[RR: Red Hood 1] Under the Hood, Pt. 1: May 25-June 7

Under the Hood v.1 TPB

The Renegade Robins Club returns from the dead! (Wait: was it ever gone?) And in true comic book fashion, we’re starting with a new Session 1! First, we will look at two issues from the Hush story arc, and then we will begin the Judd Winick tale of Jason’s turn as an ultra-violent villain. How will Batman handle these shocking revelations?

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Context
  • The first two issues are from the story arc Hush. A villain with a bandaged face and an apparent knowledge of Batman’s secret identity is targeting the Caped Crusader.

  • The third issue is from Judd Winick’s first story arc, As the Crow Flies (Batman #626, 627, 628, 629, & 630). A Scarecrow-esque monster is killing off mobsters.

  • The crossover story arc War Games occurs directly between As the Crow Flies and Under the Hood. You can read it over at World of Bats this month!

Here’s our schedule: 2020-05-25T05:00:00Z2020-06-07T05:00:00Z

Session 1 Selections (Ten Issues)

I. Hush: The Grave & The Game

  1. Batman #617
  2. Batman #618

II. As the Crow Flies: Shotgun

  1. Batman #629

III. Under the Hood

  1. Batman #635
  2. Batman #636
  3. Batman #637
  4. Batman #638

IV. Family Reunion

  1. Batman #639
  2. Batman #640
  3. Batman #641

Poll Question: Which Evil Jason costume do you prefer?

  • Hush costume
  • Under the Hood costume

0 voters

Jason Todd will return in two weeks for a wrap-up of this story arc! Next week, follow the further adventures of Damian Wayne with the @RenegadeRobinsClub as Bruce Wayne returns!

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Aren’t there supposed to be discussion questions?

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From my last post:

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Ah, missed that. Well, I wasn’t expecting this to be broken up into two parts, but I’ll put something together.

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Well, I had written some questions before removing them, if that helps:

Discussion Questions
  1. What did you think of Jason’s/Clayface’s appearance in Hush?
  2. How do you feel about the Jason tease in As the Crow Flies?
  3. What are your initial impressions of Jason as the Red Hood?
  4. Is this story a satisfying reintroduction of the second Boy Wonder?
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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.

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This is the first time I’ve read this arc and while I’m enjoying it, it seems to lack focus. I was wondering for a while if the KORD takeover was going to go anywhere. It felt odd to have Batman go around talking to people that either were resurrected or knew about resurrection. I think it’s interesting to see the two philosophies play against each other. The reader could think of Batman as a deontologist vs Red Hood as utilitarian. I’m looking forward to seeing this play out.

One last thing, was Jason wearing two masks the whole time?

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I believe he was. I don’t know if we’re doing the Green Arrow story that comes after this but the double mask is referenced there.

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I’m with Winick there. Despite all of the continuity clutter, Under the Hood is Hush done right.

Batman’s perspective will certainly be a topic of heated discussion in their upcoming conflict. Thankfully, this story won’t end in a simple boring punching match. I won’t say any more than that.

Yes, we are…after the One Year Later Nighwing stuff.

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Oh yay! Happy it’s not getting glossed over. I’ve also heard good things about Nightwing: Year One but haven’t read it so I’m very excited.

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We actually covered Nightwing: Year One last time (as a possible option, at least). I was referring to the One Year Later stories that pick up a year after Infinite Crisis.

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I have no idea how I missed that! I definitely need to go a read that now. I’m so scatter brained with trying to keep up with reading and the DCFanart club. Sorry for the confusion!

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This is exactly the type of thing I was talking about above when I mentioned the problems with all the crossovers and dropped plotlines in this story. The Kord takeover seems to have mostly been an explanation for where Jason got all his gadgets, and may have also been a tie-in to Infinite Crisis, but it’s all just kind of lacking in payoff.

He absolutely was. He did it once for dramatic effect and then it just got to be a habit.

(The serious answer is that the domino mask more clearly reveals him as the former Robin, as art on the Robins’ faces is very variable but the domino mask is consistent. Also, as we first see Jason reveal himself to the Joker after beating him with a crowbar, that mask was probably important because the Joker has never seen Jason without his domino mask, but with it would have been like “Wait, that’s the Robin I killed!” Then he also wore it during the fight with Bruce because they didn’t quite think it through. There’s a joke about it in a later Green Arrow arc.)

Agreed on that count. If Under the Red Hood is UTH done right, UTH is Hush done right. And the Hush movie just exists.

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Actually, now that I think about it, given that Part 2 reveals that Jason has been holding the Joker hostage since the crowbar scene, and that the final confrontation happens with the Joker there, of course Jason is wearing a domino mask the entire time. The only time it doesn’t really make sense in-universe is when he reveals himself to Bruce, but it being a habit takes care of that.

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Something I should’ve mentioned earlier: this isn’t the first time we’ve seen Onyx. She was introduced in the Green Arrow backups we were reading in those pre-Crisis issues of Detective Comics. She had recently played a significant role in the War Games crossover.

Pretty much a direct quote from Green Arrow #70!

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That was the reference, yes :stuck_out_tongue:

And yeah, that’s kind of another example of a dropped plotline that should have been either entirely removed or done right. As is, she’s just kind of there. We could have had a Jason and Mia style fight expositing similarities and different philosophies instead.

And it also does make me wonder further about how familiar Winick was with the Robin Jason stories, given that that’s two characters who debuted in a Jason Robin story without so much as a nod to the commonality

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Even so, Winick’s pre-Flashpoint Jason stories are still vastly superior to the other stories that tried to make use of him after his return from the dead. We will look at the Nightwing story (not by Winick) and the Green Arrow story (by Winick) in the upcoming weeks, and there’s simply no comparison.

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Very much agreed. I feel like I may have come off here as harder than Winick than I really am… I don’t see him as the Ultimate Final Word on Jason that some people do, I think he’s made missteps and missed opportunities, and I think he’s perpetuated the “bad Robin” thing, but I’m only so hard on these stories because I love them and have read them a million times, enough to notice pretty much every flaw. Trust me, I haven’t done that with OYL Nightwing, because after reading it one time I had absolutely no desire to ever read it again. Winick’s stuff isn’t perfect, but most of his Jason stuff is good.

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They were in the same comics, but the Green Arrow stories rarely, if ever, interact with the Batman stories.

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Fair point. Still a little surprised that they never nodded to the fact that Black Mask debuted during Jason’s run, though, and that Jason was even the one who pulled him out of the fire. I guess it was pre-Crisis, but it’s one of those things that could be transferred into post-Crisis continuity with zero changes. (Also still feels like a “lean into the connections or cut it” situation given the War Games stuff and the League of Assassins connections.)

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