There are times when reading Batman & Robin #5 that I think that the somewhat ugly artwork works because we're dealing with some ugly people here (physically and mentally) like the Red Hood's new sidekick, Scarlet or the new big bad villain (in the same vein as Professor Pyg, we get another animal-named villain, Flamingo), so there's some synchronicity!
Then I realize, no, the art is just not so good.
The art is enough of a problem that it almost makes reading the issue not worth it, but ultimately, writer Grant Morrison throws together a good enough story that the comic is worth it, poor art and all.
While the art style overall is not my cup of tea, I'll admit that unlike last issue, there were not many instances where I think the art actively HURT the story storytelling-wise, and in fact, there's a sequence where the Red Hood grabs Robin by his hood (Batman DID tell him that the hood was a bad idea!) and throws him to the ground that I think worked quite nicely, sequentially.
This issue strings together a few intriguing concepts, including the time-old notion that heroes and villains are a case of an action and an equal and opposite reaction. If Batman draws in bad guys like the Penguin and Two-Face, what kind of villain would a "hero" like the Red Hood draw in?
In this issue, we learn that the villain he draws in is Flamingo, who is basically Death on a motorcycle.
Since the "reveal" of who the Red Hood is is not that big of a deal, I think I'm just going to talk about that for a bit - if you don't want to know, stop reading here!!
I really liked the way Morrison worked in Jason Todd's old hair color into the story, and how Batman had him dye it. Interestingly, when Jason appeared during Last Rites, he meets Batman with black hair. Now, is that a "mistake" in Last Rite (quotes because due to the nature of Last Rites, anything wrong featured there could just be explained by "Bruce remembered it differently," since it was all in his head) or is Morrison telling us that Jason dyed his hair black on his own and he just is blaming Bruce for it, the same way he seems to try to blame ALL his actions and problems on Bruce?
By the by, how cool was it that Morrison worked in a "Death Poll" in this issue? How appropos with a Jason Todd guest appearance!
There were a number of really memorable moments in this issue, including Jason shooting Dick in the bat symbol and the whole "we're not Crimefighters, we're Crime Killers!" bit, which even has an amusing background as we see that Jason is studying marketing strategies for the Red Hood and Scarlet.
Meanwhile, the Red Hood/Scarlet duo is good for a lot of fun times.
Morrison juggles a lot of plots in this issue, but by using the "bit here, bit there, bit there" scattered approach, he manages to fit all the disparate plots into one narrative without feeling overburdened, as the "weight" of the plots often takes place off-panel and we fill in the blanks ourselves.
So in the end, this was a fun, action-packed issue that I wish had better artwork.
It's still a good enough issue to eke out...