Batman: Under the Red Hood

“Infinite Crisis Week” Day 2!  Continuing this week-long discussion, we’re now faced with the Batman lead-up to Infinite Crisis, i.e. what the heck Batman was doing prior to all hell breaking loose.  Dealing with the aftermath of Jason Todd’s return, Batman is stuck between Black Mask and Red Hood as an all-out turf war erupts.

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The duo form an extremely uneasy truce, at least for the time being.  I must admit, I love reading the exchanges between these two, and wish there were more of them.  Mistah J had to fill me in on what happens to Black Mask, since that particular storyline isn’t on “the shelf”, and I was disappointed, if only because it meant these quippy moments were at an end.  For two such violent, no-nonsense beings, they sure can crack jokes.

Of course, the comic isn’t all lighthearted death and destruction.  The bulk of the comic focuses on Jason Todd’s quest for revenge against The Joker, the man responsible for his death.

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In a brutal scene reminiscent of that in Death in the Family, Jason beats Joker with a crowbar until he’s laying bloodied and unconscious on the floor.  It’s a savage revenge, and yet one can’t help but sympathize with Jason.  His actions are violent, yet are they completely unwarranted?

The battle rages on as Batman locates Jason and Joker, holed up in a warehouse. Jason gives Batman an ultimatum: either Bruce has to kill Jason, or Jason will kill Joker.

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Batman begs and pleads with Jason, not wanting to be responsible for a death and also, I suspect, not wanting to see Jason go down that path of vengeance.  His pleas go unanswered, and as Jason counts down to the execution, Batman throws a perfectly aimed batarang, forcing Jason to release the Joker without anyone dying.  It’s a move only Batman would pull off, choosing to save the life of a homicidal maniac who killed his partner rather than allow said partner to get the vengeance and “justice” he feels he deserves.

It’s an open ending, with the comic closing as Bludhaven is bombed.  This ties into Infinite Crisis, and is fleshed out more within those pages.  We’re also given an explanation of how Jason Todd is alive, as though the writers wanted to drive home the point that this is really Jason and not some sort of trick. I didn’t love the way in which his return was explained (I was hoping the Lazarus Pit would play a bigger role in his resurrection, since it just fits in with the Batman mythos more), but I accept it for what it is, and how it connects to the larger DC story.  Having Jason back is a major move for the comic, and I’ll be curious to see how he and Batman interact moving forward.  Both are antiheroes, but they skirt different sides of the line of right and wrong, and watching them interact as each believes he is doling out true justice is pretty fascinating.  It’d be a cool dichotomy regardless, but the fact that Red Hood is Batman’s former protege and what Batman considers one of his greatest failures,  it’s a fascinating interaction.  I can’t wait to see they square off again, or perhaps even join forces if the need arises.

Awesome comic, awesome reintroduction of a long-lost character, just an all-around solid story.

-Jess

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