I’ve been enjoying “Batman and Robin” a great deal, each issue having just the right mix of action and character moments to tide me over until the next issue. So why, then, did this issue feel like a slight misstep?
It would be easy to try and blame it on the art. Philip Tan’s first issue of “Batman and Robin” was easily his best; you can look back to moments in “Batman and Robin” #4 and see some strong storytelling. The two page-spread where a character leaps across the gap between buildings, with the panels on either side springing up and then coming back down? That’s good stuff. Tan’s pencils are certainly a big shift from Frank Quitely’s, but he and inker Jonathan Glapion brought a lot of detail and big picture scope to their debut on the book. Here, as they finish up their three-issue arc, the art feels a little rushed and muddy. Never mind the lack of anything but average layouts and storytelling (something that is ultimately forgivable), the problem is that the fine lines and careful portraits of characters are gone. It’s uncharacteristic of Tan when you look at issues #4-5, and it’s a shame that he’s concluding his story on a less-than-high note.
There’s more to the issue than just that, though. The confrontation between the Red Hood and Flamingo is so curiously anti-climactic that it’s slightly puzzling why Morrison brought the latter character into the book. Aside from a beautiful “Purple Rain” inspired cover portrait of Flamingo by Quitely, I’m not sure what the character even brought to the story. For a character that’s supposed to be terrifying and ruthless, he’s actually a bit of a dud.
Still, there are some little flashes of great peppered throughout the book that remind me why I normally enjoy Morrison’s take on Batman. The married couple voting to unmask Batman because he’ll be naked elicited a laugh (and also makes me think the random, “He stripped us to our underpants?” was an editorial decision), for instance. And of course, people calling and voting on their phones in a story involving Jason Todd is certainly good for a chuckle when you stop and think about it.
The moment of “Batman and Robin” #6 that gave me a lot of hope, though? It’s the final fate of Scarlet. It’s a touching end to her story, and while the art slightly lets down what really happens (a moment where the narration is critical to explain what’s happening), it’s a strong conclusion to her story arc. “He told me to run, but Scarlet never made it out of Gotham,” is, to me, a reminder of why Morrison is one of the big names in comics. And you know what? It made me excited about seeing “Batman and Robin” #7, doubly so knowing that Cameron Stewart is on board for three issues as artist. I can’t wait.