Current Reviews


Batman and Robin #6

Posted: Friday, November 27, 2009
By: Dave Wallace and Thom Young

Grant Morrison
Philip Tan (p), Jonathan Glapion (i), & Alex Sinclair (colors)
DC Comics
"Revenge of the Red Hood, Three: Flamingo is Here "

In the conclusion to "The Revenge of the Red Hood," Batman and Robin confront Flamingo, and Jason Todd is arrested. However, as he's being escorted away, Jason poses an interesting question to Dick Grayson about Bruce Wayne.

Dave Wallace:
Thom Young:

Dave Wallace: The final issue of Batman and Robin’s second arc brings some closure to the story of Jason Todd and his new sidekick, pitting anti-heroes The Red Hood and Scarlet against both the Flamingo and the Dynamic Duo in a three-way battle that plays out in an unremarkable fashion.

As with the last issue, I found myself a little disappointed by this chapter. I’d go so far as to say that issues #5 & #6 definitely stand as the weakest of the series so far--and possibly the weakest of Grant Morrison’s entire Batman run (the “Resurrection of Ra’s Al Ghul” issues notwithstanding).

Thom Young: I disagree. While I wouldn't say that the conclusion to this arc was as good as the conclusion to the first arc of this series, I liked this issue for several interesting plot points, which we'll get to later. I also didn't find myself disliking Philip Tan's illustrations as much as I disliked them in the first two installments of this arc. I still disliked some of his work, but I thought many of his pages were very interesting--though perhaps not due to Tan's own decisions.

Dave Wallace: For me, the main reason for the weakness of this issue is Tan's artwork. Having enjoyed his work on issue #4, I felt that the quality took a sharp dip in issue #5--and unfortunately, this issue continues that trend. Much of the artwork looks rushed, with a substantial amount of variation in the inking and colouring style of individual pages that makes the book’s visuals feel inconsistent from one page to another.

Thom Young: Actually, I agree with you there. You're undoubtedly correct that the variation in style from page to page is due to Tan rushing his pencils. At times it looks like he merely provided rough layouts and that he was perhaps leaving it to inker Jonathan Glapion to give the finished pages a consistent illustration style.

However, it looks like Glapion basically inked the pencils as they were rather than revise them to provide a consistent appearance--but that's actually what intrigued me. Those pages almost give the issue the appearance of being a Batman story illustrated by an underground comic book artist of the 1970s or 1980s.

In fact, pages six and ten in particular remind me of the work of Jerry Moriarty whose "Jack Survives" was serialized in Raw back in the early 80s before being collected in 1984.

Yes, Tan's illustrations are inconsistent in style from page to page in this issue, but some of those pages are interesting because of that inconsistency.

Dave Wallace: Yes, and I imagine that some of this variation was intentional. For example, colourist Alex Sinclair’s watercolour-style effects are an interesting experiment, and a little reminiscent of the ink-wash effect that he used for Jim Lee's flashback sequences in the "Hush" storyline.

The effect sometimes works well here, especially when contrasting the watercolour-style backgrounds against the more boldly coloured foreground characters. At other times, however, there doesn't seem to be any real reason for the differing inking and colouring approaches.

For example, I don’t know why a different style is used for the page in which Batman and Robin are escaping their bonds and donning their costumes as people are dialling their phones in response to the Red Hood’s advertisement--the same page that you mentioned earlier as reminiscent of Jerry Moriarty’s work.

Thom Young: Yes, I can understand why that page threw you off. It stands out as being very different in style from the line work on most of the pages. The lines are much heavier, and I believe the perspective is supposed to be from the Web cam--making it a low perspective looking up. Still, that’s exactly what made me think of Moriarty’s Jack Survives.

Actually, now that you mention it, the coloring probably also factors into my view of this issue as a Batman story that might have been published in Raw in the early 1980s. Moriarty didn't create a wash effect in Jack Survives, but the front and back covers and four of the interior pages (in what is otherwise a black and white comic) are colored in bright hues that almost look like water colors.

Dave Wallace: I’m not familiar with that work, but it certainly sounds fairly similar to the approach employed here.

In addition to this distracting inconsistency, another problem is that Tan fails to convey a strong sense of environment for the setting of the issue’s fight scene--and considering that the vast majority of the issue takes place in this single setting, that’s a pretty significant problem.

Thom Young: Yes, I absolutely agree with you on this point. After Batman and Robin free themselves from the "Web cam exposé," Batman wonders aloud, "So what is this place? Are we underground somewhere?" He then finds a door that leads to a "cockpit" consisting of two seats and a steering wheel--which causes him to exclaim, "Hah! Now we know why we couldn't locate their HQ."

From that scene, I was able to discern that the Red Hood's headquarters were mobile, but I still had no idea what it actually was. I finally figured out after my third reading that the Red Hood and Scarlet had been living in the 45-foot trailer of a trucking rig--which Scarlet drives out of Gotham City near the end of the story (I’m guessing that the tractor-trailer rig driving across the bridge on page 21 is what Scarlet is driving on that page).

Of course, that scene near the end makes me wonder how Scarlett was able to drive away with the truck when the area was swarming with Commissioner Gordon and several of his police officers by then. Wasn’t the truck evidence? How did they manage to not secure it and stop Scarlett from driving off in it?

Anyway, we are never given a clear indication that Batman and Robin were being held in the 45-foot trailer of a trucking rig. Additionally, Batman should not have been able to find a door in the trailer that would lead him into the cab of the tractor part of the rig. It's simply not how those trucking rigs are constructed--which is why it took me three readings before I finally figured out what the headquarters was supposed to be (but actually could not be, realistically).

Dave Wallace: Come to think of it, we actually had a very brief glimpse of the Red Hood’s mobile HQ towards the end of the previous issue, but it would have been useful to establish the location more fully in this chapter, too--and, as you say, Tan’s depiction of the interior of the vehicle doesn’t make sense.

As for the outside environment in which the issue’s big battle takes place, I had initially assumed that it was a city street (although there are really no visual clues other than a predominant blue-grey colour--so it could have been the top of a skyscraper, an underground garage, or anywhere else of a similar colour really).

As such, the sudden appearance of a deep abyss and cliff edge surprised me until I realised that the fight was meant to be taking place at a building site or a quarry (and I only realised this during the scene in which Jason Todd climbs into a construction vehicle to attack the Flamingo).

Thom Young: Ah, yeah, the truck was parked at a quarry or inside a large cavern. You're right, that setting was a confusing mess as well. I was wondering if Jason had parked his Red Hood truck in the cavern beneath Wayne Manor--but then the appearance of Commissioner Gordon and six uniformed police officers wouldn't have made any sense.

Also, Alfred was in the Batcave when he told Batman that he would alert Commissioner Gordon as to Batman's location--wherever that actually was. Part of the fault might be Morrison's in that the notion of the headquarters being a truck parked at a quarry was never mentioned in the dialog. However, Morrison might have mentioned those locations in the script so that Tan could clearly illustrate them.

We know from the problems that Morrison had with Tony Daniel and Guy Major not providing in the artwork what was required in the story, that Morrison doesn't follow up after an issue is illustrated and colored to make certain that it adheres to what he requested in his directions.

Dave Wallace: On top of these weaknesses, the problem of inconsistent character designs again rears its head here. Having noted in my review of issue #5 that the colour scheme for the Red Hood’s costume had changed between issues #4 and #5, I wasn’t really surprised to notice the sudden absence of the flash of white in Jason Todd’s hair here--which had been a pretty significant distinguishing characteristic in the previous issue.

Thom Young: Well, we know that Bruce Wayne used to force Jason to dye his hair black so that he would look like Dick Grayson, so maybe Jason still goes in for dye jobs to cover up his grey hair (I state facetiously).

Dave Wallace: A short cutaway showing Jason touching up his roots would have been great! Unfortunately, I think the explanation is a far simpler one: carelessness on the part of the illustrators.

Tan’s design for the Flamingo is also lacking. The villain does so little in this issue (especially after such a big build-up last issue) that it would have been helpful for the artist to convey something more of the character through his design. However, Tan’s take on the Flamingo amounts to little more than an angry, nasty man in a garish costume (Robin’s “I was expecting scary, not gay” is a little too accurate, unfortunately).

Thom Young: Yeah, I was expecting Flamingo to be more frightening than he is. Still, as his name suggests, he does go in for a lot of pink--including his own pink hair dye job--so I'm assuming that Morrison directed for the character to look "gay" (to quote Robin).

I don't mind the appearance of the character. I think Morrison's idea was to create a flamboyant character that some (such as Robin) might consider "gay" but who is really a nasty bit of “rough trade”--which is a gay slang term for a sex partner who is dangerous in a physical and potentially violent manner.

The term rough trade entered the gay lexicon from Polari--the slang dialect used by British circus performers, and Morrison's first arc on Batman and Robin involved the Circus of the Strange characters who regularly used Polari in their dialog. Thus, it's actually fitting that this violent man who eats the faces of his victims is a dangerously violent gay man who has possible connections to the Circus of the Strange.

Dave Wallace: That’s a very interesting bit of deductive reasoning. I like the character a little more as a result. Still, Tan’s design certainly pales in comparison to Frank Quitely’s Prince-inspired cover image, which I think perfectly conveys the flamboyance and excess that Morrison seemed to be aiming for with the character.

Thom Young: Well, Quitely is just a better illustrator than Tan, and he knows how to give Morrison exactly what his stories require.

Dave Wallace: True. The weaknesses of Tan’s art are particularly detrimental when it comes to the final page, in which Dick Grayson opens a secret chamber (courtesy of another appearance from the “Zur En Arrh” catchphrase) that contains something that’s obviously meant to come as a shock or a surprise to the reader.

Unfortunately, Tan’s unclear art makes it impossible to see exactly what the chamber contains. I can only assume that it’s Bruce’s corpse from Final Crisis, and that it’ll play into the next arc--especially after Jason’s suggestion that Dick find a Lazarus pit to resurrect Bruce.

In fact, the teaser image from issue #1 showed a ghostly character in a Batman costume rising from a pit of lava, which is reprised by Frank Quitely’s cover to issue #8 of the series.

To be honest, though, that’s all conjecture on my part. The image could depict a mannequin in a Batman costume, an intruder dressed as Batman, or simply a Batman costume hanging in space.

Thom Young: Well, now you've brought up a point that is tied into the reason that I liked this issue more than you did.

Our review is coming out about two weeks after this issue went on sale, so I don't think it will spoil anything for most people if I point out that by the end of this story Robin (Damian Wayne, nee Damian al Ghul) was shot several times in the back by Flamingo and that he is paralysed from the waist down (at least) as a result of those gunshots.

At first I was shocked that Morrison would make Damian a paraplegic, but then Robin tells Damian, "Your mom's paramedics just turned up," and we see an ambulance crew preparing to take a gurney out of the back of their vehicle.

Suddenly, it all made sense. Damian may be paralysed now, but Talia al Ghul's paramedics are going to haul him away to a Lazarus Pit where his body will be restored. Of course, why Dick Grayson doesn’t tell Talia’s paramedics to pick up Barbara Gordon on their way out is something that our colleague Ray Tate could rant about--and it does point out the inconsistencies of this “shared Batman universe” in particular as well as the shared DC universe in general--even more so when we consider Dick’s later actions.

Because of Damian being hauled away by Talia al Ghul’s paramedics, Dick knows where he can find a Lazarus Pit--and so he's going to take his predecessor's body out of its cryogenic chamber and resurrect Bruce, which is exactly what Jason Todd accuses Dick of not being willing to do.

Now, the thing is, for those of us who read the issue, we know that the body Superman was holding at the end of Final Crisis #6 is probably not Batman's. Darkseid's Omega Beams are also able to transport their targets back in time--which seems to have been what happened with Bruce Wayne as we see him at the end of Final Crisis #7 after having been transported about 30,000 years in the past where he is living with the aged and dying Cro-Magnon known as Anthro.

We know that the next issue of Batman and Robin is a Blackest Night tie-in, and I'm curious to see who or what is actually resurrected when Dick places into the Lazarus Pit the body that he believes are the remains of Bruce Wayne.

Additionally, of course, the idea that this body is Bruce's is further complicated by the fact that in Blackest Night, Geoff Johns wrote a scene in which William Hand (aka Black Hand) dug up Bruce Wayne's grave and started playing with his skull--or whatever (I didn’t read that issue, but I’ve read discussions about it on the Internet).

If Dick placed the remains that Superman gave him into a cryogenics chamber in the Batcave, then who was buried in the unmarked grave of Bruce Wayne that William Hand dug up in Blackest Night?

I'm looking forward to next issue to see how Morrison straightens out these apparent contradictions, but mainly I'm looking forward to something that is not Bruce Wayne being resurrected by the Lazarus Pit--which will lead to Dick Grayson's realization that his predecessor is not dead (just as Tim Wayne, nee Tim Drake) has been claiming all along.

Dave Wallace: I haven’t been following Blackest Night either, so I’m not really aware of what’s meant to be going on with Bruce’s remains in that series--but I did read Final Crisis, and I agree with you that it’s unlikely that the body Superman was holding after Batman’s death is actually the remains of Bruce Wayne (or at least, the Bruce Wayne of this universe).

I seem to remember Sonny Sumo saying in Final Crisis that Darkseid’s Omega Sanction had had the effect of shifting him into the life of one of his multiversal counterparts (meaning that the Sonny Sumo of the current DC Universe didn’t actually originate there).

Could it be that the body of another universe's Bruce Wayne replaced "our" Bruce Wayne at the moment in which Darkseid’s Omega Sanction struck him? Might the next arc see Dick unwittingly resurrect a different Bruce Wayne to the one that trained him? It’s an interesting possibility, and one that I’ll be keen to see play out.

Thom Young: I hadn’t thought of that. I would make sense on the one hand with its ties back to Morrison’s idea of the Omega Beams causing multiversal transference (or whatever), but it would be a bit bizarre to see a parallel universe Batman (or Owlman?) resurrected by the Lazarus Pit.

Dave Wallace: Owlman would be great! But I’m thinking that Morrison might be thinking of using a brand new alternate-universe-Batman as the villain of his third arc of Batman and Robin--which would play into his long-running theme of “replacement Batmen.”

Thom Young: I hadn't really considered the possibility of Morrison bringing in a parallel universe Batman as part of his "replacement Batmen" motif. I guess my hesitancy to consider that possibility is due to DC's Batman franchise having mostly been void of high concept science fiction elements for several decades now--except when Batman teams up with other characters outside the immediate Batman Family titles (such as in Superman/Batman, which sort of operates independently from what transpires in the Batman books.

However, it would make perfect sense for Morrison to bring in a parallel universe Batman since he has been using the character's science fiction stories from the 1950s as part of his overall plan. Additionally, Dick specifically pointed out to Damian in this issue that Jason Todd has visited parallel universes and fought aliens, which seemed like an odd line to insert into the story unless Morrison is using it to foreshadow parallel universes and alien invasions.

Hey, perhaps an acarid "from Space B at the Fivefold Expansion of Zrfff" is in the cards after all.

Dave Wallace: However, as I said, this moment of revelation of Bruce's supposed body was undermined by artwork that didn’t sell the idea immediately, and took some deciphering in order to be fully comprehended.

That said, Tan’s work isn’t completely without merit. There are occasional flashes of inspiration. For example, the panel that shows Flamingo using his whip on Scarlet creates a strong sense of movement, and some of the shots of Batman in action are pretty good.

However, in general, it’s not a very polished-looking book. And production errors don’t help. I noticed some rogue colouring directions that had been left visible in the background of one panel. Again, it creates a sense that the art for this issue has been rushed and sloppy.

I’d much rather wait a couple of extra weeks for the book to be released (as with issues #2 and #3) if it would allow the visuals to be cleaned up. Hopefully the presence of Seaguy’s Cameron Stewart on the next arc means that the standard of the artwork will improve next issue.

Thom Young: Ah, I skipped right over those coloring directions that are visible in the background. I just took them for graffiti that I couldn't make out and then I moved on. However, you're right, that first word looks like "color," so I guess those were directions that ended up getting printed.

Perhaps they rushed through this issue because the next issue is a Blackest Night tie-in and couldn't be delayed while we waited for better illustrations and coloring to come in for issue #6.

Dave Wallace: Actually, the next issue is going to be delayed. There’s a two-month wait between issue #6 and #7--apparently in order to allow the story of Blackest Night to reach the point at which the story of Batman and Robin can neatly intersect with it.

That being the case, I wonder why DC didn’t simply allow this issue’s art team a little more time to finish this issue, given that they knew they didn’t have to rush it in order that issue #7 could come out the following month.

Thom Young: Yes, that is curious. However, as I mentioned earlier, I don't mind the fact that the illustrations and coloring look the way they do here.

I don't think they are "bad" in terms of quality. I think they actually look like something that might have been published in Raw 25 years ago, and that short-lived series remains one of my all-time favorites.

Rather than "bad art," I think much of Tan's work in this issue is more a case of it just not matching up with the style of his first two issues. He is a very inconsistent artist, though. I had bigger problems with some of his panels in issues #4 and #5 than I do with his work here--which is not to say there aren’t some problems in the artwork in this issue as well. I just don’t have a problem with some of the “rushed pages.”

Dave Wallace: Despite these problems with the artwork, the issue contains some interesting ideas that manage to survive the transition from Morrison’s script to the final printed page.

I appreciated the irony of having Jason Todd organise a phone poll to decide Batman and Robin’s fate, since it was a similar real-life poll that dictated that he should die in “A Death in the Family.”

Thom Young: Oh, right. I forgot that Jason died due to a fan phone-in vote.

I was just looking at this current scene as a satire on contemporary phone-in-vote shows like American Idol. The irony is that, 20 years ago, DC had the most gruesome phone-in show in history.

Dave Wallace: Indeed!

I also liked seeing the way that Morrison has appropriated one of Bruce Wayne’s linguistic tics for his son, giving Robin regular examples of “tt” in his dialogue (after Bruce’s “hh”).

Thom Young: Yeah, Damian’s “tt” has been part of his dialog for a while now. He seems to do it when he’s confronted with something that he feels is somehow beneath him.

Dave Wallace: Odd, I hadn’t noticed it before now. Still, I like it.

There’s also a graceful, poetic sequence towards the end of the issue in which Scarlet manages to remove her face and become reborn at the exact point that she passes the Gotham City limits in the truck she drove off in (although I wonder whether Morrison’s narration was added once it became apparent that the artwork wasn’t clear enough to carry this idea on its own).

Thom Young: I doubt it was added later unless Morrison has decided to start reviewing the stories before they go to press--which he might now do after so many errors were made by Tony Daniel and Guy Major during their collective run on Batman.

If Morrison is now reviewing the illustrations and coloring before the issue goes to press--and revising his dialog and captions to account for problems in the art--then perhaps Robin's line about Flamingo looking gay rather than scary was something that was added as well.

Dave Wallace: Possible. But I tend to think that your earlier assumption might be right: it’s perhaps unlikely that Morrison has suddenly begun reviewing the artwork of these stories before they go to press.

Either way, Scarlet’s rebirth is a satisfying character moment, and one that also plays into the overarching idea that Gotham City plays an active part in the creation of super-villains (in the same way that Morrison described its “grids” functioning as a machine to produce Batman, in the “RIP” storyline).

Thom Young: And that "grid" idea of Gotham is one of those scenes that I strongly believe Daniel and Major screwed up in terms of what Morrison was actually wanting in the art.

The grid was screwed up by Daniel in that he was supposed to make it look like a checkerboard laid out horizontally across Gotham--across which the tracks of the history of Gotham City and its citizens spread out organically like vines growing along a horizontal trellis.

Instead, Daniel depicted the grid with intersecting vertical planes--which completely lost the checkerboard motif that Morrison had been working with throughout his run on Batman. Similarly, that scene was screwed up in terms of color in that Major should have made it black and red to reflect the checkerboard motif--but he inexplicably made it black and green.

Major is also responsible for covering The Joker in blood as he sat in his cell in Arkham Asylum at the end of Batman #676. The bloody carnage in that issue was actually just taking place in The Joker's imagination, so there should not have been any blood on the Joker at the end of that scene.

So, yeah, it's possible that Morrison is now reviewing the artwork before the stories go to press--especially when he's not working with Quitely.

Dave Wallace: Some of Morrison’s most effective moments simply stem from his ability to tightly control his storytelling. For example, Batman’s clipped dialogue during the fight with Flamingo is limited to just a couple of words per panel--giving an accurate indication of just how quickly his movements are taking place.

However, some of the book’s best moments are more closely connected to the satisfying web of mysteries that Morrison has been weaving with the book. In particular, the scene towards the end of the issue involving Oberon Sexton and somebody who identifies himself with (or possibly as) “El Penitente” seems to be littered with possible clues as to where the larger story is headed.

Thom Young: Yes, that Oberon Sexton scene fascinated me for at least three reasons. First, the caller reached Sexton on his private cell phone that apparently is not a publicly known number. When Sexton asked him, "Who gave you this number?" the caller told him, "Your sins have found you out, Gravedigger."

The implication is that Oberon "Gravedigger" Sexton has committed sins and is not whom he claims to be--which may tie into my theory that Oberon Sexton is actually Percival Sheldrake--the original Knight.

Second, the caller appears to be "Dr. Hurt" from the "Batman: RIP" arc. We only see the character from the back and from above (in an odd perspective in which we are looking down from the ceiling at the man who I am assuming is supposed to be sitting on the floor--though Tan didn't pull off that perspective very well at all).

Thus, we don't get a direct look at the caller's face. However, he appears to be wearing the "Bat-Man" mask that Bruce's father wore to a costume party and that Dr. Hurt appropriated and wore during "RIP."

Finally, there appears to be something attached to the caller's back; it's barely visible in the shadow of the first of the two panels depicting "Dr. Hurt." Again, we can't tell what it is--or even if something actually is attached to his back at all. It might just be another instance of Tan not illustrating the panel very effectively.

However, if something is attached to the back of "Dr. Hurt," it appears to be something that is similar to the acarid that appeared to be attached to Batman's back in Batman #679. In the second panel, it looks like there is an insectoid leg coming over "Dr. Hurt's" left shoulder from something that is now attached to his chest.

We were never given an explanation as to why an acarid was attached to Batman's back, though I suspected at the time that "Bat-Mite" was actually a member of an intelligent acarid species "from Space B at the Fivefold Expansion of Zrfff." If an acarid is attached to the back of "Dr. Hurt" as he's talking on the phone to Oberon Sexton, then we might suddenly begin to be seeing some of the loose threads from Morrison's run on Batman starting to be addressed.

Dave Wallace: I’d completely forgotten about that bizarre creature in Batman #679. I’d be very pleased to see Morrison finally provide an explanation for that, and the odd scar that we see on this character’s back could certainly be connected with a similar creature.

Like you, I’m also convinced that the character speaking to Sexton is Doctor Hurt from the “R.I.P.” storyline. Not only does he appear to be still sporting the mask of the “first Batman” that Hurt stole from the Batcave during “RIP,” but the phrase you cited, “Your sins have found you out” is one that Hurt spoke to the “gamblers and high rollers” that assembled in Arkham Asylum towards the end of “RIP.”

Thom Young: Ah, I didn't remember that the phrase was already associated with Dr. Hurt. Yes, that just about seals the identity of Sexton's caller.

Dave Wallace: Perhaps, like “The Black Glove,” “El Penitente” is another name that at first appears to be the alias of a single character, only to be later revealed as the name of a super-villain group.

Thom Young: Oh, yeah, I've always assumed that El Penitente is the name of a cartel rather than one person. I don't know why I've assumed that. Was the name assigned to an individual in the first arc?

Dave Wallace: I don’t think it has been made clear yet.

I also wonder whether the name signifies that Doctor Hurt is subjecting himself to penance for losing his fight against Bruce Wayne in “RIP,” Perhaps that’s why he now sports a large scar in the shape of a “W” on his back.

Thom Young: Oh! I didn't even notice the scar. Now that I look at it, I realize that the thing that I took for the leg of an acarid is actually a whip that he is using on his own back in the manner of the Flagellant sects of Catholicism.

Dave Wallace: Yes, I wondered whether that might possibly be the remnants of the Flamingo’s whip. We already know from previous issues that “El Penitente” was the one who organised for the Flamingo to visit Gotham--and in conjunction with the overhanging mysteries from the first arc, I’m getting the impression that we could be seeing all of Morrison’s Batman and Robin stories gradually build towards another crescendo à la “RIP.”

And, if my earlier theories about an Omega Sanction-induced alternate-universe-Batman becoming the villain of the third Batman and Robin arc prove to be accurate, we may even see Morrison tie Doctor Hurt’s cartel of villains explicitly to the actions of Darkseid in Final Crisis.

You may remember that I always had a strong suspicion that Morrison intended for there to be a more explicit link between the devilish Doctor Hurt of “RIP” and Darkseid’s activities in Final Crisis rather than the ambiguous connections that were ultimately provided, so it would be interesting to see Morrison reveal a more substantial link between the two characters at this point.

Thom Young: Oh well, there goes my theory about Dr. Hurt being associated with an intelligent acarid species "from Space B at the Fivefold Expansion of Zrfff." However, you and I both have been of the opinion that there was supposed to be more of a direct connection between "RIP" and Final Crisis--a belief that was fueled by Morrison directly stating in an interview (on IGN, I believe, or perhaps it was on Newsarama) that there was going to be a direct connection between the two stories.

That direct connection never materialized, and the interview in which Morrison stated there was a direct connection appears to have been revised to no longer mention that the two stories were more heavily intertwined than they turned out to be when finally completed. I've always wondered whether Morrison changed his mind or if DC editorial changed it for him.

It still seems likely to me that Jezebel Jet was supposed to be a denizen of Apokolips, and my opinion is further strengthened by the fact that the plot and dénouement to the Jezebel Jet thread just doesn't hold together if she was always meant to simply be a rich playgirl who was somehow connected to the Black Glove organization through her father, the deposed king of an African nation (or whatever background was finally given her, I no longer recall exactly).

StillAnyway, the fact that Dr. Hurt has returned and he appears to be into Flagellantism is interesting enough in its own right. He was essentially depicted as being an epiphany of Satan--or as an avatar of Satan, as it were. However, Flagellantism is based on heretic orders that adhere to the practice of self-flagellation in mimicry of The Flagellation of Christ during The Passion.

Self-flagellation has a long pre-Christian tradition of being used to bring about an altered state of consciousness--as any extreme physical pain does. Thus, we would still have Dr. Hurt as some sort of mysterious character (possibly an avatar of Satan) who alters consciousness through the use of flagellation in addition to the consciousness-altering drugs and other psychological actions he used on Bruce Wayne during "RIP."

Dave Wallace: As for Oberon Sexton, I’m convinced that this character has some connection to the Black Glove, too. The newspaper clippings on his bed include a pentagram (recalling the demonic overtones of Batman #666) and a copy of the headline that describes the “Gruesome Slaying of Beloved Cardinal”--which we’ve seen before, in the “Six Months Later” epilogue of “RIP.”

Perhaps Sexton has been following the activities of El Penitente? There definitely seems to be some connection between the two, as Doctor Hurt claims to know Sexton’s secret, and appears to be using it to blackmail the character into doing his bidding.

Thom Young: Ah, more excellent catches, Dave! If Oberon Sexton has connections to the Black Glove, perhaps that strengthens my theory that he is Percival Sheldrake. The first mention of the Black Glove was in the "Batmen of All Nations" arc in Batman #667-69, and Percival Sheldrake was one of the founding members of that Club of Heroes.

One final thing that intrigued me about this issue is that Dick Grayson and Jason Todd were speaking quite frankly to each other--and calling each other by their actual names--in the scene that ended with Commissioner Gordon and six police officers surrounding them as they prepared to take Jason into custody.

The first thing I thought about was the clear possibility that Gordon and the cops heard Jason refer to Batman as "Grayson." I then immediately realized that Jason Todd was being arrested and that his identity as the Red Hood would be known--as would the fact that he was a former ward of Bruce Wayne's.

Of course, it's long been hinted (if not outright stated) that Gordon knows that Bruce Wayne is Batman--and thus that Dick Grayson was the original Robin and is now the current Batman. However, the police officers with Gordon wouldn't know about the identity of Batman--and the arrest of Jason Todd as one of Bruce Wayne's former wards should certainly raise public interest on Bruce Wayne and the three boys he has taken in as wards over the years.

When we couple that with the fact that it seems likely that the cops heard Batman being referred to as Grayson . . . well, I am really looking forward to the possibilities that are implied by that plot development. Perhaps we'll have a subplot in which Gordon becomes enmeshed in a cover up due to Jason's arrest as the Red Hood.

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