Philip Tan must feel like the middle child in a family of celebrities. No matter how solid his art may be, it will never live up to his “older brother” Frank and his “younger brother” Cameron. Tan’s collaboration with Grant Morrison and run as primary artist on Batman and Robin will probably be forgotten once this series is done, but his style and tone continued the drama in an interesting visual direction even if it wasn’t as magical as his predecessor or as anticipated as his successor.
Tan and Morrison finish up the Revenge of the Red Hood arc with a slew of dramatic panels that are the most violent of this series to date. Morrison uses the maniacal Flamingo not only as a means to bring Red Hood and Scarlet’s fate to a climax, but to resolve the question of who will be Gotham’s protectors. The writer slyly does this without Dick and Jason having to physically confront each other directly. Much is left open ended at the end of the story: Damian is paralyzed; Jason is off to jail; Flamingo’s body can’t be found; Scarlet, free of her mask is off to start a new life, and a battered Dick Grayson opens a sealed vault to what I’m not sure by uttering the password “Zur en arrh”. I’m not even going to try and speculate on the reason why Grant Morrison has Dick utter that infamous phrase at this time of the story. I think my brain would explode if I did.
I appreciated the action and the depth of drama in this issue, but the writing and panel layouts seemed sloppy and rushed. The artistic simplicity that made the first arc so unique and popular is almost reversed here, with too much going on at the same time. Scarlet’s plot resolution is the most successful and effective of the characters. Her horrific happy ending gave the arc’s finale an edge that made the book worth reading. Dick once again doubts his significance, but there was awkwardness to this portrayal that I found unusual for the author who understands this Batman more than anyone. His cool lecturing of Jason followed by a verbal flare-up while Gordon and the cops are all around, was strange and out of character. Especially considering Robin is laying face first with multiple bullet wounds in his back. And then how does Talia show up all of a sudden? Is Damian headed for the Lazarus Pit? Is this a foreshadowing of his future?
Morrison also inserts a page of Oberon Sexton and El Penitente as if to make sure we don’t forget them. The two insignificant characters will hopefully have a meaningful purpose in the next storyline.
I think Philip Tan is a very talented artist. However, I would love to have seen this issue have fewer panels on each page. His detailing isn’t precise enough to bring out the emotion of the characters and the ferociousness of the violence in such small space. His visual expression would have had a much more profound impact with the use of splash pages. Unlike Frank Quitely, whose panels stand on their own, Tan needs the dialogue to give his work definite meaning. The last page, which should have left me wanting more, instead frustrated me. The actual standout from a graphic art perspective was Jonathan Glapion’s inks and Alex Sinclair’s colors. The quality of those elements has remained consistent from the first issue.
What I find so interesting is how Grant Morrison’s writing changed with the artist. It really makes one realize how essential the chemistry between writer and graphic artist are to the success of a comic book.
Much like Philip Tan, this story arc seemed like the misplaced middle child of the “Pyg” arc and of the story yet to come. I know Blackest Night will deeply impact this series in the upcoming issues, and fellow Canadian Cameron Stewart will no doubt bring the magic back to what was just a few months ago the best book in print. But whatever the future holds for Dick and Damian, I have a feeling we should brace ourselves for a tumultuous ride!
Batman and Robin #6:
Reviewed by Tiggerbrown