Sunday, July 27, 2014

Batman #408

Also known as the post-crisis introduction of Jason Todd which also features Dick Grayson leaving the role of Robin. Needless to say Bruce comes off as an idiot.


Title: "Did Robin Die Tonight?"

Naturally I had to include the ironic title for Jasons' intro issue. Yes it's for Dick but no one ever reads things like this the same if you know what happens later. (*1) Another irony is that we start on Robin (Dick) being endangered by the Joker. For some unfathomable reason Dick thinks that Joker won't notice him as he's distracted by Batman. Since he's climbing up using a big grappling hook I can't imagine that being silent as it'd hit the rooftop or Joker would see it when he arrived. Also a brightly colored moving sidekick would be noticeable which makes Dick getting shot a given. Batman fights the Joker but has to stop to check on Dick who collapsed onto a ledge. He holds him in his arms as Joker gets away in a pose that will sadly be known for him carrying Jason. Too much unintentional foreshadowing. It turns out the title comes from the news who think Robin died then comment on the Joker getting captured later on.

For some reason Bruce keeps referring to Joker as the meanest of kids. Which kind of takes away from him being a serious threat. That's not what Dick cares about as Bruce refuses to allow him to be Robin again. I'm not sure why they couldn't have just had Dick realize he's old enough to crime fight solo and/or lead the Titans. Having this take in the same intro to the next Robin was one of the reasons many readers decided to not give Jason a chance in the first place. Bruce says that if Dick died Joker wouldn't be to blame he would. A train of thought that changes with the next sidekick but regardless this doesn't show Bruce in the best of lights. It only occurs to him now that taking a kid partner (although Dicks' something like 19/20 here) was a bad idea? Nevermind that he's old enough to make his own choices AND has experience. This, as is the case in most angsty Batman stories, is all about Bruce not wanting the guilt. Which makes perfect sense when he decides to get a new untrained kid to fill the role. (*2) It's implied that Dick becomes Nightwing after this but was this retcon really needed?

There's so many unintended moments that feel like their hinting at Jasons' death reading that this feels a little surreal. Reporters start to wonder if Robin is dead then ask if that's child abuse? They never questioned the kid sidekick thing before? Also no one thinks Robin is an adult by now? I have to say this is an odd issue since even Gordon says it's crazy to have a child as a partner. Why would you put all this in the same issue as the next Robin being set up?! That makes no sense, it sets him up to fail because they say it's a bad idea! It also makes Bruce look like a bigger idiot for going back on what he said about child endangerment. It comes off as: "No Dick I just thought it was wrong when you almost died. Now I have a much younger sidekick, what can go wrong?"

There's a bunch of anti-Batman sentiment because Bruce doesn't take Gordons' advise of informing the public that Robin is alive just not working under that name. Vikki Vale wants Bruce to join the movement since he holds a lot of respect in the city. She tries to guilt him into it by saying he should be against violence because of his parents. Bruce gets distracted by a pickpocket and trails after some men. No Jason yet. Bruce fights them then realizes he can't look too good allowing them to get away. They didn't however make off with the wallet as he took it during the fight. After returning it he asks where Vikki wants to go, she says it's a place he wouldn't want to take her: Crime Alley. It's for a story involving a school for boys that doesn't deal with social service and lets runaways attend.

As luck would have it Bruce ends up visiting the area as Batman on the same night his parents died. Once called Park Row the place was turned into Crime Alley after their shooting. He walks around dwelling on his memories wondering if he does any good when their are people like Ma Gunn around and her school. She comes out to greet him telling him there's no crime as everyone knows he comes to Crime Alley on that night. Much to his dismay Batman returns to his batmobile to discover someone took his tires. The sheer guts of such an act makes Batman do something he never does on that night: laugh. He's amused and impressed someone had the stones to take his tires. Kneeling down to inspect the handy work gets him out of Jasons' line of sight as he returns to get the rest of the tires.

This is what I LOVE about Jason Todds' introduction that I think RHATO #0 and other retellings fail at: his absolute spunk. He stole from Batman on the night no one else in Crime Alley would dare step out of line and isn't scared when he's face to face with him. When Batman demands his tires back Jason shrugs it off asking who said he took them. He has the tire iron in hand behind his back as he says this. Batman points this out asking what it's for then only to get a hit to the gut instead.

Jason Todd: Try and catch me, you big boob!

This is the big insult to the great Batman.

Realizing he'd get the tires faster by following instead of catching Jason Batman does just that. He arrives at the dump the boy is staying at to find *gasp* him smoking! Instead of being scared Jason tells him to take the tires and go. Not ready to leave Batman asks about his parents to learn the father (later named Willis) is likely in jail while the mother (Catherine) is dead. Jason claims his mom got sick although this will later go back and forth if this is true or it was a drug overdose. Bruce makes Jason bring all the tires back and put them on saying he can't just let him go. Jason doesn't want to go with social workers and points out that he can take care of himself. Not only that but he cared for his sick mother for over a year without assistance. Now this is a good counter argument that not every kid is the same and some have been around danger all their lives. It doesn't mesh with Dick being given the boot as he was older though. It reads like another issue altogether when you compare it to what came before.

Batman cuts him a deal that there be no social workers or cops if he goes to Ma Gunns' school. He drops Jason off not knowing what actually goes on in the school as Gunn sics her thugs at him. Way to go Bruce. The worlds' great detective...

Did You Notice?: The bat license plate.

Jasons' posters of Poison Idea, Eric Peters, and Rebel Kind.

Overall: I did find this to be a entertaining and fun issue but a lot doesn't make sense. No Bruce doesn't take Jason in as his new Robin in this issue but having Jason right AFTER Dick got the boot was a bad choice. In the Pre-Crisis Jason Todds' origin he was actually in their lives because Dick basically got Jasons' parents killed by Killer Croc. Whether or not a period of time passed between Dick leaving and Bruce finding Jason doesn't matter since it's all in the same arc. It comes off as Bruce immediately going back on what he said to Dick to say nothing of using Jason. This will kind of be explained later on when Dick demands an answer but it never felt right to me.

Jason is so small and comes off as a feisty puppy trying to defend himself against an unimpressed great Dane. It's easy to see why he made such an impression with Bruce since he's already proven himself to be the bravest person in Crime Alley. Things like this make me wonder why Jason is so hated. I think it has to do with replacing Dick which I don't think would have been that big of a deal with they handled it better.

Bruce is just dumb here and I'm not even talking about the emotional stupidity. I know older issues have him making mistakes but this is truly idiotic. Vikkie Vale is looking into the school yes, he doesn't know much about it though. He talks to Ma Gunn once then decides to send a orphan kid to this place despite having no proof it's legit. This won't be a one time mistake as he makes a similar blunder of not looking into a certain Deacons' new place when all the homeless go missing! Ma Gunn is dumb too for showing her true colors when she could have had her boys check Jason out on the sly to keep herself out of trouble. Instead she instantly sheds her sweet fa├žade as soon as she closes the door without knowing if Batman is still there or Jason is wearing a wire.

This is a bit silly I admit, still I feel it gets Jason right in a way few origins do.

*1 Joker also sings with the line about Red Robin which I know has nothing to do with Tim but still made me smile.

*2 I know Bruce will train Jason but when he agrees to take him on as his sidekick he isn't essentially untrained except in street fighting/survival.

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