Volume two of the Under The Hood trade picks up with Batman #645, and we are treated to a retelling of Jason Todd’s Post-Crisis origin. It should be noted that in Todd’s brief Pre-Crisis form (made his debut early in 1983) his origin is nearly identical to Dick Grayson’s, right down being orphaned and being taking under Bruce Wayne’s wing! This retelling, as well as an incident with Captain Boomerang, is interwoven in-between Bruce and Alfred trying to determine what exactly happened, which includes finding out that Todd’s casket is empty. In a way this was done to retcon Todd’s bratty behavior as being the result of a “mean streak” and thereby explaining why Todd would be driven to where he is as The Red Hood
In order to combat The Red Hood, The Black Mask enlists the aid of Deathstroke and his Secret Society of Super Villains. Two of them, Captain Nazi and the Hyena are shown, a third, Count Vertigo surprisingly shows up in midst of the fight with Red Hood and Batman. While Batman causes Hyena to go after Count Vertigo, Red Hood kills Captain Nazi, an act that Batman berates Red Hood about.
Batman #648 starts out with Jason sending a message to Wayne Manor, one that causes Alfred to deduce that Todd somehow has The Joker held captive. While this is going on Todd as the Red Hood is busy taking on The Black Mask himself, but it turns out to be a ruse as it isn’t Todd under the mask at all! We then see Todd with a tied up Joker. Batman arrived in time to see the faux Hood revealed and offers proof to Black Mask that it isn’t the real Red Hood, after realizing where Todd is, Batman leaves to confront him.
Underscoring the climatic showdown with Batman, Todd (no Red Hood mask for the rest of the story) and Joker is the on-panel destruction by Chemo of Bludhaven, also seen in Infinite Crisis #4.
The battle that rages throughout #650 is essentially a chance to give contrasts to what Batman does, his moral code, and what Todd is doing, as well as Todd quipping about Bruce’s tactical style of fighting. In the end Bruce is able to subdue Todd before Todd can blow Joker’s head off, Joker then shoots an explosive, and we are left with Batman looking through the debris, and the fate of both Todd and Joker are unknown (as well as Nightwing’s which is discussed by both Bruce and Jason as they watch Chemo go off).
The trade wraps up with what surely should be the start of movie, a chronological account of what exactly happened to bring Jason Todd back among the living.
Batman Annual # 25, written by the same scribe, Judd Winick, as is the rest of the story, and illustrated by Shane Davis who also did #646, Doug Mahnke had done the chores on #635-639, 641, 645 (it should be noted that Tim Drake appears on the cover of #645, but only appears in a one panel group shot in issue #635 in the entire trade), 647-649, Paul Lee for # 640 and Eric Battle did #650. The story goes through Todd’s death, and the whole Superboy time wall punches, and the idea that six months after being buried, Todd was reanimated, but with severe brain damage and couldn’t say who he was. A year later Todd’s fight-or-flight instincts took over and he made an escape from the hospital that he was in and took to the streets. He was then found by Talia al Ghul, daughter of Ra’s, and both she and her father tried to nurse and train the boy (they knew exactly who he was) to health in the hopes that he’d be their protege. Exactly how this fits in with Talia’s own son Damian whom be showing up in Grant Morrison’s run soon after this was published was never mentioned.
Ra’s becomes disappointed after a year that Todd is still very much in a vegetative state and decides to cut the whole project. Talia dumps Todd into a Lazarus pit behind Ra’s back and telling the boy to run and sets things in motion for Todd’s revengeful ways against Bruce for not killing the Joker for his murder. It is shown that Todd contacts Tommy Elliot, Hush, and becomes part of the mind games war Hush is waging with Bruce. And we see that it was in fact Jason at first in the graveyard battle in Hush, only switching himself out with Clayface after seeing Bruce not having much of a reaction to a returned Jason Todd, and it ends with Todd resolved to the fact that he must confront Batman and The Joker.
Well, this is certainly an entertaining story and worthy of being shown in a movie format. Issues with Winick’s story telling abilities and what has happened with the Jason Todd character in the ensuing years aside, this was a good tale, perhaps as good as any to show why Bruce Wayne’s moral code exists and how one can be lost to the darkness of one’s goals for revenge via going well over moral lines.
That being said, the story does cause one to see the shame of what was done with the Jason Todd character since. If this had been a one-off or Batman was able to get through to Jason and get him back on the straight and narrow path, maybe things would be different for the character. In fact there was an attempt to push Todd to being less Punisher like, but Todd went right back to the “only way to fight crime is to kill criminals” approach in both Battle For The Cowl and Batman & Robin and seemingly got his butt handed to him by Dick Grayson both times leads that approach to be pretty much a one-trick-pony status.
But enough talk about how stale and broken the character has become, the movie should stand as a nice standalone piece, as most of the DC Universe animated films have, though the 75 minute running time does concern me a bit. While a good story can take place with cutting out most of the 8 issue arc with mostly throw away pieces of dialogue and whatnot, it was disconcerting with what they did with Superman/Batman: Public Enemies which both cut entire storylines but changed around elements of the story to better fit a video version narrative. Especially considering it looks like they are going to include stuff from the Annual, when quite frankly just the stuff with Batman, Red Hood, Black Mask and Joker should make a good tight movie, with allusions to other things that happen during the storyline through dialogue and whatnot.
In any event, both of the trades are nice and quick reads and a good standalone story, if you don’t think about what has gone on since!
Batman: Under the Hood-Volume 2:
Reviewed by SteveJRogers