Batman and Red Hood 20

batman and red hood 20

Today, Drew and guest writer Michael D. are discussing Batman and Red Hood 20, originally released May 8th, 2013.

Drew: Bruce Wayne has never been particularly good at processing grief. He’s still driven by the death of his parents — actively and daily. In the wake of Damian’s death, Peter Tomasi has set out to follow Bruce through the five stages of grief, but has Bruce ever gone through all five stages? This month’s stage — anger — reveals a very familiar Batman, suggesting that he may have stalled out there 20+ years ago. Of course, both this issue (like last month’s) finds Bruce bargaining something fierce, so perhaps there’s hope he can progress, after all.

The issue opens with Bruce being pestered by Carrie Kelley, who is suspicious of Damian’s sudden disappearance. Bruce offers the most limp, disinterested cover story — he sent Damian off to a farm somewhere or something — but Alfred offers her something else: a job taking care of Titus in Damian’s absence. It looks like Carrie might be a player in this series going forward. Keeping someone around who is so interested in and suspicious of Damian’s absence is an obvious recipe for disaster, but Bruce is too preoccupied to notice — he wants to bring the hurt to the hitmen who first came looking to claim the bounty Talia put on Damian’s head. He tracks them to Ethiopia, and asks Jason for a hand in taking them down. Jason agrees, and the two deliver some brutal justice — with Bruce even condoning Jason’s use of a gun:

Shooting bad guys in the ass is a line Batman will never cross.

Of course, Bruce has an ulterior motive for bringing Jason to Ethiopia: he wants to rehash the events of Jason’s death and resurrection in hopes that they might hold the secret to Damian’s resurrection. This is understandably a sensitive subject for Jason, so he bails.

Bruce has been making some questionable decisions recently, but bringing Jason to the site of his worst memory seems like only a bad choice. Bruce claims he hopes it would jog Jason’s memory, but it still seems like he could have asked first. “Hey Jason, do you remember anything about how you came back to life? No? Do you think the surprise of taking you back to where you died would make that easier or harder?” I get that Bruce is desperate here, but this is so obviously a stupid, counterproductive move, it’s hard to really relate.

This issue also brings up some weirdness around Jason in the New 52. We know the broad strokes are largely as they were before: A Death in the Family still happened, as did parts of Under the Hood, and at least the gist of Morrison’s Batman Epic. What’s not clear is whether Jason tried to kill Damian, as he did in Morrison’s Batman and Robin run. If that’s the case, then it seems like Bruce should be every bit as mad at Jason as he is at the assassins he’s permanently crippling in this issue — they all tried, but failed, to kill Damian. At least the hitmen were doing it for money, Jason was just doing it because he wanted to (also, he actually hurt Damian, something that can’t be said of any of the hired guns Talia sicked on him). I get that Jason has been forgiven in the New 52, but without a stronger sense of what of his actions are still canon, it’s difficult to say what he’s been forgiven for.

That ill-defined history is by no means Tomasi’s fault, but it really hamstrings the emotional weight of this issue. How tenuous is their partnership here? Does Jason still blame Bruce for not avenging his death? This relationship is by rights the most complicated in the wake of Damian’s death, but without a firm sense of what happened after Jason died, the interactions here come off as bland and unspecific. We get the anger, but nothing else.

That’s particularly unfortunate, given how nuanced Tomasi’s approach has been otherwise. Last issue featured a great deal of denial, but there were hints of anger and bargaining there, too. This issue features plenty of anger, but again, Bruce is bargaining to keep Damian alive. Jason was a brilliant choice for anger, and I can’t wait to see how Barbara’s pragmatism plays against Bruce’s bargaining next issue. Still, this issue felt strangely hollow, which maybe ties back to the concern that Bruce has always been stuck in the anger stage — it’s hard to show anger when the character is perpetually angry. Tomasi’s left to lay it on a little too thick, which the relationships just don’t have the structure to support.

Missteps aside, I’m still glad this creative team will be guiding Bruce through his grief. Tomasi has such a confident handle on Bruce (and his relationship with Damian), and Patrick Gleason continues to crank out breathtaking pages. This issue let me wanting, but I know it’s a bit of an aberration. With that, I’d like to turn things over to Michael D, who you might remember from our All-New X-Men 9 writeup. Michael, were you as underwhelmed with this issue as I was, or were you able to find more to latch on to? Also, what do you make of that final page Two-Face cameo?

Michael: Like you said Drew, this issue was a little disappointing compared to what we’ve seen in Batman and Robin so far. I remember reading the solicits for this issue a few months back (before we even knew Damian was going to die) and I was merely excited to see some Bruce/Jason interaction under the direction of Pete Tomasi. So yeah, it was a letdown that this was what Tomasi and Gleason churned out. Part of me wants to say that the usually brilliant Batman and Robin team knew this issue was going to be a bit of a clunker, so they threw in Cliff Richards to give some ho-hum fill-in pencil work as well.

We’ve all been curious about Carrie Kelley’s role ever since we discovered that she was going to be a part of Batman and Robin in some fashion…and our curiosity continues. I really hope that she doesn’t become the new Robin (or Harper Row for that matter); not because both are females but rather because I think it would really undercut the importance of Damian Wayne as Robin and as Bruce Wayne’s son. I’m all for there being a new Robin someday, but not just yet. Another reason I’m against Harper or Carrie taking over as Robin in the near future is that their origin would most likely mirror Tim Drake’s pre-New 52 origin: a smart young person uncovering Batman’s identity and helping him overcome his loss of a Robin. Either way it looks like Ms. Kelley will be dropping in at Wayne Manor every now and then, so she’s bound to uncover Bruce’s secret identity, Damian’s death, or both. I would love to see Carrie in an Oracle role or even a crime fighting role; just not Robin, not yet.

Alfred totally has a new BFFBatman continuity in The New 52 is nothing if not muddled, and Drew you are most definitely right about Jason’s own history falling under that blanket statement. Jason Todd is a great character in theory, but I have yet to see a writer truly bring out his potential or give him a coherent and straightforward origin, including new Red Hood and the Outlaws writer James Tynion IV. Batman and Robin is the book that is most dealing with Batman’s grief over Damian, but since that death occurred in Batman Incorporated, Tomasi and Gleason are a little limited in what they can and cannot do with their story. Batman and Red Hood #20 exists in a curious bubble in time where Jason has been recuperating at Wayne Manor after being attacked by The Joker in the “Death of the Family” epilogue, despite the fact that he was (and still is) held hostage as Wingman by “The School of Night” in Batman Incorporated…needless to say: it’s messy. So yes, I think that Bats would be a little perturbed at Jason for attempting to kill Damian during Battle for the Cowl etc. but A) that was while Bruce was lost in time and B) I kind of prefer the idea of Jason being brought back into the fold, even if it is just at a distance.

I agree with you Drew, Batman’s little stunt of taking Jason to the place where he died to “jog his memory” about his resurrection was reeeeeeeaalllly silly. I think that the inclusion of Red Hood and his history as the first member of the “Dead Robin’s Club” was unfortunately underutilized for essentially a throwaway story. To be honest, I think the first couple pages of Justice League #19 did a better job at tackling the subject of Jason, Bruce and Alfred in relation to Damian’s death.

I really hate the “nose and mouth” of this mask.  It looks tribal and weird.Drew, I’ve gotta say that the Two-Face tease at the end was probably my favorite part of this issue. While we may have seen bits of bargaining in each issue of Batman and Robin since issue #17, it seems that Tomasi and Gleason are intent on doing one stage of grief per issue. This would mean that Batman and Batgirl #21 would be the “official” bargaining issue of the series, making Two-Face the perfect inclusion, as he makes a personal bargain with every flip of his coin. Two-Face also makes sense for Batman and Batgirl #21, which has a very “law-inspired” cover, with Batgirl as “Lady Justice.” Here’s hoping that next month will be a return to the quality storytelling and art we expect from Tomasi and Gleason!

You know what they say: Justice is blind, and formerly paralyzed

Michael D. is a Film School dropout with a penchant for TV, Comic Books and Ties. Batman was his gateway drug into the comic-verse and he now has Brainiac levels of knowledge about superheroes, multiverses and Bat-Mites. Follow Michael on Twitter @CormacMichael and his blog Mike’s Masterpieces in the Making.

For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to DC’s website and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?

20 comments on “Batman and Red Hood 20

  1. A lot of bloggers share Michael’s hope that Carrie’ll play an “Oraclesque” role, instead of being the 5th Robin.
    As you know, it is rather frequent that a superhero decides to fight crime with someone else, with a sidekick whose help makes him/her feel more confident and sometimes pulls his/her chestnuts out of the fire.
    I love when a superhero has a sidekick who, instead of fighting crime next to him/her, as the various Robins used to do with Batman, prefers to help his/her mentor behind the scenes, as Babs used to do when she still was Oracle.
    Microchip was another good example of “tech sidekick”: he used to help the Punisher, but later on he became a villain and Frank killed him.
    Green Arrow recently hired THREE tech sidekicks: Jax, Naomi Singh and Fyff. I think that Lemire is going to cut at least 2 of them, simply because a superhero doesn’t need more than one tech sidekick.

    • Yeah – first truth of Batman: he was never alone. I love the idea that a superhero needs a whole network of people – caped and otherwise – to pull off their superheroing. We keep bringing up the idea of a Robin, Inc., and I always imagined it as a side-kick training program, but what if “Robin” ends up being a group of people that all support Batman in various ways? That way Harper and Carrie (and why the hell not, Steph and Cassie) can all pitch in and support the Bat.

      • Along with “Carrie must be the next Oracle”, “When will Steph come back?” is another phrase I very frequently find in comic book themed blogs. I agree that she’s a too interesting character to fall into oblivion.
        I also agree with your idea of a “rotating Robin.” That would give all Batman’s supporting characters the chance to be in the spotlight sooner or later. Let’s hope the Bat – writers will take this idea into account. Thank you for your reply! : )

    • I believe that Carrie will become Robin with Harper turning heel as the new Joker’s Daughter; we know both characters will be appearing in the New 52 sooner or later, and this makes aesthetic sense as well as sets up a really interesting nemesis for the new Robin. And I think I would be really interested to see it go down that way, too

      • Joker’s Daughter, eh? I missed that news item, but I did a little Googling and I see it now. Scott did point out in our write-up of the most recent Harper issue that it’s hard to say if her origin story is more like a villain’s origin or a heroes’. Wonder where that character’s going to pop up – I’d guess not the pages of Batman itself (as they’re going to be stuck in the past for the next year or so), but it doesn’t rightly make sense that Harper would turn into a Joker-level bad guy in a series not written by Snyder, right?

        • You’re right on the money, although I wouldn’t put it past Snyder to either a) sneak in some sublots in Zero Year that heavily inform the previous and following present-day arcs or b) play an even longer game with Harper where we don’t catch back up with that plot until after Zero Year entirely. I even wonder if Harper may come into possession of the real Joker face-skin that fell away in Death Of The Family somehow in her sewer/service tunnel exploits

  2. I was disappointed too. I was hoping Bruce and Jason would leave this issue with a healthier relationship or at least a better understanding of one another. Then again, it makes sense that he’s pissed considering how messed up Jason is in his own book right now.

    • There’s a lot of conflicting information when it comes to Bruce and Jason’s relationship, and maybe it boils down to “you always hurt the ones you love.” But it is hard to reconcile “I love you like a son” with “I’m going to exploit your worst fears in a vain attempt to bring my son back.”

    • It’s weird, because the events of Death of the Family left Jason CLOSER to Bruce than he’s been in years, which kind of goes against the whole point of that arc. If nothing else, this issue does a good job of separating those too, again.

      • Some people prefer Jason be at a distance with Bruce and the rest of the Bat-family. Is this character simply destined to always be that black sheep of the family?

        • In my opinion, the answer is yes. He’s too ruthless, raging and out of control to get along with the other members of the Bat – family.
          If he started being more politically correct, the Bat – family could let bygones be bygones, but we love him EXACTLY because he’s ruthless, raging and out of control, so I hope this will never happen.

        • I agree that part of what makes him interesting is the line that other Bat-family members would not, but I just don’t want to see him pigeonholed as the crazy bat-guy forever. One of the most frustrating things about “Countdown to Final Crisis” besides everything, was that they made you think that they were taking Jason on this character transforming journey only to leave him exactly the way he was when the story began. I think Jason can continue to work in a Punisher-esque manner, but I’d like to see him and the Bat-family on better terms. Eventually at least.

        • I remember you’re a big fan of friendship between superheroes (when we talk about comics, me or you usually end up writing “Booster & Blue Forever!”), so it doesn’t surprise me that you would like to see the members of the Bat – family being on better terms with each other. And I would like to see it happen too, because a dismantled family is one of the most painful things a human being can see. Thank you for your reply! : )

  3. Pingback: Batman and Red Hood #20 Discussion on Retcon Punch | Mike's Masterpieces in the Making

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  6. Glad I’m not the only one who noticed Jason Todd pulling double duty. He obviously can’t be held captive as Wingman and recuperating due to Joker’s attack at the same time. You could almost explain it away if Damian hadn’t appeared in the RHATO issue, but since he does it messes up the whole timeline. That and the line in Batman and Red Hood #20 referring to Jason having received a clean bill of health. I enjoyed both storylines, but I wish the writers could have found a way to do these stories without contradicting each other. It’s hard to suspend my disbelief when things like this happen.

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