Friday, March 22, 2013

Red Hood and the Outlaws #18

Jason Todd: Everyone should have an Alfred...

Since this is Lobdells' last issue he pulls out all the stops on this one. This is the kind of issue that really restores your hope in comics.


Not that it's surprising, Lobdell excels at emotional moments and the "quiet" issues that don't deal with the usual superhero fare. I knew this going into the books he's written for DC since I read a good amount of his work for Marvel, Generation X likely being his strongest long term book. He was the first writer that really took notice of Iceman and explored him outside his class clown and lovelorn roots. Even though I knew ahead of time that a character was going to die in X-Men he still got me to cry. Lobdell has his flaws but I honestly never had any worries for what he'd do at the end of this. More of what editorial would enforce or what the new writer will do. I still have those worries for different reasons but Lobdells' ruse? Well played sir.

Yes Jasons' face was burned with acid but Alfred assures us that there will be no lasting physical damage.

A good deal of the story takes place in Jasons' head as he's in an induced coma. I suppose it could be argued that the things shown could be a vision of sorts with Ducra there but for now I'm going to assume this is all based on things going on in Jasons' mind. This is a good issue on it's own but if you've been following along this series as I have you'll picked up on things that others won't. Lobdell ties in different themes from his run into this without making it super obvious. Dream Jason is wearing a pair of shorts and sporting the ritual markings from the day he passed the last test of the All Caste. When it was first shown Ducra remarked that she wasn't sure if it was because he was so stubborn or actually worthy. The Acres of All was the place he felt he grew up the most where his teachers tried to impart lessons of overcoming his past. Ducra blaming him for the state of his nightmare version of the Arces of All makes sense. Jason felt guilty in #6 when he realized how much he turned away from those teachings once he left.

I did think Ducra telling him that he can't live in the past and present was a little odd since Ducra taught Jason that the past, present and future all happen at once. Still that's not what Lobdell is referencing, it's another scene from #6 where Kori tells Jason to respect the past but live in the present. Just like the lesson of not letting his anger consume him.

Having him attack others isn't just a callback to his trouble with the family or his self loathing over those actions. When they first met Ducra told Talia that Jason would be the death of them all and she was teaching him to protect the world from him. That wasn't because Jason was evil, it was because Ducra saw he was hurting and unless something turned his life around he was doomed to get lost in his pain. Others would suffer because of it. He says that he tries to distance himself from his past by destorying it. That's true since Jason literally gave up his most cherished memory to spare himself the pain, ignores his feelings when dealing with his family and last issue tried to leave the manor without seeing Bruce.

Jasons' fears of being a victim again, hurting those he loves and not belonging are all summed up nicely without going overboard. This also proves that Jason isn't a very reliable narrator as he previously skipped over things, is in denial about how bad things are and has trouble dealing with his emotions. While he has improved since this series started he's more bothered than he let on. There have been hints like how he stated he took no joy in killing. Jason has empathized with Suzie Su and Talon Xiao Loong. His scenes with Xiao hinting that he knew what it was like to have a deathwish. (Which was also shown in UTH.) According to Ducra Jason has been going through the motions, while she implies this in terms of his relationship with his friends (which he denies) I could see this in terms of his fighting. Jason doesn't really have a mission per se he just goes where their needed.

Having dream Bruce tell Jason it's time to come home while Jason gets transformed into Wingman was perfect. Yes I'm still pissed off that Morrison couldn't be bothered to explain how the hell that worked but Lobdell actually makes an effort to make this fit. No he never tells how it came about but Jasons' words make it sound like he did it to be a "good soldier" perhaps even try to belong with the family. Jason has gone off to answer all their calls of arms since the relaunch began and never asked any of them for help. I like to think Bruces' words are from the real Bruce since it makes what he says that much more meaningful.

In the real world Alfred expresses his concern that Jason needs better medical help than they can provide. It seems that at least one of his friends told them this and I'm kinda surprised Kori didn't fly him off anyway. Bruce says this is a family matter. I do think it's a nice (perhaps unintentional) echo of Jason telling his friends that the Owls thing was a family matter, it's one of the many things that show what they have in common. You'd think Bruce would consider Leslie part of that family though. Especially since she's part of Jasons' new origin.

Alfred clearly doesn't agree, something Jason knows well as he translates to us the true meaning. Of course we already know it since Alfred always has to put up with this BS. Once again I find myself touched by the little details Lobdell puts in. I mean for the most part writers have ignored the Alfred/Jason dynamic. If you read this series and the Gotham Knights arc dealing with his death it means so much more.(*1) To see someone that has such bad experience with family be taken cared of so lovingly it's very sweet. Alfred kisses his forehead, wishing him well ending with "you prince of Gotham." That last bit has been thrown around in interviews about Dick (who isn't really from Gotham per se) but I like that Alfred considers them on par. Or how he expresses his feelings that the manor haven't been the same without him. Bruce feels guilty again, which is kinda valid, Alfred goes into the bit about the likelihood of Jason of dying if Bruce didn't take him in.

Something that's better than the old cliché of him being doomed to forever go down a dark path that some writers (Daniels) think is in character. Ducra even made a mention of the Joker connection that some go overboard with when they try to force the comparsion. Lobdell makes this more of a Christmas Carol moment than preaching a bias view which is a vast improvement. I really like a lot of the speeches in this one. Whether it's Alfred's talk with the boys or Jasons' thoughts about Bruce and him. The latter showing how alike the two are. These two have seen such horrors and do what they do because they don't want anyone else to suffer. Jason knows that the void between them is because of Joker and the artwork really sells the scene of them being so close yet so far away from each other. It has Bruce falling into depair before reliving a memory that makes him more determined.

Bruce only opens up to someone when he thinks they can't hear him and starts to talk to Jason. I'm sure many will be shocked to hear there was a time when Jason was Robin that Bruce realized he didn't have to worry about him. Mainly because of the retcons that make Jason sound like a bad student. Once while training he kicked Jason. Upset that he might of hurt him Bruce starts to say he's sorry when Jason shrugs it of saying it's his own fault. He's still learning and Bruce has to let him take credit for his own mistakes or he'll never learn. Along with learning from Damian and his past mistakes with Jason this is the real explanation for him not interfering with the Red Hood stuff. Deep down he knows Jason can recover from his past which reminds me of my favorite Ducra scene where she states that she knows Jason will overcome the darkness.

I enjoyed seeing Jason blow up the Joker and only regret it can never happen in canon. There were a lot of touching moments in this one. Jason acknowledging that Kori and Roy love him, then admitting that he loves both of them made me want to cheer. It's not something he'd likely say when he's awake but it's there all the same. The moment would only have been better if we saw his face when he said it. While marked as a Requiem issue guess what? None of it has to do with Damian dying. He shows up in the nightmare, Batman Inc. is mention and Wingman is shown but nothing else. I guess you can say Jason blames himself Damians' death when he says he failed as Wingman but that wouldn't really fit. In general not much of Inc. does fit so I don't think that's what he meant. Plus Jason wasn't in a coma when Damian died. Regardless I'm glad Lobdell didn't mess with the flow of this issue by forcing Requiem scenes. It would have been VERY out of place. So basically the timeline is : Inc. up to Damian being Red Bird happened, then DOTF, this, then the stuff leading to Damians' death.

Real Bruce sits on the bed holding Jasons' hand. Then Jason opens his eyes only getting as far as "I'm so" before he's shhed and Bruce pulls him into a hug, going as far as cradling his head. A perfectly written reunion of father and son that feels so damn good to read after losing Damian. It also works in context of Lobdells' run since we know Bruce is the only parental figure that ever put him first (his lost cherished memory) and the fact Bruce waited for him to wake up makes this more meaningful. Even the chair Bruce sat in looks like the one he used in the Year One bit with the bat crashing through the window. There's even a bat at the window when they hug. He's ditched the chair to be at his side not even suiting up for the night. Bruce did make it in time to be there for one of his sons. Kind of weird that Dick is at odds with Bruce just as Jason makes up with him. The greatest joke is that Jokers' attempt to break the family apart ended up bringing the black sheep of the family back.

Great issue.

*1 In Gotham Knights 43-45 the family has to talk to a social worker about Jasons' death. But the part I mean happened in 44. Alfred had to take care of arrangements for Jasons' funeral while staying strong for Bruce. Internally Alfred is furious that Bruce once again found another kid and this time got him killed. He doesn't voice it, he even plays the "if only he obeyed you" part but he really blames Bruce. There was also a short story that I can't recall the issue for. It had a ghost version of Jason visiting Alfred. They sat together when Bruce was out. It was sweet. Ever since Jason returned I was hoping for scenes between those two.

Say What?: This is the second time I got another impression of a horrible father figure that's actually worse than I assumed. The first being Jon Carter from Booster Gold. With Jon I didn't think he was a wife beater just a gambler/con man that used her before leaving his family. Now there's Willis Todd. He wasn't given much depth post-crisis than "Jasons' dad that he barely sees that was killed by his boss which pisses Jason off. Oh and he knew lots of women, one of them was actually the mother of his child." In the zero issue he was a jerk that got Catherine pregnant as a teen, although he married her still cheated, bragged about being a jackass, was labeled a coward and used his son for some crime. Now this might seem like a bit much to talk about for only a line mentioned but Willis threatened to murder his wife and child with a gun. That's some scary stuff that really shows how horrible Jasons' childhood was and why he has trouble sleeping. Damn.

Bruce said that Joker painted acid into Jasons' mask. While that's what appears to have happened in the crossover with TT it seems unlikely. Wouldn't it eat through the helmet before it got to Jason? Plus it didn't actually start working until the hologram was over when green gas came out of it. I would have bought Bruce saying the gas completed a mixture that activated.

Did You Notice?: The completed cover with the Outlaws and bat family on the ground wasn't used. Or at least cropped out. I'm glad because this image is strong enough. Since Damian is dead it also would have been in bad taste.

Jason has shown some skills in this title, some of which have been stated to be learned by his All Caste teachers. He can: fight blind, not be affected by toxins that paralyze muscles movement, not bothered by freezing cold water (the same issue had Roy affected by it), sees beings no one else seems to see (Durca as a ghost then Essence before she reveals herself), and is not only aware that he's in a coma seeing images his mind is creating but hears Alfred/Bruce. I hope Tynion explores this stuff.

The All Blade are the wrong color. They don't really look like the ones Rocafort drew but the color has to be copper. Because that's the one thing that can hurt the Untitled.

Jasons' Robin costume is a mix between Tims' red one and Jasons' 52 one.

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