of a shot. Flamingo's kick to the face looks to be the reason why in some of Tan's pencilled pages, we see Jason with blood covering much of his face (people frantically worried that Jason would be maimed into some sort of "new Two-Face" or something).

The kids are in trouble ... and the drama hinges on the fact that Batman and Robin need to save Jason, but Jason's the one who tied them up - so whether or not his life gets saved hinges on how well he tied them up. Batman and Robin can escape most bonds, but one tied by "one of their own?" - how much better are they than Jason? (And in fact, is that why he's willing to rely on guns - he did mention recently that he'd never be as good as Grayson, skill-wise.)

I can't wait to see how it turns out.

Meanwhile: I hope everyone read Tony Daniel's first issue back with Batman # 692 (has it really been 30+ issues since Morrison took over?) - it's really quite excellent. Not as deep in four pages as Morrison's stuff is, but it has a good voice, good characterization, good Catwoman appearance, good art, brought back some cool characters (making Black Mask's organization less of the "A-List Popularity Contest Winner" rogues and more terrifying ones - Golden Ager Hugo Strange, newer villainess Fright, the revamped Golden Age Dr. Death, and the original Denny O'Neill Pre-Crisis Reaper), and really, REALLY boosted itself by tying into The Long Halloween/Dark Victory. The Falcones are back!

I recommend it ... it was a very pleasant surprise, even amidst Morrison's Batman and Robin, and Rucka's Detective Comics (and even Dini's cheesy Gotham City Sirens, which surprised me with bringing back Gaggy A. Gagsworth, Joker's Silver Age original midget sidekick)


Page 6: Morrison addresses my comment about Jason's knot-tying skills in the first panel. Damian slipped them without too much time. Dick's comments about Jason's exploits are spot on - and I think it's half continuity-nod, and half Morrison telling fans "don't write off Jason Todd as a bad character here - I'm working with him". We also see people are in fact calling in the phone hotline - one old woman, because honestly, she just wants to see Batman naked. And then are surprised to see a fully costumed Batman and Robin, who basically spell out the "Moral of the stoy" that "The Red Hood can't deliver what he promises through violence" and before actually going on a 1960's style Aesop lecture, Damian cuts him off and tells the people of Gotham to get a life.

Page 7: Batman tells Robin to put down a gun - quick reminder that Damian doesn't mind taking the easy way out. And they realize they're in an R/V, a mobile base, and that's why they couldn't track Jason down.

Page 8: Dick's "Never underestimate Jason" line comes back into play, as Jason is down but not out, and is in a brutal fight with Flamingo (who is winning, but can't put the Red Hood down). Still, he's shot Jason twice now - once grazing Jason's head, the other in the thigh.

Page 9: Jason's bluster is clearly to occupy Flamingo so Scarlett can escape from harm. Very noble. Jason dares Flamingo to shoot him, stating "I'll come back!" the trauma of returning from the dead hasn't been explored that much as far as Jason's return, so it's interesting to see that slipped in. Is it ego, or does he think he's cursed? Of course, Flamingo's attention is caught by something ... gadget-like.

Page 10: Damian has the best line of the issue. Try not to be offended by the arrogant little bastard's line of "I was expecting scary, not gay", in reference to Flamingo. And the Batman/Flamingo battle begins!

Page 11: Dick engages Flamingo and lines up some classic "I'll fight you and tell you I want you out of here" at the same time cliche dialogue, but gets kicked down a drain. Those Gotham Sewers are something ...

Page 12: Scarlett and Robin move on Flamingo while Batman grapples back. Not much here.

Page 14: The kids are no match for him - he slams Robin and shoots him in the back three times. Scarlett picks up one of her knives and quotes Jason with the whole "punishment fit the crime" thing.

Page 15: - Then takes the knife to Flamingo's face! (He rips peoples' faces off ... she went for the same thing ... yay, Hammurabi!) but freaks when he's still standing and runs.

Page 16: Then Jason scoops him with a backho and drops him and a half-ton of rocks on top of him, over the same cliff/waterfall/whatever that Batman is still climbing back up. That'd be a hard one to survive, but it's still a perfectly servicable comic book death - one that's easily reversibe.

Page 17: Batman starts hitting Jason with the lectures - "You've brought a monster to this city" is his response to Jason's bragging about taking down Flamingo. Jason tells "Batman" (in quotes) he doesn't have the stones to do Bruce's job, and throws a handful of the red calling cards at him, ready for a fight. But Dick genuinely offers to help, because Jason is clearly a mess.

Page 18: Jason gives the old "this world is ugly, Batman wanted me to be you but it couldn't be that way" speech and mentions that he "beat" his archenemy. But Gordon shows up with the boys in blue and gives the low-down - the reason they let Batman do what he does is because he doesn't kill, and Red Hood is a murderer, and under arrest.

Page 19: No sign of Flamingo - "must be he's buried" ... right. Robin's been shot and is paralyzed, but his "mom's medics" show up, ready to patch up Damian, who probably has replacement parts. And then Jason, doing the whole "Dragged off in cuffs" bit, screams at Dick about how Damian is part of Ra's al Ghul's whole mess, and that they have Bruce's body, and his mother has a Lazarus Pit. Basically a "think about it, Bats" move, but it's also something all us readers think about, too - there are these ridiculous Lazarus Pits around the world, and Talia has got to know where one is ... why not revive Bruce? Duh, kids, duh! Of course, the next arc (or one of them, anyway) promises to show exactly why that's not going to fly. You probably can't just Lazarus your way out of Darkseid's Omega Effect.

Page 20: But it works. He actually pisses Dick off and the blues have to hold him back. Batman leaves, Damian is carted off to be repaired, and they mention that Scarlet has taken off ...

Page 21: And we get our post shot, where Scarlet drives off into the sunrise, and as she drives, her mask, which Flamingo attempted to tear off, dries out and falls off, and she's just fine.

Page 22: And for our denouement - our "to be continued" stuff - somebody calls Oberon Sexton. The someone "could be" Doctor Hurt (he has a mask like the theatrical bat-mask he wore before) and is hitting his own back with whips the way the guy in The Da Vinci Code did for penitence. He's probably "El Penitente". Anyway, he begins blackmailing Oberon Sexton about "his secret". On the bed, Oberon has newspapers - one of them, the headline "Gruesome Murder of a Cardinal". I believe this is more evidence that Oberon is Joker in disguise - there was a Cardinal in Hurt's "Black Hand" group. It's possible he was murdered by Talia, it's also possible Joker tracked and killed him later.

But I'll admit, the scene is delightfully vague and I've no proof of my claim.

Page 23: Dick returns to Wayne Tower - goes to a secure vault, speaks the password - incidentally, it's "Zur En Arrh", and what's inside?? The body of Bruce Wayne, and a teaser of the next issue/stories that show Squire, Batwoman, and a Lazarus Pit. Looks like Dick might take Jason's advice after all ...

See you all in two months - SAME BAT TIME, SAME BAT CHANNEL.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


I've seen a lot of talk about the first issue of Revenge of the Red Hood being a weaker entry in Morrison's run on Batman and Robin, and I guess I'll preface this by saying I hope Part 2 steps it up for you, although I have the feeling it'll remain divisive for three reasons. 1. Philip Tan's art - Morrison bent his writing style to suit Tan's gritty, heavy-black, and slightly 90's style. 2. Jason Todd - Anything with him in it is hated by people who still aren't over his comeback. 3. No Frank Quitely. Yeah, granted, that falls in somewhere with Tan being the artist, but admit it - if Frank was penciling this thing, even naysayers could say "Well, at least the art is amazing."

In my blog about the previous issue RED RIGHT HAND, the biggest point I made was that Jason Todd's tragedy as a character - the one Robin who beyond Batman failing, wasn't cut out for being plucked from the streets as a 14 year old and turned into a soldier - keeps being hinted at here. I'll get more into it as I go, though, since there's nuance to how his interacting with crime (via internet viral marketing and murder) is leading to the wrong kind of escalation, and bringing in more elements as fucking twisted as Professor Pyg. So I guess I'll do this on a page-by-page basis.

Page 1 - For starters, bad enough they were associates, it turns out Professor Pyg is actually Scarlet's uncle. This super-drug cartel is really twisted, and has Russians, South Americans (El Santo makes a comeback later), who knows who else? In one panel, we get another shot of Professor Pyg that shows his corpulent body, but not his face. Why keep it secret, I wonder, when he was sort of already unmasked in Batman # 666?

Page 2 - Ooh, edgy backstory (more on that later). This issue is called Scarlet, and true to form, we get to see her narrate some of it. Did I mention how ironic and hypocritical it is that Jason Todd is quoting Milton and accusing Bruce Wayne of turning children into soldiers (putting their lives at risk) but he's just done the same thing with Sasha?

Page 3 - Full-page spreads don't require much analysis.

Page 4 - Another "Batman and Robin double-move" moment (B&R#1 had the double punch of Toad, B&R#3 had the double punch that took down Pyg, etc ... it's a classic element of the 60's show and seems to be the strongest direct element Morrison has borrowed). The trash talk between Damian and Jason is excellent - Morrison giving us a little self-aware dialogue about how Damian and Jason aren't all that different from one another. Important things to note: Damian mentions the Joker (inherent in Jason Todd's backstory) - it always pays to take note of Morrison's use of the Joker, even if it's just a character like Damian referencing him. I'd put odds that when Quitely comes back for the 5th story arc, Damian (who hasn't met the Joker yet) meets the Joker, and we get a scene that parallels Joker/Jason Todd (only with different results). Another thing to notice - Jason actually gives Damian some anti-Robin, genuinely bitter talk about "don't expect job security" (putting children in danger) and actually draws the line there - he isn't going to kill Batman and Robin, they aren't "bad guys". It gives the sense that Jason is fairly immature (in that Boondock Saints kind of way where there's "good and there's bad" and he's a good judge of it) but also shows that he's not totally lost to villainy or anything - he has some nobility, Bruce Wayne DID get through to him, in some small way, even in this incredibly stubborn prick.

Page 5 - Penguin escapes. I didn't think Morrison would kill an A-Lister like Penguin off to show how bad-ass Jason is (when later this issue he actually strives to show that acting bad-ass is NOT a good thing) but you never know these days. Side-note: Still can't stand how Tan draws Penguin, although in some later panels he looks okay.

Page 6 - Sasha is still filming Jason with a BlackBerry. The whole "viral marketing" thing pays off for Jason hugely, in both the way he wants (public favor) and the way he doesn't see coming. Dick's dialogue here is one of those out-of-the-ballpark Morrison quotes that's so good you don't see it coming: "Stop talking in slogans." (See: Let the Punishment fit the Crime) Jason's ego is off the scales here, as by saying "Do you honestly think they'll dare come here now?" he's literally daring them to come to Gotham, since all his dialogue is being recorded for his web campaign. Then Jason gives what many fans would call a "valid argument".

A day doesn't go by when a new topic will pop up in a forum about "Why doesn't Batman kill the Joker?" or "Shouldn't Batman kill?" Morrison is doing something I didn't actually expect - he's showing us exactly why Batman shouldn't kill.

Page 7 - Damian breaks rank again. He and Dick are working better together, but there's still plenty of Damian left in Damian. Jason hands him his ass - but then again, what do you expect? Jason had a couple years of training from Batman, where Damian has had ... I guess less time. Not that much less time. After that? Jason was trained by the League of Assassins. Jesus, they really are practically the same character at this point, aren't they? Interesting point here: Sasha calls Jason "Hood" short-hand. Apart from wearing a hood ... it really is an appropriate term for him, isn't it? That's all Jason Todd has ever been - a hood, as in, a hoodlum. A street kid.

Page 8 - The situation devolves as Dick takes Jason's hands off Damian by force. They might be fairly balanced opponents, but there's no question who'd take it in a fight - Dick Grayson is the next best thing to Bruce Wayne. The interaction devolves too, into the kind of squabble trash-talk you'd expect young 20-something brothers to do, as Dick taunts Jason about embarrassing him in front of his "new girlfriend", Jason replies "she's not my -", Dick quips that he's not interested in her "super-hero backstory" (another bit of self-aware humor), Sasha threatens to kill Damian, Jason can't help but insert her super cool backstory anyway by saying "She's not kidding, the mask made her crazy." and leaves, leaving his Red Right Hand calling card. Wow, Jason, you're so edgy ... (then again, sibling rivalry with Batman aside, he did leave a room full of bodies - the contrast between how sophomoric and arrogant Jason is, but how capable of dispensing ass-kicking because he was trained by Batman and assassins, is pretty crazy).

Page 9 - Robin realizes that Scarlet is the same girl from Professor Pyg's lab. He's a little bit delusional, as he refers to her as "the girl I tried to save" when really, he ditched her to try to take on Pyg by himself - he's trying to live up to Dick's expectations with white lies. More importantly though, Dick pulls a domino off of El Santo, who is still alive. The men with dominos have been Toad, Pyg, and El Santo, and they all seem to be involved in this "Super-Drug Cartel". But that doesn't explain how a "Domino Killer" is going to play into it. Still, it's worth mentioning that Joker is at large and killed Robin once, who wears a domino mask. Joker as a hitman cleaning out a new super-cartel? Stranger things have happened.

Page 10 - Alfred cleans and watches the morning news. This bit is pretty big, as we get our next glimpse of Oberon Sexton, who appears to be "on the trail of a globetrotting serial killer". He was in Gotham before Flamingo was sent for, so one must assume that Sexton is looking for the "Domino Killer". Sexton being an England-based character could lead to future interaction with Knight & Squire. Using him as a pundit though, an "expert" for the media to talk about the new dynamic duo of Red Hood & Scarlet, is pretty cool exposition. He ultimately sides with Batman & Robin's non-lethal ways, saying no matter who Hood murders, he's still a murderer.

The main thing here, I think, that's worth noting, is that Oberon is supposedly "out of nowhere", a B-Plot, but he's the closest thing to strengthening and evidencing the whole over-arcing "mystery" Morrison is laying out behind the main events of each title.

The second thing here is more speculative. I think Oberon Sexton is the Joker in disguise. Dig this:
1. They have the same build. Tall and thin.
2. His entire body is covered, which could hide Joker's features. Even a mask to cover his cut grin. Even red sunglasses to hide Joker's yellowed eyes.
3. Joker has worn white gloves and top hats before.
4. An English accent. Joker is quite a capable actor.
5. Gordon: "His face was scarred by criminals who killed his wife." - Is that not literally just the backstory from The Killing Joke? And spoken by none other than Gordon, the very guy from Killing Joke ... in a series that has already had Gordon reference The Killing Joke.
6. Oberon: Lord of Faeries, seems like just the name a joker like Joker would take if he was pretending to be British. Also, Oberon played a role in Faust, which dealt with The Devil. Ironically, Joker was just dealing with The Devil in Batman, R.I.P., but opted to go for being a trickster instead, two-timing all of them.
7. Oberon actually pays Joker a back-handed compliment on TV: "Let's not forget. The name RED HOOD has been used by more than one notorious Gotham criminal in the past." That punk ass Jason Todd is running around using HIS material!
8. His book is called "Masks of Evil". Masks. Evil.

Page 11 - A quick bit of Dick Grayson blowing off Lucius Fox. He might be finding his way of filling the role of Batman, but filling Bruce's shoes at Wayne Enterprises? Not quite. But Damian seems more than willing - a chip off the old block? Dick still calls Alfred "Alfie" - awesome. Alfred is concerned with the Red Hood, making the news.

Page 12 - And indeed he's made the headlines. We get Dick's pretty candid feelings about Jason, and learn that the public opinion poll is divisive on Red Hood, but the majority is all for killing criminals outright (another bit that reminds me of Boondock Saints (itself an homage to Bronson flicks) which ended with a news reporter asking people in a park what they thought, and the public was split nearly 50/50 pro-killing and anti-killing).

Page 13 - Gordon, always the cop. El Santo is alive, Gordon wants information. The list of names that Jason killed is great - really fun "criminal names" like "High-Rise Romero", "Gentleman-G Merriwether". More talk from El Penitente, who could, I suppose, be the leader of this super-drug syndicate. I still speculate that El Penitente is Hurt - Devil or not, Hurt's always had "mind-altering" as part of his backstory, and he loaded Bruce up with quite a cocktail of hallucination-inducing drugs as well. And of course, we get garbled talk about "oh no, you've unleashed Flamingo!" He did mention that it's the "airplane from Hell" with HELL all capitals, so take that with a grain of salt as a hint about who El Penitente might be.

Page 14 - Jason's been reading books about marketing. It's so over the top ... but the big thing here, and my favorite thing in the whole issue - Morrison has brought in a lot of pre-Crisis elements, and this is the mother of them all. Jason Todd is a red-head again, an extra layer of ultra-bitter icing on the cake as Batman of course had him dye his hair to look like Dick Grayson (now his bitter rival). Which was actually an editorial decision at the time (Detective Comics # 531)

Hard to account for Tan's facial construction, which aim to make him look different from Dick Grayson, but it's important to note that the gray streak from Hush remains, and his talk of getting pimples from the sweaty conditions in the Red Hood helmet (while slightly evocative of Rorschach - another "non" Alan Moore reference), Jason Todd is only 20 years old. Hell, Dick Grayson is only 22. And of course, Sasha asks the inevitable question of "what happens when we get our own rogues gallery?"

Page 15 - At least Jason has a "similar" goal as Batman. The name of the game is still eradicating crime.

Page 16 - Here we get the sicko meter dialed back up to Professor Pyg levels. Flamingo's plane has landed on a small airfield outside town. He'd partied with women on his plane and during the flight he skinned and ate their faces. I guess El Santo's calling him the "Eater of Faces" wasn't a bluff.

Page 17 - Gordon gets on the phone with Batman. "Nobody walks into his town like this", he claims. He refers to the syndicate as the Penitente Cartel, so I presume that organization will be clarified (a bit) at some point. "It looks like the Red Hood's antics have attracted the wrong kind of attention, Commissioner. This is what happens when the crime fits the punishment." That's Morrison's morality one-liner of the issue, summing up the inherent problem with vigilante killers (at least as far as super-hero comics go). But you will take notice that Dick Grayson makes a point of calling him "Red Hood" and doesn't actually reveal Jason Todd's identity. Either he's worried that Jason Todd could be traced back to Bruce Wayne, or it's just some "Robin" bond that he won't break, is an interesting question. Luckily Dick knows just where to find Jason - he's at Gotham General Hospital, attempting to finish off El Santo.

Page 18 - Batman and Robin crash his party. Scarlet tazes Robin. On an aside, it's pretty funny just how much Robin Hood reference is running around. Robin (Dick, originally) was named, partly for the bird, mostly for the character of Robin Hood (one of the first glorified vigilantes). Jason Todd was Robin is now "Red Hood". That evokes both Little Red Riding Hood and Robin Hood. Or hell, "Red Robin Hood" (Since before Tim, he was Red Robin, too). So who was Robin Hood's sidekick? Little John ... but you can't call a girl named Sasha Little John, but you can call her Scarlet, who is just as inherent to the Robin Hood legend. Will Scarlet.

Page 19 - So she hurts Robin (cuts him with one of those weird blade things) and Jason shoots Dick in the chest (knowing full well it won't kill him because of the kevlar and armor).

Page 20 - Like he says, "It had to hurt". And they have Batman and Robin at their mercy. They load them into the Red Hood's car ... yeah, he's got a car. Actually ... a heavily armored truck painted bright red. The most un-subtle thing you could ever imagine.

Page 21 - He locks them in something or other. But by saying "let's see them get out of that with their dignity intact" he kind of hints that he's put them in some sort of non-lethal situation, but one that they can survive at the risk of being humiliated. It's more like he's out to ruin the public view of Batman and Robin than anything. Then Red Hood is shot in the helmet by El Flamingo, and Sasha gives us a little bit of backstory for this "King of Killers", "Ace of Assassins". He was a crimefighter, got lobotomized and turned into an inhuman monster. (Jason's helmet was shattered, but don't count him out yet. I imagine in typical "bat-family" fashion it's bullet-proof, and he was trained by assassins as well).

Page 22 - Last page, we finally see the guy. He's interesting, to say the least. Pink hair and pink dyed goatee. Purple domino mask. Tacky looking biker jacket and possibly a Victorian looking frock for a shirt under it. Sniper rifle and a whip ... custom pink motorcycle. He's so over the top, I really don't know where to begin other than to say I hope Jason Todd kills him.

The crazy has officially been escalated.

CORRECTION - Pyg is not Sasha's uncle. It'd been a few since I'd read the first arc, but obviously her Uncle Lev is in the first issue.

SECOND CORRECTION - It was Lucius who gave Gravedigger's backstory, not Gordon.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


Ah, Morrison.

I won't delve too far into personal opinion other then to say I liked this issue, and think Tan's art looks better with this coloring and at least fits the kind of "90's revival, Watchmen/Sin City wannabe" vibe that The Red Hood and Scarlet seem to go for (but that being said I miss the holy hell out of Frank Quitely). What's important is that it's appropriate.

As the opening issue of the arc, "Red Right Hand" hasn't had a chance to delve into Morrison's deep, eclectic notions yet. He's wiped the slate clean and moved on to the next one, which I'm sure will accumulate baggage much the same as the Circus of Strange arc did and eventually add an over-arcing connector to the whole of Morrison's run.

Lightning Bug is clearly an homage to classic Bat-rogues like Firefly (Garfield Lynns, one of Dick Grayson's biggest pests in the entire city thanks to his actions in Dini's "Streets of Gotham"), and the original arsonist, Firebug (Originally Joe Rigger, who had his equipment sold to suburbanite Harlan Combs back in Gotham Central - highly recommended reading).

Anyway, while he's in that vein, Lightning Bug serves as canon fodder for the Red Hood here. No shocker there, it's in the preview. But he's a decidedly neon themed villain in the grimy neon glowing 60's homage Gotham that Morrison is intent on giving us.

What it comes down to is a man in a garish costume, extorting protection money from nightclubs. So when Batman shows up, he runs ... right into the twin pistols and slashing blades of the Red Hood and Scarlet.

This seems like the place to gush about Red Hood's overall design and aesthetic. Granted, I prefer seeing Quitely draw it (even if it was just in a few panels and the cover), but the costume stands up to multiple artists drawing it.

We get some of Morrison's philosophy about the internet and modern communication - Scarlet uses a BlackBerry to take a picture of the dying Lightning Bug, and Tweets vengeance cliches next to it. They're spreading the word - viral like (remember that, it comes up later.

Red Hood tosses the dead criminal out the window, with a red calling card - a move that's not unlike his original inspiration for becoming the Red Hood anyway, the Joker - the 1st Red Hood, who now leaves his Joker calling card. Clearly, apart from a classic cliche, this is a way to get under the skin of "Batman".

"Vengeance arms against his red right hand."

Red right hand's origins stem from Milton's Paradise Lost. It ultimately stems from the notion of having "blood on your hand" (used for literary figures as a supernatural way of saying such). It is traditionally used as a warning sign that "wrath and judgment are coming" - the perfect murdering vigilante quote. It's roots in Paradise Lost peg it as meaning "God's right hand" - vengeance, not all that different from The Spectre, in that regard. But it also could represent the Antichrist, Satan, the Devil - meaning "the hand of the Devil". Ultimately, since we know Doctor Hurt will come back in this series and that Morrison has absolutely loaded his Batman with themes of Bruce Wayne = Messiah versus The Devil, the notion of Jason on some balancing act between divine retribution and working for the Devil is a strong one. It's also used to indicate that a character is "supernatural" while hiding his identity, and his alliance - that is to say, we're supposed to be unsure if it's really Jason or not, and if so or not, who is he working for? Good or Evil?

Ironically, Jason Todd's resurrection IS in fact supernatural. While he technically never died, his revival was from one of Ra's al Ghul's Lazarus Pits. So he was ... in a way ... resurrected by demons.

Now, here's the really fucked up part. "Red Hand Day" is an international holiday on February 12, which is intended to draw attention to the plight of CHILDREN FORCED TO FIGHT IN WARS AS SOLDIERS.

"He was a good SOLDIER" reads the glass shrine to dead Jason Todd.

For more, go here:


Okay, anyway.

More of the Wayne Tower, as Dick Grayson is throwing a bit of a high society fund-raising event the way Bruce would have. We get the classic "Where's Bruce?" from Lucius Fox, which is reference to Tommy Elliot running around looking like Bruce Wayne, but ultimately works without that, too - Bruce Wayne is supposedly "off doing god knows what". And women are all over "Richie Grayson".

Gordon introduces Dick to the "man of the hour", a mister Oberon Sexton, also known as the Gravedigger. I've no idea what the "riddle of the corn dollie" is. Research hasn't helped. Gordon introduces Dick as Bruce Wayne's ward, and an ex-policeman. He seems rather proud that playboy Bruce's protege ended up doing Gotham proud.

Not much to go by for Gravedigger - he seems like a vigilante, and a "candidate" for being Red Hood. But probably just a red herring. Still, we'll explore his name:

Oberon, apart from being the fairy king in A Midsummer Night's Dream and elf-king in Rennaissance literature, is also Uranus IV - that is, Uranus's fourth moon (most of which are named after Shakespearean characters, and most of the features on Oberon are named after Shakespearean themes as well.) It's not that surprising to see it on an English vigilante, indeed it seems very Batman 1960 - we've got a British "Shakespeare themed vigilante". Of interest though, is also that Oberon played a small role in Faust (a tale of selling a soul to the Devil).

A Sexton is a person who maintains a Church, rings the bells, and manages the Graveyard. It's a fairly common surname, and one that's entirely too appropriate for Morrison to use on a guy dubbed "Gravedigger" in a story loaded with themes of Bat-Christ versus the Devil. A Sexton is also a piece of artillery - also appropriate in this case, since this particular Gravedigger is "at war with crime", not unlike Batman ...

That's all we can get from his name. Other then that? He's scarred so he wears a full mask concealing his identity. He could be anybody. He wears a top hat ... and all black ... looks more then a little like DC villain turned neutral "The Shade". And he's wearing red sunglasses, so either he's seeing red (pissed), or seeing through rose colored glasses.

The turn came this issue when we get a glimpse of the "Hood Cave", that is, wherever the Red Hood has shacked up - loaded with weapons, a "Red Hood skull-cycle", punching bag, microscope - the usual crime-fighting equipment.

He's practicing a speech for a press-release, probably something that'll be released online in a viral campaign. (Interesting side-note: The Dark Knight film, admittedly one of Morrison's favorites of all time, used TONS of especially cunning viral marketing, all seemingly perpetrated by The Joker himself - so by going viral we've got another Joker reference).

Anyway, we get an actual "big brotherly" moment from Red Hood and Scarlet, where she's staring at herself in a mirror and he doesn't care about her "defects" due to the Dollotron mask, he points her at how it's cool and edgy without being a wannabe. Kind of backwards. He puts her goggles back on her (we see they've got hi-tech targeting gear in them, standard Bat-visor capabilities). And Red Hood basically admits that his whole campaign is about one crazy in a mask getting revenge on another.

Cut to Batman and Robin on a stakeout. They're they're all night, blending with the scenery as the hours tick by. Dick is teaching Damian about using the time to "stalk the city like a predator", the old Bruce Wayne classic technique. But in a quick bit of light-heartedness, Dick busts Damian's chops about his hood, telling him the fighter rule that a hood can become a blindfold - whereas Damian barks back that he can fight blind style.

Later it begins to rain and they joke about it being a nice night, sarcastically. Then they prepare to move in on the gang meeting that's taking place in the high-rise.

Cut to the gang meeting - it's a real classic style "bunch of criminals meeting", similar to the big Crime Boss meet in The Dark Knight, the gangster meeting in the '89 Batman film, and feels at home with the '60's Batman style, too.

Some guy in a suit with a purple, papal, almost Ku Klux Klan style hood called "Santo" (Saint, for those who couldn't figure it out) is talking to the gathered hoods when Penguin arrives. He talks about his boss - a mysterious figure called "El Penitente" has called an assassin called Flamingo to come deal with killer Batman (or Red Hood, or whoever it is killing criminals).

We get some very 60's, but very fun bird-related trash-talks from Penguin about there only being room for one fowl-themed felon in Gotham. Santo, and El Penitente have a large organization that deals quickly with vigilantes. Note - "El Pentitente" obviously means "The Penitent", penitent means "feeling sorrow for your sins" and attempting to repent and make up for your mistakes. More religious symbolism.

The Flamingo (referred to as "eater of faces") is flying in on a pink Leer Jet. Very subtle. Penguin refers to Santo, his organization, and all the gangsters in the room as "new boys" and iterates that he represents organized crime in Gotham, by way of Black Mask - thereby tying this issue into the other Bat-titles more then anything else Morrison has done.

Interestingly, Santo mentions that his boss, El Penitente believes the new model of crime is "Viral" and gives a speech about it very similar to that of Red Hood's speech about crime-fighting. With a name like "Penitent" it's possible this guy is working for Red Hood (who is trying to make up for past sins) and doesn't even know it. Either that or the criminals and Red Hood are kind of following the same model.

Anyway, at that point, Red Hood enters and kills everybody except Penguin, who begs for help. He then records Batman helping Penguin on his cellphone as evidence that Batman is "helping criminals" and Dick mutters "Jason?"

It'll be interesting to see if he's identified Jason right off the bat, if it's all a red herring, or if Morrison has more tricks up his sleeve.

Friday, September 4, 2009


The title of the issue is "Mommy Made of Nails".

And in Professor Pyg's lair, sure enough, he's got a freakish frame of a "woman" made out of sticks with dozens of nails sticking out, and a doll face for a head that demands perfection out of him. Major Mommy issues.

Pyg is exhibiting some textbook Alfred Hitchcock presents: "Psycho" Norman Bates motivation here, albeit using a corrupted version of Pygmalion who was a sculptor who fell in love with a statue he had made. Ironically, in Pyg's case, the doll he had made ended up taking on the persona of his mother in an atypical schizophrenic association. There's possible Oedipus Rex connotations there as well.

His attempts to make the entire rest of Gotham City "sick" is first of all a great joke at the expense of Swine Flu, and secondly, probably an attempt to make everybody else sick so that he won't be sick in his "mother's" eyes - he'll just be normal, like everyone else.

He's operating out of Joker's old Funland Theme Park from The Killing Joke, which may connect him with Joker (he's also using toxic chemicals) but more likely he just set up shop in Joker's abandoned haunt. Still, this is the second time Morrison has gone back to that Theme Park, the first being in the all-prose issue, The Clown at Midnight, where Gordon mentioned that he hated the two midget henchmen Joker had sent Harley to kill, Solomon and Sheba, because they were the ones who had tortured him in The Killing Joke.

Interestingly enough, the Dollotrons aren't unprecedented either. There was a TV series that was loosely based on the idea of Pygmalion called My Living Doll and starring none other than Catwoman herself, Julie Newmar, as the titular robot who was an attempt at making a "perfect human". There was also that JLU episode with Galatea - the Power Girl-esque clone of Supergirl.

One major Pygmalion-influenced work was My Fair Lady, and frankly, I was surprised when Professor Pyg didn't utter a "Daaaamn ... daaaaamn ... damn ... damn ... I've grown accustomed to her face."

There's also Agalmatophilia to consider, which is a paraphilia concerned with the sexual attraction to a statue, doll, mannequin or other similar figurative object.Agalmatophilia may also encompass Pygmalionism (from the myth of Pygmalion) which describes a state of love for an object of one's own creation.

Lastly, his freakish monologue. I can't claim to understand all of it, but first, I took "Look who came back from Dreamland." to be a subtle Neil Gaiman reference. Especially since the first thing to follow was mention of Mormo, a chaos god who Gaiman has apparently used in Stardust (Which I have yet to read or see).

At any rate, he seems to be talking about his mother. On Monday she's Mormo, a chaos goddess which starts with "M". On Tuesday she's Tiamat, a chaos dragon which starts with "T". Tohu va bohu, apart from being from the Hebrew bible and therefore sharing common roots with Tiamat, is also a French idiom for "confusion".

Wednesday she's the Gorgon Queen. The Gorgon Queen was Medusa (As indicated by the forked tongue snakes as hair reference). Sigmund Freud had some interesting things to say about Medusa, as the legendarily man-hating Medusa was the basis for his Das Medusenhaupt - which presented Medusa as a symbol of male castration or sexual repression after childhood discovery of maternal sexuality. Again, major Mommy issues, although I don't really care to speculate whether Pyg's mother was a whore or just hated men but sexually abused her own child for some reason.

His referencing growing upside down in a world where a hug is a crucifixion could be talking about his mother's judgmental nature, which he's now projecting on this freakish statue-icon. But outside of that context, it's Morrison referencing himself - namely, later on Damian remembers this, and in Batman # 666, Damian crucifies Pyg upside down.

Pyg's next mention about "this little gent could make a well-spoken lady out of a monkey or a flower girl out of a snail" is a line directly from My Fair Lady.

As for his disco striptease ... I don't know. Most of it seems genuine (and effed up). He's asking a hypothetical about "one tiny little flaw" to Robin, makes some mentions of medicine and anti-psychotics which are probably totally genuine.

So it seems like, Pyg has given up his medication so that he can pursue his art - a common theme in storytelling (and real life, but for quick example, see Will Magnus of Metal Men fame) ... only his art in My Fair Lady or Pygmalion or She's All That style is taking nobodies and making them into perfection, but his corrupted version of that is making them into dolls.

It's as if he's seen way too many movies with similar motifs on TV and without his anti-psychotics, he's mixed them all together in his head.

Batman's later explaining what Pyg has done, and that he's invented an addictive, identity destroying drug in the form of a virus. It seems likely that he may have somewhere along the lines been influenced by his own drug, and that the "something happens" between him being a circus boss with mommy issues to being a sicko like Pyg involved him being dosed with his own identity-destroyer and then associating with TV.

Later, Pyg talks about "what happened to me has happened to Gotham". Well, Pyg has lost his identity. His talk about looking away from mirrors for just a moment, looking back and finding that sickness has crept in is almost a literal way of looking at Gotham ... which when Batman died lost its identity. But in the context of this 3-issue arc, thanks to Dick and Damian, Gotham is getting its identity back.

The domino is part of the greater, over-arcing plot - in an interview, Morrison had mentioned a "Domino Killer" being the greater mystery. Pyg seems to have some idea about it, specifically mentioning dominoes.

Le Bossu is actually probably unconnected, and is rather a throwback to R.I.P. "You're wrong, Batman and Robin will never die!", the flash-forward that first revealed a new Batman and Robin. He simply ensures continuity, and also refreshes the notion that many of the Club of Villains and Doctor Hurt are still out there. Then again ... it's Morrison, so everything is probably connected.

All of the final stuff - Sasha going nuts, Alfred being spied on by probably Jason Todd as he arranges portraits of all the other Robins, and Red Hood showing up are basically just leading directly into the next arc. I'm hyper-excited to see Morrison tackle Jason Todd. So far, I am crazy about the costume and like the "scourge of the underworld" arrogance.