Synopsis: The issue opens in Crime Alley as Jason Todd recounts the night he met the Batman. Jason’s life was not exactly headed in the right direction but this night would change his life forever. While Jason was trying to steal the tires off the Batmobile, Batman interrupts him and asks him what he is doing. After a few snarky comments, Jason tries to fight Batman rather than run. Batman stops him and asks if he is hungry. We next see the pair eating fast food on the hood of the Batmobile overlooking Gotham and it is ultimately decided that Jason will come to live with Bruce and train to be his partner. Jason describes this as a first time he had people who believed in him.
The flashback then shows the dynamic duo out on patrol and the seeds of mistrust between Batman and Jason growing. Jason talks about how good things could not last with him and how his darker nature made his future very uncertain. Not he or Batman could be sure if he would turn out to be a hero or “something else”.
In present day, Jason is attacking police as the Red Hood. He is attempting to shoot the mayor when Batman appears and the two begin to brawl in the streets. Jason eventually gains the upper hand and knocks Batman out. As Bruce begins to pass out, he sees Red Hood point a gun to the mayor’s head and pull the trigger.
Later that night, Jason is in some kind of villains’ pub and the customers are all cheering on his shooting of the mayor. The bartender reminds Jason that the Red Hood used to be the Joker which prompts Jason to relive his death at the hands of the Joker and his subsequent rebirth. He is interrupted by a man at the bar who offers him a spot in Black Mask’s expanding operation.
After leaving the bar, Jason goes to his hideout in a bomb shelter underneath the police station where Batman is waiting. They talk about how the mayor was actually infected with some techno-organic virus which Jason cured him with an antidote he shot/injected into the mayor earlier that night. Jason demands to know why Batman will not trust him but Bruce explains that he can’t ignore the fact that Jason has crossed the line in the past. Jason reminds Bruce of the night they met and Bruce told him to trust people. Batman agrees and allows Jason to continue investigating Black Mask’s growing operations but warns him not to lose himself in it.
The issue ends with a flashback scene of Batman and Robin taking a photo together in the Batcave and that photo being placed on Jason’s mantle at home in present day with a few other reminders of the happier days of their partnership.
Thoughts: As a standalone issue for Red Hood, I have to admit I really enjoyed this issue. I know that most people have not been fans of Red Hood and the Outlaws since the beginning of the New 52. Knowing where this new title is headed with Jason teaming up with Bizarro and Artemis does not give me a lot of hope. I was still very much hoping they might do a Red Hood/Red Robin title following Rebirth given how those two were pretty well written during Batman and Robin Eternal. I just think that when you pair Jason with super powered beings it takes away from the grittiness that should be prevalent in a Red Hood title, especially one where he is trying to infiltrate Black Mask’s operation. I was hoping this series might take on the feel and tone of a The Departed with Jason infiltrating a mob and maybe even beginning to lose himself in it. Again, these are concerns I have for the future but this single issue did a great job at keeping the focus on Jason and his roller coaster life that has led him to this point today.
I really loved the artwork here by Dexter Soy. Apart from the Bat-signal on Red Hood’s chest, he drew Red Hood how I wanted to see him in this title. Some artists have given the Hood a nose of some kind which throws off the look to me. Soy also depicted Batman in various panels perfectly for the tone of that scene whether he was looming over Jason in the street with his cape billowing out around him or just speaking him face to face in the bunker.
Overall, I really enjoyed this issue but I think that is mostly due to the fact it was a standalone Red Hood issue. I am still skeptical of the inclusion of Bizarro and Artemis, but hopefully Lobdell can deliver some decent writing to support the solid artwork so far.