I guess this issue starts the unofficial Red Hood month since there are three comics (that I know of) that are coming out with him in May. Although I wasn't too taken with everything Tomasi did with the character last time he used him this is the issue I was looking forward to the most. The Bruce and Jason interaction--when written right--has always been fascinating to read. More so since this will have both directly dealing with another Robins' death and RHATO #19 took place directly after this issue. Since Tynion said Tomasi and him talked over it's placement for his series it should answer the confusion of Jasons' sudden choice that lead to a "rebooting" for the character.
I would have preferred Gleason having full art duties on this one. His unmasked Jason actually looked the right age especially in the shot of him holding his helmet in Damians' room. The guy is still a teen, right between Dick and Tim. The inking was a little too much in certain sections. It took me awhile to figure out what was going on in some pages. I had to look at the panel of Bruce holding the helmet three to four time to realize he was holding Jasons' belt and hostlers too.
Speaking of confusing story bits Jason has apparently been staying at the manor despite the previous issue not even hinting at it. I think this was from Lobdells' last two RHATO issues where Jason gets a farewell present from the Joker--nearly dying--resulting in Bruce and him patching things up. I suppose he's been confined to the manor/batcave until he recovered. It's the only way I can fit in the JL appearance although I'm not sure why he would suit up for just hanging out in the cave with Alfred. Joker toxin is mentioned, which was used in DOTF not the RHATO tie in issues. But I'm going to hand wave that away since canon is already confusing enough.
I'm not sure what to think of Carrie, she's assertive which is cool until I thought of what it was like to have a stranger going through your stuff. I don't know if I would have been as cool. I would have preferred her being a little younger to be a potential Robin at some later date. Not because I think there needs to be another Robin but if it has to happen I'd rather it be someone that already has that connection. From what I've read from regular fans of this series Carries' relationship with Damian hasn't been hinted at prior to the note in #18. It makes me wonder if her (re)introduction was jarring for other readers. I'm not really sure what the plan for her character is especially with Harper Row. Carrie knows the Waynes while Harpers' connection is to the bats. The backup 52 news comic once mentioned a girl Robin. I'm not sure if that was a tongue and cheek nod to Carries' past or not.
While reading this it hit me that this grieving by stages isn't really working correcting. Each issue has a blend of different stages that never truly focus on one. In #19 he talks about Damian like he's alive (denial.) Lashes out at both Tim and Frank (rage.) Tried to learn how to bring back his dead son to life by questionable means. (bargaining.) Bruce is still doing all three of these stages in this issue! I don't like the way it's being handled while I believe other titles are doing it better. In Batman and even Justice League to name a couple. During the first read of this I enjoyed it and the focus between Bruce and Jason. At least until it did a 180. The scenes with them were touching and at the time seemed rather sweet. They work well together and it shows. Happily Tomasi didn't play Jason as stereotypical as writers did preboot. He's smart and points out that Bruce could end it faster than he was. But Bruce wants to draw their attention so he can make them pay. Nevermind that he currently has another one of his sons with him. You know, the same one that previously died in the same country. I like that since their on better terms Bruce asks Jason to aim for non-lethal areas to shoot and he agrees. It fits more than the "I'm shooting like this because daddy doesn't approve" in Batman and Robin #12. The bond between the two wasn't something I expected to see when I first heard about this issue. That's what makes what happens later far worse.
I'm just stunned at the sheer level of dickery Bruce reached with this one. This isn't like the things Snyder wrote with Bruce hitting Harper. That was something that happened in the heat of the moment and he said he was sorry for striking her. This starts with Bruce already planning to take Jason to the country he died in without asking for his permission for the second part of his self made mission. Once you realize he didn't reveal half of the mission you know why. He knew this wasn't something Jason wanted to do, Bruce knew that and planned accordingly. Jason is only too happy to help although he does think it's weird that he's being asked to go. He thanks Bruce for letting him come along and taking care of him when he was injured. Also pointing out that they still need to build their trust because their not quite there yet. This is one of the things that kills me. The sweet things Bruce says about them being family, trust and faith? He's not saying it for the right reasons he's saying it to emotionally manipulate Jason into helping him. To make him more willing to help by appealing to the things that Jason longs for.
Already lowering his guard because he's trying to repair their relationship he goes along with it until the warning bells go off. Once the main reason for their trip becomes apparent he realizes his trust was completely betrayed. Bruce is incredibly selfish putting his needs above everyone else. Not once has he considered if Damian wants to be brought back or shown concern for the pain his other son experienced with his return. I can't really say he's putting the needs of one son over the other since this is entirely about him. Now I've made it no secret that I think Damian was a little shit for triggering Jasons' memories with a crowbar. I don't think it's nearly as amusing as Tomasi does, and I get uncomfortable thinking that father and son both act this horrible to the same family member. Bruce purposely brought Jason to "the worst place in the world" just to force it on him, to trigger the trauma induced memories and throw all the progress Jason/they made aside.
When the awful behavior is brought up Bruce naturally makes it all about him once again playing the emotional blackmail card by saying Jason would do it if he cared about him. Nevermind this is already a stupid thing to do since--as Jason points out--he already feels manipulated enough. It's been mentioned that Bruce might have done this to get Jason to kick his ass since he demands punishment near the end. If that's true it felt very wasteful especially when there are other members that could help him out with that. Plus it doesn't fit the theme Tomasi is doing with Bruce acting desperate to bring his son back. Maybe it's a little bit of both with him realizing on some level that he messed up and wants to be hurt.
As far as the tie in to Tynions' run? It works but then it doesn't. Does it make Jasons' actions make more sense? Sort of, Bruce triggered bad memories and Jason couldn't stand it and felt compelled to get rid of them. What doesn't work for me is Tynions' insistence in his story and in interviews that this was done because of Joker "tainting the good memories." No, what gets him to get his memories erased is Bruce throwing away their second chance and bringing back things he wanted to forget. For trade readers Tynions' run won't make sense until they read another title and they likely won't know where to look. More than that this shift came FAR too soon. Lobdell had Jason and Bruce patch things up in #18 and the very first thing they do when he leaves is ruin that relationship. It's not even properly explored beyond the odd appearance in JL. I'm not sure if I should count this since Bruce was barely sincere. Yes I got the feeling he cares for Jason but his actions were so horrible they eclipe any slight good will he had. It's a waste of potential, of the irony of the black sheep being the closest and Dick being on bad terms with Batman.
This isn't without bad dialogue as Batman makes a bad comment after breaking a assassins' wrists. "Pick their noses anymore"? Is that a line anyone thinks Batman would say? Or the "your wish is my command" bit? I didn't think it fit Bruce during the Robin war arc and I don't think it works for Jason either. I enjoyed this issue more than the last one but I still hate this crazy version of Bruce. I didn't like when Tomasi went overboard with Damian and I don't like it with Bruce.
Say What?: Carrie says Bruce gave her a envelope full of cash. That might be a turn of phrase but he clearly gave her a check last issue.
I still don't get some things that happened in the Robin arc. Damian claimed he wanted to prove he was the best then stopped Tim from telling his father. None of the former Robins apparently told anyone what happened despite the shitty things Damian did. Yet Damian willing told Bruce? At least that he stole things from two of his "brothers" because I can't see Bruce being pleased with the rest. At least the sane Bruce. Of course this is the same guy that covered up Nobodys' death from his other sons so who knows. I don't see why his behavior was written as endearing when it was slightly less horrible than what Bruce did here. Only because Damian wasn't trying to appeal to Jasons' sense of family.
What the hell is canon? Can we seriously chuck most of Batman Inc. out now? Because other than Talia, Inc., Jason sort of being Wingman and Damians' death nothing else seems to matter. The Wingman stuff doesn't mesh with Jasons' injuries from the Joker. He was captured during Damians' death but this makes it look like he was healing from the fall out of DOTF. RHATO makes it seem like it happened before the death since Damian appeared in #17. But given the already confusing events in Inc. I'd rather they go with the "Jason was healing during the death instead of captured." Although I'd like to believe his reconnecting with Bruce happened before Damian died. Which makes more sense because Bruce spent all of #18 with Jason instead of fighting Talia.
Last issue Bruce said Damian was the only one that deserved anything because he trusted Bruce/was loyal to him? Umm, that was during a period Jason was staying with him and they had patched things up. Way to be an ass to someone who you were on the best terms with.
Did You Notice?: Among the pictures was a photo of a kid in a tree and two adults. I think it's supposed to be young Bruce and Alfred based on Carries' comment about him being around forever. Maybe the blond woman is supposed to be Leslie?
I guess I finally have my answer for what Damian took from Tim, his fighting staff.
Bruce kept everything in Damians' room the same. I bring this up because his reaction to Jasons' death varied in some respects. One version had him empty the room completely. Another had him move everything down to a sub cave in a Jason shrine section. In RHATO I think it's implied that everything stayed the same although the room didn't have too many items in it. Basically Bruces' normal reaction to grief is making mini museums.
Jason being dressed sans helmet in Damians' room (despite not going anywhere it's needed) then wearing causal clothes in the batcave. Yeah it might be the day he's leaving but I thought it was a funny detail.
The white frown that appears on Jasons' helmet while their fighting the assassins. It's just odd.