Red Hood: The Lost Days #1
Batman 635 saw a new villain enter the mythos. His name, the Red Hood. His identity, a mystery at first, but when the mask was finally remove, it was a shock. Gotham was still reeling from the events of War Games. The Black Mask had become the new king pin of crime in the city. Batman had lost another Robin. And then there was this new foe. An enemy not just to Batman, but to the Black Mask as well. He was dangerous to the extreme, able to strike a major coup in the local drug trade with two hours, a duffel bag and a meeting of the heads (in this case, literally and figuratively).
This marked the debut of Winick on the caped crusader and it really was a new era for the book. One that started the long road to R.I.P. - where the hero would be defeated in a pretty profound way. But before we got there, the whole comic world got a shock. The Red Hood was really Jason Todd, the poor Robin that had been killed by the fans. Yup, the fans broke through the fourth wall calling into DC’s offices to have the poor kid erased from existence. Eventually, the Joker beat him to a pulp with a crow bar and blew him up.
Then came Batman 638, featuring that new thorn in Black Mask’s side visiting a familiar carnival (ask Barbara Gordon all about it, I’m sure she remembers it). He’s mumbling some nonsense about finding some guy. You turn the page and there is the Joker, himself, and the Hood starts to beat him with a crow bar and then the last page – Jason Todd’s face, domino mask and all, asking the Joker how it feels.
Batman begins to suspect he knows who the Red Hood is and goes on a search to find out how Jason could still be alive. He consults friends who were once dead, those who know of the occult, he inspects sealed Lazarus pits. He is short with those that work with him. He is obsessed. Probably rightfully so. Jason was his personal failure and he felt that he had never done proper diligence to his legacy. Sure, he’d hung the costume in the cave. But, was Jason back to haunt him?
Jason offered up all kinds of problems to our hero. He knew his fighting style. He knew Bruce’s assets and how to go about obtaining his own toys. He knew how the gadgets work. He is the kind of foe that could take Batman down. Even worse for the world’s greatest detective, there was no explanation for the return. No one could help him. Add to this a fear that Jason must have hated his mentor in the final moments of his first life, and Batman had reason to be concerned.
The foremost badass on the planet, scared and answerless. It’s not your normal modus operandi for a tale of the Dark Knight. But this was the tale that Judd Winick told with his first run at the marquee of the oldest superhero universe. At the end of what would be titled Under the Hood in trade, Batman sticks his chin up, defiant to the evidence and marches on with his crusade. Threads dangling…
Batman may have been occupied by what was mundane fights with Killer Croc and the rest of his rogues, but fandom - not so much. How was Jason back? What madness was this?
Along comes Infinite Crisis and Batman Annual 25. The Superboy punch. The anger of the boy who believed so hard that he became Superman caused a rift in the reality of the DC Universe. Not quite “its magic”, but not completely removed either. Science fiction hokum at its worst. Clever comic writing, debatably – suddenly things that didn’t make sense did. It’s all a world of four colors, what’s it matter anyhow?
We also find out about his year in a near catatonic state, his being found by Talia, taken under her wing, being cast out, flung into a Lazarus pit, finding of the Joker’s failure to be killed, his real role in the Hush mystery, and his donning of his killer’s original alias.
Now Winick gives us Lost Days. A nifty little recap of the part Talia played in Todd’s return. We see how she angered her father and then in a Winick mainstay flashback, we go back to his death, the rumors of his return, the young mindless warrior, the casting out and then finally the plunge into the pit.
Sound familiar? That’s because it is. This is a story we already know - expanded. Details tweaked.
Todd fascinates me and this issue is written well enough. It is high melodrama and short on any real action and as such it is an enjoyable read, a neat reminder of what we already know.
There are two saving graces I see here. One, Ra’s wants to know why Bruce isn’t investigating Todd’s appearance. So just how did Batman figure out is was Jason? Was the Red Hood right? Did he know the second his former partner started fighting Clayface in the graveyard or did al Ghul let the cowled vigilante in on it later?
The other thing is the failure to mention the reason for the resurrection. It feels like this is an important bit of information missing from the story here. Winick is not a bad storyteller so I don’t think he would overlook the punch just cause it is unpopular. He might be setting up a new explanation and if that is the case, history will finally be aligning itself and DCU Legacies might be the end all of the History of the DCU, only time (and a little luck will be needed) will tell.
Raimondi is a fine artist. He conveys the story well, even being deft enough to make Todd the Zombie book look stiff and firmly removed from those around him. Thick lines and dynamic coloring create some more tricks.
In the end this is far from being an essential Bat comic. What it is instead, is a nice enough recap expounded but inconsequential. Fortunately it is marked as a prologue and may have just been a catch up for those unfamiliar with the story. There is potential here, but potential is far from the most rewarding of merits.