Thursday, June 27, 2013

Writers' Block: Jason Todds' Training After his Return

In most cases the transition from one writer to the next isn't perfect. It's not a seamless flow of ideas. Directions change, characters feel different and something is lost in translation from one author to the next. I did a pretty extensive comparison on the different writing styles on Booster Gold Vol. 2. Sometimes it's little changes other times it's huge. While Red Hood and the Outlaws doesn't have the startling transition of Dan Jurgens to Giffen/DeMatteis it was still noticeable when Lobdell left and Tynion joined.

Post Rebirth Training

I mentioned the difference between Winicks' RHLD and Lobdells' relaunch stories here. While the set up of the training and the Al Ghuls actions changed Lobdells' version isn't exactly followed up by Tynion. Bits are kept and expanded on but other things seemed to be ignored. Take the scene where Talia and Ducra talk away from Jason. First it's made clear that the Al Ghuls had nothing to do with Jasons' return just putting him in the pit to return his soul. (It was to heal his head wounds in RHLD.)

 In Tynions' run a lot of people talk about Jasons' destiny but again look at this exchange back in RHATO #2. Ducra automatically assumes Ra's wouldn't be thrilled with Talia for using the pit on Jason. Lobdell made it a point of going against Winicks' Ra's freaking out to him being "surprisingly supportive." Based on these lines neither woman knew Ra's was going to be so accepting of this act. This made more sense to me because if anything the man obsessed with conquering death should be trying to help Jason to unlock his secrets. Winick mentioned this a little in RHLD but it was soon dropped. Under Lobdell Talias' whole reason for taking Jason to the All Caste instead of training with the league was because she thought he was going to be a good man. She wanted him to have the chance to heal and become that man. Tynion has some much more uncomfortable implications. S'aru, a magic memory taking member of the All Caste showcases Jasons' memories to his friends. (Although some of them are questionable if their supposed to be memories. *1)

Like I said the conversation with Talia and Ducra confirmed neither knew how he came back or why Ras was interested in him. Now (according to the panel above) Jason assumes Talia brought him back despite previously saying otherwise in his thought boxes in RHATO #2. Bruce thinks there were other means outside the pit in Batman and Red Hood #20 despite this thought never previously being voiced by him. (Something that Tynion and Tomasi talked about.) The worse thing is that Talia seems to be in on the whole thing now and is manipulating Jason rather than thinking about his well being. While she appears to be dressed it seems to imply they were sleeping together. That or she likes to stalk him when he sleeps or carried him to a room after the pit took affect. Since she seems so sinister in this panel it also seems like she would sleep with him just because of his "destiny" to lead the League of Assassins. Which makes her behavior under Morrison seem even crazier because she was all about Bruce in INC. Instead of caring about Jason she's trying to mold him into something else. Even though I wasn't a fan of their hook up in Lost Days that had to do with their need for comfort rather than emotionlessly using the confused boy and treating him like a pawn.

Plus with the new 52 timeline it's even more obvious he'd have to be a minor. (*2) Sooo...
Then there's what happened to get Jason to leave the All Caste. In Lobdells' run Jason says he shouldn't have left but did because Ducra pushed him into going. He vowed never to return when they exiled Essence. One week after leaving he goes to a mob funeral to demand money and ends up killing everyone there after they attack.

According to issue #19 onward (Tynion) Jason wouldn't let go of his anger like Ducra wanted and decided to look for people to teach him how to kill. This is especially odd not just because of Jason going off to kill mobs after leaving them but because the All Caste are repeatedly referred to as assassins and said to have trained him to be one. Yet #20 acts like Jason never killed or knew how to until joining up with the LOA. This is what greatly differs from the other two writers as Jason never puts up with killers that picked on innocent people. A good portion of RHLD was about him stopping what he was doing to put a end to the injustices his teachers were committing. Everything else was on hold until he saved those people.

The above is a example of Jason not allowing one of his teachers get away with selling children. The man was depicted as more of a experienced fighter than him but Jason planned around it. In the relaunch Lobdell has shown that Jason still puts innocents first and won't stand around while anyone endangers them. Not to say he wouldn't give someone like Suzie Su another chance but he still puts an end to the crimes he discovers. Tynion has a different approach that doesn't quite mesh with the other two. For some reason Jason joins forces with the League of Assassins to train. Although he should be very well aware of what lines they cross he comes off very naïve. Embarrassingly so for both a street smart kid and a former Robin.

While he tells off Bronze Tiger for trying to make him one of his assassins he ignorantly grumbles that what they did doesn't feel like justice. Note the dead monks. Shouldn't he be screaming at BT that this shouldn't have happened? What BT says in reply should have clued him in if the bodies on the floor didn't. Things aren't on the upper up. Yet instead of trying to stop them or leaving Jason apparently went along with them anyway. Then acts positively stunned when they burn a village commenting that it feels evil. Not many people seem to get this about Jason but the truth is he's not naïve about evil acts or stupid. He never just goes along with things because of peer pressure. Maybe his choices aren't the same as other members of the bat family but he makes them because he thinks their the right call. This is the second time I've seen Tynion have this misunderstanding, the first being how he wrote Jason in the back up to Batman #0. Jason Todd doesn't panic and doesn't get strong armed into things he knows are wrong. That's one of the things people forget that's so damn important to his character. He never puts up with this kind of shit.
Now maybe he grew close to some of the members since he refers to BT as Ben. They seem to have a closer bond than the rest, at least so far. That may be why he doesn't kill them outright by poisoning them or triggering a bomb, etc. But he wouldn't stick with them once he sees the way they act and if he couldn't deal with them he'd direct someone that could to their location.
Winick sort of played with this with the Superboy Prime retcon saying Jason was never supposed to die so the timeline was actually trying to fix things. After that all actual connections to destiny are kind of shrugged off. Sure Talia comments that she knows Jason's meant for more but that's her gut feeling not a fact. Lobdell doesn't quite phrase things in either direction. Essence mentions Jason being picked to carry on the All Castes' work if anything happened to them, sure. But it kind of feels like it's because he's the last one left, chosen by default. It's left open much like Ducras' comment for Jason to "greet your people" leading to the rest of the All Caste to knee before him. Could this mean that he was their chosen one? Never stated but keep in mind this was after Jason became the first human to survive "the cleansing" in a thousand years. Which was likely a way to officially join their ranks.
This ritual was likewise never explained by Lobdell but interesting enough it's the first sign of Jasons' "tattoo." The black markings are shown on a young Jasons' chest during his last test. It's not visible throughout most of this run even though Jason is topless a few times after the flashback takes place. The only other time it's shown under Lobdell is during his coma nightmare where it glows in the dream...

...although it's clear that the real Jason has no such markings.

Until the next writer comes in that is. In RHATO #19 Roy recalls walking in on Jason while he was meditating shocked to find his friend has a glowing pattern on his chest. He asks twice what's up with that but never receives an answer. It's not present when Cheshire rips Jasons' costume in the annual. Throughout this arc the last of the All Caste and the League of Assassins all talk about Jasons' destiny. For some odd reason no one thought to tell him about it until this point where he can't even remember his past. Two groups put out a hit on the Outlaws just to get him although both claim it was merely a ruse to lure them out.
The Untitled
Back in the days of cavemen a clan of nine was directed by their leader to go towards a pool that they sensed held great power. The evil from the pool bonded with them. It made them more intelligent, gain mystical abilities and become immortal. Most of the members wanted the power feeling that they were superior over humans thus they should rule over them. Only two members felt differently: Ducra the sole member who tried to rebel against the bonding and her daughter Essence who was too young to resist. Ducra created the All Caste, a group of warriors to counter her family. The two sides decided to call a truce that was held until RHATO #1 when all but S'aru and the exiled Essence were killed.
It's never been stated what the other members of the All Caste are since S'aru at least is thousands of years old and was never referred to as one of the nine. It has been mentioned that Jason was the first human they accepted in hundreds of years and the first to survive the ritual in ages. The slain All Caste members turned into undead creatures after they were killed and had to be destroyed once they attacked the Outlaws. It was assumed that Essence killed the All Caste since she has betrayed Ducras' will in the past leading to her exile. Jason reasoned that the two of them were the only ones that could have led anyone into the Acres of All. She denies killing them although someone was directing him where to go to kill the Untitled in RHATO #4-5. That member obviously had no idea the All Caste was dead and stated "she" had no interest in ruling humans but would kill them to protect her ID.

According to Jason none of the members of the Untitled stay in the same place as each other and hide among humans in positions of authority. They can be harmed with copper although the All Blade is more ideal since it was crafted to kill them. The All Blade is a collapsible copper sword that he can easily carry around and can only be drawn in the face of absolute evil. Jasons' blood can "feed" the swords to make them stronger. The Untitled themselves have been shown to be able to do the following:
  • Shapeshifting-the one Jason kills in #5 blended into a town full of people as a cop, turns into a smoky being that can reform it's body.
  • Phasing/Memory absorbing? This wasn't defined too much just that the Untitled are known for pulling organs out of bodies without leaving any physical marks. One does this with Jason by trying to pull out his liver. She claims that doing so would allow her to have his memories so she'll know why he was there.
  • Mental Control? During Jasons' fight with the Untitled the people of the town couldn't come near the battle. They said it felt like they were being compelled to stay away even though they could hear what was going on. This was so she could slip back undetected if she slayed Jason. He wasn't affected whether because of his training or not can only be assumed. The sudden telepathy Tynion added was only mentioned once and contradicts the memory absorbing ability.
  • Take over deads' bodies (Essence did this so it's hard to know if others can do this too.)
  • Travel in smoke (Essence again.)
  • Invisible (to most sight) Another one that's hard to define. Kori and Roy think Jasons' talking to himself a couple times in the first arc when Essence is with him. So neither were able to hear her either. She appears when Jason attacks her after revealing she used him.  
  • Entering someone's dreams. It wasn't clear if it was really Ducra spirit in Jasons' dreams under Lobdell but Essence does this to Roy under Tynion. 
  • Viewing the present? Under Tynion the Untitled can show what happened to Jason. If they could do this why did they need to place a hit on him to find Jasons' location?
Tynion starts his run in #19 adding and subtracting a few things. He actually confirms Jasons' statement in RHATO #7 (Lobdell) that only a few could get to the Acres of All by making it more of a mystical connection the students of their teachings hold. Which raises a few more questions since he also has the Untitled state that they killed Ducra and the rest of the All Caste. So how did they get there unless Essence led them in?  For that matter how did Jason even get there if Talia brought him there to get trained? Remember he's the first human in hundreds of years to be trained by them. Ra' s might make sense later by Talia isn't hundreds of years old.

I'm not too thrilled with how the Untitled and the All Caste were written. Ducra, the badass that created her own army, defied her family and generally kicked ass...screamed out Jasons' name while she was killed? That doesn't make one bit of sense to me. She won't give her family the satisfaction plus she wouldn't needlessly give away Jasons' name. It also reduces her to a stereotypical "weak female" that's calling out for a guy to save her. At least that's how it read to me. Yeah the Untitled could be screwing with the Outlaws but why bother? Neither Kori or Roy knew Ducra, Jason wasn't even there and had his memory erased anyway.

Lobdell did a back up story with Essence but only a few points matter in this post. The main one being that the Untitled knew that Red Hood had killed one of their own and assumed he was Essences' consort. Her uncle said that some of them might have been fine waiting around but he'd try to stop them from hunting him down by attacking first. In fact he was ready to fight other Untitled while he was at it. So it would make sense for the Untitled to take action and put out a hit on Red Hood. Arriving all together in cloaks to announce how superior they are while trying to convince Jasons' friends to assist them doesn't work as well. Essence even said that the Untitled aren't the type to make themselves known. I could see them hiding in plain sight, slowly but surely worming their way into Jasons' life. Maybe even Bruces' life. Then when the time was right attack, that would work. What we get in RHATO #21 isn't a smart idea for these ancient beings.

What also happened was Essence pretty much killing her uncle. Something that apparently didn't happen since there are six Untitled left not counting Essence. There should be five of the evil Untitled left of the nine. Ducra was killed, Essence isn't on their side, Jason killed a member in #5 and Essence offed another in the back up.  

I'll cover what Jason can do in a different entry.

*1 There's a panel with Jason wearing nothing but boxers and curling into a fetal position while Joker says the exact same thing he did during RHATO #15. Which happened while he was in costume and masked. Tynion might be trying to hint at something like Joker truly controlling his life or the artist made some odd choices for some of the memory panels. Or it might be something besides actual memories like fears Jasons' buried.

*2 Dick was stated to be 15 when he started out as Robin in the information panel in Nightwing #0. If he was Robin at "year 1" this makes him 20 now. If Jason was only a year younger it wouldn't make much sense for him to take up the mantle. So he'd have to be at least two years younger than him and like preboot likely still two years older than Tim. Which makes him 18 now.


  1. Queria saber o nome da tatuagem do Jason

  2. If I'm understanding right you're asking either what Jasons' tattoo means or the name of it? I don't think this was ever revealed in text although Rocoforts' does tend to use other languages in his designs. I recall there being some writing on Jasons' arm that was hard to see. But as far as I know there's never been an explanation.