The Joker is back! At the end of last month’s issue, Jason had found the unconscious body of Isabel, GCPD was about to break down the door and the Joker was on the TV screen letting Jason know just how screwed he was.
The story continues from there in issue #15. Jason “deals” with the police, led by Bullock and leaves Isabel in their caring arms. He is fleeing to the Batcave to warn the rest of the family when he is gassed by the Joker. We get a quick cut to Kori and Roy enjoying some down time on the island before jumping back to Jason. He wakes up to find himself in chains with his one of his hoods nailed to the wall with a crowbar. He has been injected with some form of paralyzing agent which does not affect him long due to his training with the All Caste. Unfortunately, the ensuing fight between the Jason and Joker doesn’t last long before Jason falls for the whole electrified crowbar trick and is unconscious again.
Meanwhile, Bullock has Isabel in the hospital in seemingly stable condition and is busy trying to identify her. Her cell phone reveals her last few calls were to a J/First Class and Bullock calls the number and leaves a message. Kori and Roy intercept the message, realize Jason is in trouble and leave for Gotham at once. We rejoin Jason, mysteriously re-equipped with a new hood by the Joker, as he is confronted by several mock ups of his life including a bullet fragment pulled from his father, mannequins of him finding his mother’s body and the medical supplies he got caught stealing. The Joker narrates these scenes revealing his orchestration of Jason’s entire life. A trapdoor switch is activated, Jason falls and is knocked unconscious for the third time this issue. Beside him lies the also-unconscious Tim Drake. Kori and Roy arrive in Gotham and find the rest of the Titans who are presumably looking for Tim.
I am sure almost everyone who reads this title or who follows The Batman Universe has been looking forward to a confrontation between Jason and the Joker for a long time. I know I have. And in this issue we get it! Also, the central issue is the same thread that is being pulled through all of the Death of the Family books – does the Joker know the identities of the Bat family? At one point Jason even challenges the Joker to use his name if he knows it, but he does not. Of course, I never thought that we would get any closure along these lines in issue #15 because I have always assumed we will get our answers in the main Batman title (being written by genius architect Scott Snyder.) The problem here is all the evidence in this book that the Joker knows Jason’s identity. The mock-ups of Jason’s life are spot on and the Joker makes direct references to the fact that he killed him. The Joker really did make his own Robin. It’s so obvious it’s unavoidable.
Many of my fellow readers are a bit uncomfortable with the idea that the Joker knows the identities of the family. Personally, I have no problem with it. It makes more sense with all the other story lines out there. That being said, the Joker and Jason’s dialogue on the matter in this book is handled very very well. Jason does not want to believe for a minute that the Joker has been watching over him his entire life; he believes he is his own man. Jason’s inner monologue is extremely engaging and he seems to be legitimately concerned with the other members of the bat family.
Jason’s high regard for Bullock is intriguing. His previous trust in the detective back in his Robin days led him to entrust Isabel’s care to him. The detective will be doing an in-depth investigation on Isabel and this could make for an interesting side story moving forward.
The last few pages of the issue definitely left me impatient for next month. It looks like we are in store for a team-up between the Outlaws and the Titans with both of their leaders simultaneously MIA. One thing that was a bit curious. Why in the world does the Joker put a Red Hood on Jason after he knocks him out the second time? It is out of character for him. And how many of his hoods does he have? We see one nailed to the wall by a crowbar and the one that the Joker puts on Jason later in the book is in good shape, so I guess he stole a spare? What is that?
The cover for this issue is the Death of the Family die cut covers that have been used on the other Batman titles in this crossover. Behind the Joker flap in this case is the Red Hood Mask. I personally hate these covers. I have found the art under almost all the flaps below par and this one is no different. It also makes the issue annoying to read as the cover tends to physically get in the way the entire time. Once we get past the cover the rest of the art is fine with one exception. For whatever reason the scenes where Jason is wearing the Red Hood look almost blurry, like pictures that were taken by a camera that is just slightly out of focus. It’s probably just me but it doesn’t look right.
In the end, this book had it all – thrilling action, good story-telling, cool guest stars and an exciting cliff-hanger. I also felt that it was an excellent use of the Death of the Family crossover. Now I’m really looking forward to the crossover inside a crossover with the Titans next month.
Red Hood and the Outlaws #15:
Reviewed by Ed Grause