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Sequels Are Never As Good

January 17, 2010

     After Grant Morrison’s stellar opening arc on Batman and Robin, I thought that would be the general kind of quality we could expect from this series.  Unfortunately, that proved to not be the case.  In this arc, we get forced to deal with one of the worst instances in comic book death history, Jason Todd.  Todd has retaken the mantle of the Red Hood, and along with the girl who did not turn into a Dollotron when Professor Pyg burned the mask onto her face (now named Scarlet), run around Gotham City giving harsh, violent justice to all its villains.  Dick and Damian try to stop them in the act, but they get away fairly quickly.  At another one of “Bruce Wayne’s” (Hush’s) galas, Lucius Fox talks to Dick about how strangely Bruce is acting and about inconsistent money figures, and Dick is introduced to a mysterious man named the Gravedigger, who is very interested in studying crime.  The Red Hood raids a meeting of mob bosses who are trying to meet with the Penguin to discuss working (or not working) with the Black Mask, but the Red Hood crashes the meeting and kills everyone there.  He tries to kill the Penguin too, but when Batman and Robin shield the Penguin, the two duos start fighting.  Eventually, the Red Hood and Scarlet win and tie up Batman and Robin, promising to reveal their true faces on a webcam if enough peopel call in to ask for it.  Eduardo Flamingo, a dangerous psychopath working for El Penitente of Mexico, comes to Gotham City while Batman and the Red Hood are busy feuding, and he almost kills all four of them, though the Red Hood ultimately disposes of him.  Everyone is fairly badly wounded (Damian was shot five times), and the Hood berates Dick for both failing to actually deal with crime completely and for failing to look for Bruce Wayne and resurrect him like Jason was.  Scarlet runs away, and her mask finally falls off.  Then, the Gravedigger gets a call from El Penitente, who looks suspiciously like the Black Glove with a W carved in his back, and Dick goes into a sealed vault, the password to which is “Zur-En-Arrh.”

     The concept of new, edgier, more violent superheroes in contrast to more traditional ones has been done over and over and over, to the point that it’s just not interesting anymore.  Morrison tries to put a new spin on it with by utilizing new technology (greater mass use of the internet, webcams), but aside from that, he doesn’t really make it work better than any other writer.  Part of that is the fact that Jason Todd, as a character, is just so not compelling and is written so inconsistently from writer to writer that all you can consistently glean of his personality is that he’s an angry brat who hates the man who once raised him.  But his motivations tend to shift depending on who is trying to fix him, and Morrison didn’t succeed any better than anyone else.  Then, Flamingo (who is pointlessly gruesome with his one little querk) is just a zombie who grunts and shoots people rather than anything new or exciting.  The possibilities for both Jason and Scarlet with the ideas of masks wasn’t really exploited much either.  Then, Philip Tan’s art is absolutely abominable.  Flamingo’s face tends to be a smudge of skin and hair, anatomy is often totally off, and his perspectives are often really annoying.  They are often very boring or leave out half of the action, like when Flamingo is trying to tear off Scarlet’s fake face.  I was rather shocked that Morrison could write such an uninteresting arc after the first one.   The whole story itself is still solid and readable, if not very exciting or original.  But then little things like the introduction of the Gravedigger and the cameo of El Penitente reminded me that he’s got a great ongoing story that I’m still interested in (minus the future story of Caveman and Pirate Batman).   So, hopefully this will be a blip rather than the norm for the rest of his Batman saga.

Plot: 5.1      Art: 4.9      Dialogue: 8.6      Overall: 6.0

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