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Review: Batman: Under the Hood-Volume 1

Jason Todd. The name now invokes dread for comic book fans for several reasons. The first being the obnoxious punk who fans couldn’t get to the phone lines fast enough to kill off. The next a ghost that haunted the Dark Knight, a point that was brought up as often as the death of Thomas & Martha Wayne. The final reason a resurrected character that may just be the biggest example of a comic book company doing something grandiose but not knowing, or understanding, what to do after the original idea got executed.


In any event, DC Animation later this month will be retelling the story arc that brought Jason Todd back among the living in the DCU in Batman: Under The Red Hood. The storyline was originally told in the pages of Batman #635-641 (came out in December of 2004), and 645-650 (April of 2006) (642-644 appears to be a special stand alone issues for some reason) as well as Batman Annual # 25 from 2006. Batman 635-641 were collected in Batman: Under The Hood vol. 1 which came out in 2005, and 645-650 and the annual were collected in vol. 2 in 2006.


Most comic fans, or at least the ones following Batman titles, should know the story of Jason Todd, or at least the Post-Crisis version, but just in case you don’t, here is what you need to know. Basically street urchin found by Batman trying to jack the wheels off the Bat-mobile, becomes the second Robin. DC put it to a fan call-in vote to kill him off, which they do and he dies by the hands of The Joker. He later becomes a “symbol” by Bruce about the cost of his private war on crime with a memorial in the Bat Cave and constant mentions about being a lost partner.


The first “inkling” about Jason returning came within Jeph Loeb’s “Hush” storyline, where Batman fights Hush in Batman 617-618 in 2003. Hush reveals himself to be Jason Todd, but in reality it was Clayface and it was all part of the mind games being played on Bruce. We jump to 2006’s Infinite Crisis and the now infamous “Superboy Prime Time Wall Punches” which caused all sorts of changes to DC continuity in yet another attempt by DC to “fix” problems caused by earlier continuity “fixes.” Jason Todd returning to life, though everyone, including himself, knows that he died (to be fair this is common in most resurrection stories, it just seems comical that this happened due to a change in time but nothing really “changed”).


And so, Judd Winick was given the task to spin the tale in the Batman title of Jason Todd’s return to Gotham, which is where presumably the new movie will start. The first volume of the story introduces Todd as The Red Hood, a new take on an identity The Joker used in a Golden Age story, as well as a supposed “origin” used by Alan Moore for The Killing Joke (supposedly since Joker even says in that story, "I prefer his origin to be multiple choice") who is acting as a masked Punisher like vigilante killing off thugs that he finds. Red Hood is finding these thugs by working under the cover as a psychotic villain, and trying to muscle his way onto Black Mask’s turf.


Now this story takes place just after the War Games storyline, so Bruce is cut off from just about all of his usual supporting cast, except for Nightwing who drops by in #636 to help Bruce working on a case, pun slightly intended as it actually is a case, or crate shipment that Batman is trying to prevent. A bomb explodes on one of the crates, and Bruce and Dick meet the Red Hood for the first time.


The cargo turns out to be for Black Mask and is Amazo, a super villain with the powers of members of The Justice League. Batman and Nightwing have a decent fight and dispose of Amazo, which angers Black Mask. Black Mask’s feelings perk up when Red Hood calls him up to say that he managed to pilfer a crate not touched by the original Dynamic Duo, a crate loaded with Kryptonite. Red Hood essentially tries to sell the stuff, to which Black Mask orders Mr. Freeze to go out and kill Red Hood. This brings us to the second meeting of Batman and Red Hood, but Red Hood and Freeze get away before any good old fashioned fighting goes down.


#637 then ends with Red Hood visiting the Joker in his abandoned circus hideout and unleashing a beating not unlike the one Joker gave him in Batman #427 and revealing to the readers that yes, this is in fact Jason Todd.


The rest of volume 1 of the story is Bruce working on the suspicion he has. Based on the familiarity he felt when fighting the Red Hood in the first place, this could actually be Jason Todd. He and Zatanna first investigate Ra’s Al Ghul’s Lazarus Pits to see if any have been opened recently. They then visit Jason Blood, aka Etrigan The Demon, to find out how one can be resurrected. Finally Batman has a talk with both Green Arrow, (of which, as well as his conversation with Zatanna, seems to imply that Bruce knows about the mind wipe that Zatanna did to him in Identity Crisis) and Superman about their respective returns from the dead.


#641 wraps up with the start of the fight between Red Hood and Batman that started issue #635 with Jason Todd revealing himself to Batman. The two have a discussion; right in the open with their masks off, about how to handle crime in Gotham. Well, actually Todd has his Robin style domino mask. Turns out the resurrection has made Jason Todd angrier and more willing to go beyond Bruce’s moral code about killing or crossing lines. And the first volume ends with the final panel of #641 with Bruce telling Alfred to keep the Todd memorial case up as Todd’s return “doesn’t change anything at all.”


Batman: Under the Hood-Volume 1:



Editor's Note: Tune in tomorrow for volume two of Batman: Under the Red Hood.


Posted by SteveJRogers

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