Oct
7

Batman and Robin #5 – “Revenge of the Red Hood Part Two: Scarlet”

Posted by David Uzumeri on Wednesday, October 7th, 2009 at 06:50:27 PM
Batman and Robin #5
Batman and Robin #5

As suspected by a few people in last month’s comment thread, the Red Hood is in fact the obvious option, Jason Todd. So that entire mystery’s away from us, although the domino killer and Man-On-Gargoyle are still milling around, not to mention Oberon Sexton.

Philip Tan’s art in this issue is rather confusing and unclear with regards to the storytelling, especially on the fifth page, so I’ll try to disentangle some of those things as we go.

Page 1: Well, I gotta say I never thought the two random thugs from the beginning of #1 would be so important, but here’s their backstory. The final panel is from the end of #3, with Sasha suffocating a dude we now know for sure was her father (she said “He’s my papa” at the time, but she’d also been saying that a lot).

Page 4: And yeah, so much for the mystery. I discussed Jason Todd way back in the Batman #683 annotations, but Damian’s exposition here is on the money. The time Jason got his brains beaten out by the Joker was his death in Batman #428.

Page 5: And here’s where I lose track of the storytelling. From the (what look like) soggy footprints on the second panel, it appears that Penguin is trying to exit backwards while holding the umbrella out in front of him and shooting from it. Damian throws a batarang into the works, which – as far as I can tell – screws up his umbrella’s propeller, and makes him shoot out of the building. Or alternately, he was going to jump out of the building and fly anyway, and Damian’s batarang screwed up his umbrella’s propeller after he’d already leapt from the building. It’s incredibly unclear, and (I realize I’m editorializing here) pretty disappointing after Quitely’s smooth, fluid action scenes in the first arc.

Page 6: I guess Penguin landed on top of the car and then bounced onto the sidewalk? The Mexican boss they’re talking about here is the still-mysterious El Penitente.

Page 9: This is the third major domino we’ve seen – the first when the Toad was killed, the second at Pyg’s lair with the antidote. And since I was giving Tan shit earlier, I feel like I should applaud his Penguin on the street here, since he really does draw him in an appropriately grotesque manner and pulls off the ridiculousness of him threatening people with a broken umbrella on the street.

Page 10: This is the seeding-future-storylines scene, with Oberon “the Gravedigger” Sexton repping the Dynamic Duo in the media and Lucius Fox re-emphasizing the Wayne-money plot thread. Sexton is still an enigma – he could be a new character, exactly who he says he is, or he could be Bruce Wayne, or the Joker, or God knows who. We also find out the name of his book (“Masks of Evil”), which I’m sure will have some kind of importance.

Page 11: Regarding the Wayne-money plot thread, the fact that it’s being reemphasized like this implies it’s not just referencing the Streets of Gotham status quo.

Page 12: You probably don’t need me to point this out to you, but Jason’s making a dark k/night pun there. I’m also really forced to wonder how Jason Todd conducted a remotely fair phone poll, which, as Chris pointed out reading this, is amazingly ironic considering the role phone polls played in his demise. For those who don’t know, Batman #427 ended on a cliffhanger regarding whether Jason was alive or dead, and readers were given two 1-900 numbers to call to decide. By a fairly slim margin, Jason died.

Page 13: As far as I can tell, this guy (who was probably the guy in the hood in the mob scene, since he works for El Penitente) says “The guy who did this to me… he’s dead… DEAD! Flamingo is coming… in an airplane from HELL.” I also love Morrison’s mob names (Gentleman-G Merriwether!).

Page 14: So now Jason Todd’s gone from trying to replace Batman to trying to make him obsolete. This is where we also start getting into debating continuity, and a few other points.

First of all, Morrison’s pretty fond of Alan Moore references in his comics, and painting his characters and concepts as outdated, sort of ugly concepts. With that said:

Jason Todd (Red Hood) and Walter Kovacs (Rorschach)
Jason Todd (Red Hood) and Walter Kovacs (Rorschach)

I’m sure they’d have a hell of a socially awkward ultraviolent vigilante bromance. And it can’t just be an art tic, since a lot of the changes that make that picture possible (the zits, the baldness, the hair difference) are courtesy of Morrison as specified in the script.

From Batman; #366
From Batman #366

Which brings up the second point: that the Jason Todd Grant Morrison is using here is neither the pre- nor post-Crisis version of the character. He’s got the attitude of the street-urchin post-Crisis version, but the red hair was a feature of the pre-Crisis version, introduced in Batman #357, who was a happy-go-lucky ex-carnival type just like Dick Grayson. Additionally, when his hair was dyed black in #366, he does it himself (and puts on Dick’s costume) because he’s so eager to be Robin. However, it’s difficult to say whether this is simply Morrison revising history or just Jason Todd not admitting any of this in public. In any case, this is a new history for the character combining aspects of both previous takes in service of Morrison’s “all continuity is true” goal.

Jason’s visit to the Lazarus Pit was after his resurrection by Superboy-Prime’s continuity punches as told in Batman Annual #25, since he came back brain-dead and was taken by Talia to a Lazarus Pit.

Page 16: Again with the face-eating and face-wearing and losing of faces! God, Grant Morrison, we get it!

Then again, he bears more significance in this story, which is all about masks and faces; Oberon Sexton’s full-face mask (and his book title), the massive red hood that’s giving Jason Todd zits, Damian’s costume hood, Sasha’s second face/mask… Flamingo shows up here as a devourer of faces and masks.

Page 21: Red Hood gets shot in the chest and head, shattering his hood. Sasha’s narration reveals the general elevator pitch origin for the Flamingo, who had his brain “cut apart” by the mob – or by an evil psychologist they hired like, I don’t know, Simon Hurt.

Page 22: Flamingo looks a lot different here from his future self in Batman #666, although he’s certainly ostentatious (even though it’s hard to tell with all the shadows and Alex Sinclair’s coloring).

Welp, that’s the end of this month – a fairly straightforward issue. Next month we get #6, and then #7 will wait until January since, as revealed in this week’s DC Nation column, it had to come out after Blackest Night #6 – which implies Morrison’s going to be tying this book in with the overall DC Universe to a greater degree.

Posted in Annotations · Read more by David Uzumeri

19 Responses

  1. Regarding the storytelling for page 5, Penguin is using his umbrella gun to back himself out, uses the gun to fire open an exit and jumps out with the intention of escaping. Damian’s batarang knocks him to the ground where he lands on the car.

    I don’t know if I’m reaching at straws here with The Club of Heroes story still fresh in my mind, but I’m feeling a continuation of the idea of building a movement from the ground up, versus the construction of one through alternative means. A lot of Grant’s run has focused on how Bruce Wayne is really the only person who can be Batman through his constant commitment, and dedication to constant self betterment, training and improvement. Batman is a hero whose roots are clearly defined in the slums and streets, stopping muggings and going after mob families before he ever tackled Darkseid.

    Now that Jason has failed at taking up the mantle, his next step is to revert to his Red Hood identity to continue his quest for whatever it is that he is seeking: fame, notoriety, redemption and such. The bigger problem is that he is going about it the wrong way, appealing through media outlets and letting his words speak louder than actions, even the use of guns and killing criminals contrasts him perfectly against how we normally think of our heroes, as well as indicate a sort of laziness in his quest to do good.

    Even his attempt at picking up a side kick goes awry. In the perfect case of damaged people attracting damaged people, he doesn’t get a witty and energetic companion, but a dark and brooding young woman, evoking a romantic relationship set against the cliche Batman and Robin are gay jokes.

    I think I’ll stop ranting here until I can refine what I’m actually trying to say.

  2. I don’t know if he’s saying Alan Moore is outdated and ugly, exactly, especially considering that All-Star Superman owes oodles and oodles to Moore’s run on Supreme. But then again, even Alan Moore seems to think that 80′s Alan Moore is ugly and outdated, since almost all his super-heroic output since then has been a lot more Kurt Busiek than Frank Miller, if you take my meaning?

  3. I see the whole dyeing the hair thing as Morrison shuffling continuity, the whole gist of it as we know it happened, but this detail was left out. The whole “Batman made me do it” is just Jason being his lying self.

    I also gotta say I liked the way Grant is using Jason, it fits reasonably well with BftC (which was essentially Dini, Morrison, Winick, etc. going to Daniel and saying “set this up”) in theory if not execution, and I like how he’s noting that while Jason is a hotheaded fool who rarely thinks things through he IS capable of being a cunning foe.

    also hehehe RED Hood, on that Grant Morrison…

  4. also I’m guessing Morrison is going to finally address who’s skeleton it was Superman was carrying and is most likely going to have someone address Blackest Night and explain what exactly is up with the skull BH is using, and DC is obviously not going to allow this reveal to be handled outside of the main BN book.

  5. Jason’s hair can also go back to the red and black idea from RIP. Also, re: the gangster’s names, romero and merriwether were Joker and Catwoman on the old batman show.

  6. “as Chris pointed out reading this, is amazingly ironic considering the role phone polls played in his demise. ”
    Y’know, I wondered if the percentages displayed in the poll in this issue have the same numbers as the one set up to determine Jason’s fate, back in the day.

  7. [...] Comics | David Uzumeri annotates the fifth issue of Batman and Robin. [Funnybook Babylon] [...]

  8. Very interesting stuff. However…

    “First of all, Morrison’s pretty fond of Alan Moore references in his comics, and painting his characters and concepts as outdated, sort of ugly concepts. [Which he does with the Red Hood and Rorschach].”

    I don’t buy it. Morrison equating the Red Hood with his spiritual forebear, Rorschach (which I agree with you is absolutely in there), should not be taken as a comment on Alan Moore and his work being outdated and ugly. At most it is a way of tracing the tradition of this type of hero back to Watchmen.

    Yes, Morrison paints this type of hero as a “ugly concept,” but that can hardly be a condemnation of Moore, as he did the same thing in Watchmen and even Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow. In fact, the recurring subtext in the works of both Moore and Morrison is that heroes do not act like this.

  9. Derk,

    I don’t know, Morrison seems to have subtle digs at Moore all the time. The difference between Moore’s and Morrison’s versions of “heroes do not act like this” is the difference between night and day. Moore’s most notable works are moralistically relative and everyone, whether a “hero” or a “villain,” is characterized by their all-too-human foibles and failings. Morrison’s most famous works are moralistically binary: villains are villains and heroes are heroes, with all that entails. Morrison’s pages brim with optimism while Moore’s are pessimistic, cynical, bleak. I can totally buy that Morrison wants to fight against the “grim and gritty” school and its (willing or unwilling) founder.

  10. I have to give a thanks for the annotations here. I forgot completely about the Lazarus pit business and thought that this was actually not Jason Todd as the Hood, but some schmuck who found out thier secret identities and was trying to get into the superhero thing himself. I had no clue about the hair dying either and thought that and the pit thing was as way of showing that this was not Jason and some guy who was lying and making up an inaccurate background to Scarlett to make her think he was the one time Robin. Totally misread that on my first read through. Much thanks…. and glad to see Morrison actually being that much of a continuity freak. It’s nice to have a somewhat relevant character history that you can actually go back to in order to speculate and reference future and current goings on.

  11. after reading this, the way Jason was handled in BftC makes a bit more sense. Morrison definitely had the whole “jason tries to be Batman, but loses to Dick” in mind with this, but Daniel kinda fudged the execution. but then again he really isn’t a writer to begin with.

  12. Mike Barrett: “I don’t know, Morrison seems to have subtle digs at Moore all the time.”

    See, that’s something that I’m not completely sure of; I never really read that in Morrison’s work. Of course, every reading is valid (as long as it is backed up with proper arguments), so I can only speak for myself. ;-)

    For example, it has been posited that Mandrakk from Final Crisis may ‘be’ Alan Moore. I didn’t get that from FC at all. I thought Mandrakk portrayed the grim and gritty school of comics (and the business side of the industry), but did not make the connection between grim and gritty and Moore.

    Also (to use another recent example), I did not think that Captain Adam, the Watchmen inspired character from Superman Beyond 3D, was portrayed in a negative light at all. He was detached and could be read as the concept of the superhero that has grown into something greater than it was meant to be (hence the “Come back to us” in issue 2), but he was hardly a negative figure.

    “The difference between Moore’s and Morrison’s versions of ‘heroes do not act like this’ is the difference between night and day. Moore’s most notable works are moralistically relative and everyone, whether a ‘hero’ or a ‘villain,’ is characterized by their all-too-human foibles and failings. Morrison’s most famous works are moralistically binary: villains are villains and heroes are heroes, with all that entails.”

    Interesting, that’s a very good point about Moore’s work being morally complex and Morrison’s being morally binary. In a sense, Moore’s worlds don’t contain heroes and villains at all, just people.

    However, I still can’t help but read a certain judgement of these unheroic heroes in Moore’s work. They may have different ways to portray it, and with Moore readers are much more free to draw their own conclusions, but I feel that both he and Morrison do make the same point: a hero who acts like this (be it Rorschach, Superman at the end of WHMT, or the Red Hood) is not a hero at all.

    “Morrison’s pages brim with optimism while Moore’s are pessimistic, cynical, bleak. I can totally buy that Morrison wants to fight against the ‘grim and gritty’ school and its (willing or unwilling) founder.”

    I think you’re overgeneralizing here. Moore has a great variety of works that are intrinsically optimistic (Supreme, Tom Strong, Top 10). Even the bleak and disturbing From Hell closes on a positive note.

    I do agree that Morrison in his writing ‘fights’ against the grim and gritty side of comics, but I do not make the automatic connection that this is also a judgement of Alan Moore and his oeuvre.

  13. A small revision of my fifth paragraph for clarity’s sake (as I used the word ‘hero’ in both a moral and a comic sense):

    “However, I still can’t help but read a certain judgement of these unheroic superheroes in Moore’s work. They may have different ways to portray it, and with Moore readers are much more free to draw their own conclusions, but I feel that both he and Morrison do make the same point: a superhero who acts like this (be it Rorschach, Superman at the end of WHMT, or the Red Hood) is not a hero at all.”

  14. So Jason/Red Hood is trying to be a better superhero than Batman in the same way that the Master was, in his own sick way, trying to be a bigger hero than the Doctor in the third series of the new Doctor Who, but doomed to failure because he just misses the key point of being the hero?

  15. Exactly.

    Also the %s for the vote are different than the ones that killed Jason.

  16. It took a little longer than usual for the site to load but i’m happy i gutted it out.

  17. What’s more, Jason Todd seems more than any other DC character to be a “Casualty of Watchmen”. Not in particular, mind you. But a casualty of that time period, when all the comics were taking “the dark turn” and when killing off a character by 1-900-Number seemed edgy and angsty.

    It’s no wonder the guy is channeling Rorschach now that he’s 20-something.

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