Well at least it was a Jason appearance that actually referenced one of his pre-death appearances. Sadly, it was a line from Death in the Family that was taken badly out of context.
Love the outfit, though. I appear to be the only one supporting it in the poll right now but I STAND BY MY TASTES.
You could tell that Winick was writing it with Under the Hood in mind. It gives some interesting insights into Bruce but is also entirely about Bruce.
When I first read it as a kid, I thought it was the coolest freaking thing ever. Now my thoughts are… more complicated. Overall positive, but not unreservedly so. It was good, but there were several ways it could have been better.
For the most part, I’d say it is, which is a small miracle given that Winick clearly had not read any of Jason’s Robin appearances in more than a decade, if he ever had.
You heard me.
Look. It’s not just me, right? It’s weird how there are basically NO references to Jason’s actual time as Robin, with the exception of like that one panel from DitF that everyone knows which got referenced all the time and a bit about Jason stealing the tires, which again is more of a “I know this happened because it got referenced a lot in later comics, but I never really brought up any of the details specific to the original” thing.
You could say that it’s Winick trying to keep continuity cleaner for readers, but I don’t really buy it? In the first place, this story is FULL of crossovers and references to other events at the time that bog down the story (one of the reasons I prefer the Under the Red Hood movie). In the second place, I wouldn’t expect a page for page recap of his original run as Robin, but it’s weird that Winick kept using the “you shattered his collarbone!” thing as the big Jason Warning Sign instead of, like… anything from the comics? Felipe? The pimp in the Dumpster Slasher story? Hello?
Plus there are a couple of other things that just seem a little… off? Take Jason taking over the Gotham Underworld, for example. It’s not that I don’t buy it as an interesting and believable direction for the character, it’s just that it’s weird that it happened and didn’t reference things like Jason never wanting to be a crook, Jason’s mother struggling with addiction, and Jason’s father being killed by Two-Face, all of which are hugely relevant to his current situation and plan. Hell, in part two (if I can skip ahead a bit), Jason’s all like “I’m not talking about killing Riddler, or Scarecrow, or Dent!” when one of the people on that list literally killed his father. And again, there’s a lot of potential character depth there, with Jason as so focused on vengeance and being a better Batman seeming to have forgiven Two-Face for that, but… did Winick know that? Like, was that intended?
Plus, if I can discuss the Under the Red Hood movie for a moment (which was sadly rotated off the service too early for this club, but let’s be honest, you’ve all seen it), it always kind of grated on me how Winick totally removed the mother element of Death in the Family in UTRH… the betrayal and the sacrifice were big parts of it, and instead it’s just because Jason ran off on a mission? Sure, I get it, limited screentime, but I’m pretty sure there was room in that movie for Jason to rush in against Batman’s advice to save a hostage who turned out to be a Joker plant or something. But instead, that element was totally removed and replaced with something that feels more like yet another variation of the “Jason was a bad Robin who was responsible for his own death” thing.
Also, just on another note, the Under the Hood storyline in the comics was just kind of… messy. There’s all these weird crossovers and dropped plotlines that go nowhere. And the worst part is that they’re all half assed! I might have been okay with it as an interconnected continuity thing if it had worked, but like, either do it right or cut it! The War Games references (If they’d just had Black Mask kill off a Robin in the storyline before and come to prominence, and you have the first dead Robin coming back to life and hitting Black Mask where it hurts, maybe reference that in more than one throwaway panel? You don’t think Jason might have mentioned that at some point after the reveal? Not to mention the parallels between Jason taking over the Gotham Underworld and the plan that went so wrong in War Games), the Onyx stuff (Ex-assassin for the League of Assassins who’d just been working undercover in the Gotham Underworld? Jason parallels? Gonna bring none of that up? Either give her a proper showing or cut her role entirely, this was just a disservice to both characters), the Nightwing appearance that goes nowhere and never results in Dick reacting to the news (the movie is guilty of this too, by the way), the Society of Supervillains stuff (just have Black Mask hire freaking assassins), the Infinite Crisis tie-ins (laaauuuundry list of issues here. We’ve all complained about the resurrection explanation, but interrupting the Bruce and Jason fight with the bombing of Blüdhaven was also unnecessarily distracting. I suspect it was meant to raise the stakes but instead it just felt weird. Plus the ending makes absolutely no sense if you haven’t been following Infinite Crisis), the Identity Crisis reference with Zatanna… like, I feel like I’m playing bingo here.
I’ve previously criticized Death in the Family for dragging a bunch of dated real world international politics into a story about the Joker killing Robin. Under the Hood isn’t as bad as that, but it still brings a lot of dated “at the time” comic events into things in a clumsy way, and it makes it hard to go back through as an uninitiated reader. The movie, thankfully, resolves most of these complaints, but it’s one of the reasons I prefer the movie to the comic and it’s worth noting here. This is a story about Jason, Batman and the Joker. Keep it that way.
I also think that the first volume of Under the Hood is weaker than the second, for the reasons above. The second volume isn’t without its crossovers and weak points, but it feels like once Winick got to do the “HEY! IT’S JASON!” reveal that he got to really get down to the heart of the story.
Okay, now that I’ve dragged the hell out of this story, I should note that it was and still is my favorite Batman comic arc ever. If I come off as harsh, it’s only because I’ve read, re-read, analyzed and over analyzed this comic more than any one person was ever meant to.
Winick has said in several interviews that he got the inspiration for Under the Hood from Hush, when he initially thought that Jason was actually going to be Hush and immediately saw this entire spanning arc where Batman’s greatest failure was returned from the grave as his greatest enemy, and said he loved the “opera” of it, enough to write it himself. I see it. There’s plenty to be said about the (continued) retconning of Jason as the “bad Robin” and the amount of research I suspect Winick didn’t do, but going death of the author here and treating it as though we ARE meant to place this in the context of Jason, the street kid with the mother who died of either an overdose or a related illness, who stole tires to survive and loved being Robin, who got angry at dealers and people who hurt children and hurt women in gendered ways, Jason here is just INCREDIBLY compelling.
I love that we get to see his protectiveness of children literally from his first appearance as Red Hood. I love his dark humor and his deadpan wit and his drama. I love that he is, fundamentally, angry at the fact that someone who hurt not just him (but especially him) but thousands of other people, not for understandable reasons, but because he thought it was FUNNY, was never really stopped. I love that he’s angry that the person he loved and trusted most never truly stopped the guy who MURDERED HIM. I love that he’s flawed but sympathetic, that the narrative never ever fully justifies or condemns him.
I am by no means on board with Jason’s murdery philosophy. But Batman’s “no killing” rule can get… tiring in the context of comics, where, unlike real life, we all know the Joker is just going to keep escaping and killing indefinitely. Even if I agree with the philosophy, it’s something that needs to be challenged onscreen, and Jason, as the trauma-driven victim of Joker’s most prominent and personal murder, is the perfect person to do that. He gives a voice to that “seriously, Bruce, what the hell?” sentiment so many of us have had while reading Batman comics over the years, and he does it in a sympathetic, entertaining, thought-provoking and cathartic manner.
So for all its flaws, I do think Under the Hood was a fitting return for Jason. It just struck a lot of chords that needed to be struck, at the right time, using the right character. And it turned Jason from a misremembered, one-note case in the Batcave to a living, breathing, complicated antihero whose potential is still being explored to this day.
Also, Jason repeatedly completely and thoroughly dunking on Black Mask was a ■■■■■■■ highlight.