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.