Sunday, August 9, 2015

Character Study: Essence

Not much is known about her but what we have seen has been intriguing.

Essence was the youngest of a clan of cavemen that were turned into immortals known as "The Untitled." While her mother Durca attempted to rebel against the will of their leader Essence was a child at the time and didn't have any say in the matter. To maintain the peace Durca created the All Caste. Eventually a newly resurrected Jason Todd was brought to them to train in hopes of fighting off his own inner demons. Things didn't start off smoothly between Essence and him. Jason claimed he saw an emptiness in her and death would be a mercy. (*1) This detail does get my attention partly because her kind is called the Untitled and her choice of name seems to imply she wishes to fill the void within herself.

Jason and Essence do grow closer with Jason admitting to himself that she's his first kiss although he denies she's his "ex" in front of his friends. Just what they were hasn't been clarified just yet, we also don't know how she feels. It's fairly obvious that no matter what they were she means something to him. When she was exiled by the All Caste he vowed never to return and only went back she asked him to go after they died. Essence does seem to care but she's fairly manipulative to get what she wants. Not only does she use his feelings for her to get him to join her hunt she directs him while withholding the truth. Although Essence is following her mothers' footsteps in this regard since she also kept Jason in the dark.

During Jasons' confrontation she suggests she was only going to keep the Outlaws alive if they did what she wanted. Although she was furious at the time so that could have simply been her anger talking. It's unknown if Lobdell would have kept her the traitor of the All Caste but it's an intriguing twist. Her initial refusal to reveal herself to Kori and Roy could be seen as dismissive. It also gives them the impression Jason is talking to himself which she either didn't think they'd notice or didn't care.

It's noted that Essence has a bad temper and since few things have been able to harm her (*2) it makes her nearly unstoppable. Just having Kori dare to attack (which was only to protect Jason from her wrath) pisses her off to the point she takes it personally. The Untitled seem to see humans as inferiors and believe they should rule over them. Essence does admit that she can at least understand this thought process since mortals are highly frustrating and don't get the bigger picture. Since the Untitled literally have evil inside of themselves there seems to be an ongoing fight within. (*3)

Tynions' run happens and there's only a few things to take away from it in terms of her character. Essence wasn't responsible for the All Caste deaths and she's on good terms with Jason. (*4) When Roy is burnt and near death she heals him as a favor. In his narrative Jason says they will always be there for each other.

Perhaps they weren't entirely romantic during his days training with the All Caste, at least from her perceptive. He was still a kid (he might still be seen as one given her age) going through a devastating period in his life. Essence also has her own demons to slay and doesn't make time for him unless it's important. Just what she's been doing since she's been exiled (besides trying to kill other Untitled) isn't known. I do wonder if what's hinted at in Futures End is something she knows about. If Essence at least suspects Jason is/will become immortal and thinks she can wait for him. What if you found someone you liked who was younger and more immature but knew you potentially had all the time in the world? You wouldn't rush to be with them either.

Her distance might be partly due to the corruption she's battling. Something that might not just be within as her body--at least under Rocaforts' pen--seems to show physical damage. The veins on her forehead and peeking out on her neck. There's even stitching between her eyebrows. The most obvious sign of darkness being her entirely black eyes.

There's also something about her and her relationship with Jason that caught my attention. I'm not sure if Lobdell did it intentionally but a while back Jasons' death certificate was released. According to it the explosion and the beating he took didn't kill him. It was "asphyxiation due to smoke." What's Essences' main ability? Turning into black smoke. It certainly adds another twist given her immortality and how he could view her. Depending what Lobdell decides to do Essence could have a lot of interesting storylines.

*1 Secret Origins #5, it's unknown if Jason was projecting his own issues on Essence or really did see an emptiness in her. The former comes to mind because of Jason fearing himself after rising from the Lazarus Pit.

*2 At least under Lobdell, I have no idea why Kori is able to do anything against her under Tynion. Again I'm mostly ignoring what Tynion wrote since a lot of it doesn't work with what Lobdell has done with the character.

*3 They got the powers from the "Well of Sins", the All Blade only reacts to pure evil which was within Essence and she talks about the corruption in her back up story.

*4 She was also made more powerful and was putting a new All Caste together. It's unknown if she's still doing this. Essence implies she's busy although her clothes aren't white like they were when she gained her power.


  1. Interesting analysis, and yeah, she's a very interesting character that has been very poorly handled.

    I've talked with people close to Lobdell and according to them his original idea was for Essence being the traitor and the reason the All-Caste is wiped out.

    I don't believe we're supposed to take literal Jason's narration about inmortality. He's been incredibly sarcastic and ironic under Lobdell's pen and taking into consideration the context of th FE's one shot, it seems to me he's on a suicidal run taking all the evil he can while looking for someone good enough to put him out of his misery.

    Is interesting that the only other Untitled that showed up during Lobdell's first run, shared the black eyes with Essence. This of course implies that Jason never met an Untitled before thus explaining his surprise at Essence's nature.

  2. I thought that was what happened. It would have made her more of a cautionary tale for Jason. Tynions' version makes Jason look like a bad detective among other things.

    Believe me I know Jasons' sarcastic but look at what he says there. Paraphrasing but: "If I has to live--and it looks like I have to" why does he have to live? He says it took him 3 days to heal from what Roy did. Roy shot him in the head, the hole is still in the helmet and after he fell a freaking long way. No normal person heals from that much less in 3 days.

    I get a headache when I think of all the retcons the Untitled story gets later on.

  3. Different strokes I guess, that line is why I think he has a suicidal wish. It sounds like he's upset he survived and now is in a reckless run towards his death. While is true he was shot in the head, the bullet only grazed him (and we know the helmet itself can endure one bullet or two) while the falling is the most harmless thing it could happen on a superhero story.

  4. Double checked it and it's "If I have to live--and apparently I do" which sounds like he doesn't have a choice. It might look like a graze but Jason specifically says he took 3 days to recover from Roys' shot and the only one we see land was the headshot. It looks like it went through the helmet when we see it at the beginning.

    Given how prone writers and artists are to making it break I'm not sure how strong his helmet is. In most cases I'd agree but given the wording I don't know about that.

  5. The way Kollins draws the sequence makes clear that bullet doesn't goes through the helmet it grazes Jason's brow and keeps flying past him (in fact you can see how the bullet only broke the outer layer of the helmet on close-ups). Also, while that bullet is th eonly one we see hitting Jason, the other bullets blew the hover-bike he was using, I'd think that explosion is what hurt Jason more and why he needed three days to heal from it.

    I see your point but since is Lobdell the one writing the FE's issue, I think is safe to assume that the helmet is still as sturdy as it were on issue 8, when Jason got hugely surprised at the Talon's knife being able to crack his helmet.

  6. I know how it looked it the art but the text makes it sound like there was another intent. The headshot was deemed the only important shot partly because Roy was willing to take it. For Jason to mean any other shot seems weird from a narrative perspective since we never see any other direct hit. Again Jason specifically mentions healing from the shot not the fall/explosion.

    Jasons' bitter and talking about his life/death leading him to make certain choices. How horrible it was to be dragged kicking and screaming from heaven, having to live, then mentions the "joy" of being immortal. Why even mention being immortal or mocking it being a joy if he's not talking about himself? The word immortal doesn't even have quotation marks like joy does so he doesn't sound sarcastic about that part.

    Lobdell has been hinting that there's something really special about Jasons' resurrection for awhile so the idea doesn't surprise me. I don't think it means Jason is presently immortal but that he is/could become immortal.

    Maybe although it doesn't make much sense for Roy to go for a kill shot if he knew it wouldn't get through the helmet. This is Roy, the guy that's become a wiz at creating weapons. If anyone could penetrate the helmet it's him.

  7. I think both the focus on the shot and Jason's narration are more about Jason feeling betrayed by Roy. Like he wasn't expecting Roy to actually fight back. Saying "Roy shot me" also takes into account the explosion, since it was caused by Roy's bullets.

    That brings an interesting point about Jason's mindset. During the present of the series Jason has always given priority to survive (the "dying is more enmasculating" comment, the Venom usage) but on the FE's oneshot he's (as you adequately mention) bitter and very tired. The only difference between one and another setting is that Jason is utterly alone on the FE's one shot. Thus leading me to think he simply doesn't see the point of living anymore and his knack for surviving all kind of situations is what prompts the immortal comment.

    I don't know if is hinting or if simply little interest on give a definitive explanation for Jason's resurrection. Despite issue zero hinting that it was only the Lazarus Pit, the Secret Origin has a direct callback to Prime's reality punch, We might never get an answer since Lobdell doesn't seem to be keen on explanations though.

    Exactly, is Roy. I find very hard to believe he would try to kill Jason regardless how things went for them (and the art seems to point he only lashed out when firing)

  8. I didn't get the betrayal vibe from that section. Just the returning to life and his reasoning for what he does. If Jason meant what Roy did with the explosion he could have stated it differently. Like, "It took me 3 days to heal from what Roy did." I saw it as Lobdell putting an emphasis on the whole resurrection thing and Jason being miserable.

    I think that if he was being sarcastic the immortal comment would have been in quotation marks not joy. If Jason doesn't want to live he's not going to, he'll do a suicide run. Maybe he did but couldn't die, his jacket has bullet holes and some of them are on the chest.

    In past books Jasons' never been afraid of dying. In fact UTH has Bruce reflecting that Jason was never scared enough and he states it himself when his double attacks Black Mask. In the Venom arc Jason says dying was bad but coming back was worse. What if he's scared of coming back? He does mention how peaceful his grave was implying his not scared of death it's self.

    Lobdell has been hinting at more being at play since RHATO #2. Talia mentions Jason being physically fine but lacking a soul until they put him in the pit. She states they have no idea why he returned. Jason himself states he was little more than a zombie for a period of time. #0 issue was condensed so maybe he didn't have time.

    Tomasi also had Bruce demanding answers from Jason about his rebirth despite Tynion implying differently. This leads me to believe he used Lobdells' story instead since they did share info in the past. There was an interview in the past where Lobdell said he wanted the mystery of Jasons' rebirth to be like Wolverines' origins. Something we definitely want to know. A callback yes but the Crisis never happened. Talia is also scared of Jason in Secret Origins despite her father always coming back from the dead.

    Roy did try to kill him though. The bullet to the head and the explosion from a great height. Maybe it was due to anger but he wasn't aiming to simply stop him and blew up the item he was trying to recover.