Since I still have a ways off until my haul comes in I'll review this first. Last issue was a tie in but the Roy section began a new storyline at the end.
We start off on a story about a Federal agent and is wife in the 1920's. The husband is chained up as a flood is coming but his wife refuses to leave him. This is the Nethers and in present day Jason swims through the still flooded city right by the spot the couple died. It is kind of weird that last issue had Roy and JD taken through the pavement by lava monsters and Jason goes looking for them in watery ruins. He finds some hungry people and tries to calm them down by explaining that he's just looking for his friends. As this is happening Roy is being beaten and put in ice water to find out how JD ended up with him. Turns out JD screwed the underground tribe over and they want answers.
Roy isn't fond of JD and let's them know it. Still he cares because Jasons cares and tells them to give him the information he wants or he'll kick their ass. He does then convinces the woman there to tell him where JD is then wonders if he can let her die. Being a caring person he can't even though he knows their lives would be better without her. Somewhere else in the Nethers Jason defends himself and asks how all these people came to live in there. A lot are from Arkham which makes sense. He doesn't feel good about beating on homeless people and after defeating the last hears that intruders are terrorizing them.
JD gets confronted by the guy she beat for the Nethers who looks like a messed up version of Aquaman. His name is Charon and he is pretty scarred since his last encounter with JD. He doesn't want the tribe she won since he has the lava people under his command and plans on burning up Gotham with them. Back with Jason, he comes across a terrified woman before she dies and meets the intruders known as the Iron Rule.
Overall: I loved the beginning, the fact the wife stayed with her husband to the end really gave this a more powerful start. I'm a huge fan of history and I love when Gotham is given a richer background. It's one of the reasons I enjoyed The Gates of Gotham and like the concept of the Court of Owls (although I'm not too fond of it lately.) The idea of some lost section of Gotham in the water is a great concept for this apparently damned city. I'm not sure how Jason took the scene he happened upon last issue and decided he had to check the supposedly fabled Nethers based off of information he never looked into before. I mean it's great to know he's more open minded than Bruce was about the Court or Joker knowing his ID. It also shows he's not arrogant like Bruce often is.
Of course Jason came back from the dead--no one knows how--and he's seen plenty of strange things. I get that but I'm not sure how he connected the dots on this one. Roy seems to think it would be easy for Jason to get to him and expected him to show up soon. Which could mean he knows him well or he thinks pretty highly of him. Likewise Jason trusts that Roy can handle the situation until he gets there. I comment on this a lot but it's always amazing to think how much their bond has grown since RHATO #1.
The All Caste get mentioned again and it sort of implies Ducra was a better teacher than Bruce...which I agree with. Not for how it sounds in the text (like Jason didn't have enough empathy or regret his actions--which he did) but rather the fact Bruce is emotionally constipated. He barely can handle his own trauma and often isn't supportive enough. Hell he was very violent during Jasons' Robin days and didn't always practice what he preached. I do think it could have been worded differently since Jason says he slept fine after beating up bad guys when we've seen that's not the case. He had problem sleeping because of all the stress in his life and didn't know how to handle his frustrations.
The phrasing is also odd when he says he doesn't want to beat up the Nethers people since their are basically homeless people then grumbles about Ducra and her empathy. I realize this could a nod to the audience (well some of it) complaining that Jason is too soft. That works better than it does in the context of this story. Why would Jason want to hurt them? Empathy was never a problem for Jason, he felt for the victims so much he couldn't bear to see the injustices done to them. (*1) On the same note I can't say I disagree with Roys' assessment that Jason enjoys fighting one on one more than he does. Not because I see Jason as a more violent person but what it means to him. Seriously I can already feel a meta forming out of this so I'll just sum up by saying it's more complicated than it sounds.
There's two frames of mind I've seen in regards to JD that I've seen online. That she's a psycho mini Joker that Jason would/should shoot or another Scarlett. I can understand both points of view and the latter did confuse me a little. Lobdell has said that he thought the Scarlett and Jason relationship was unhealthy. So why use a similar relationship? Well, so far it's not. JD is deranged and Jason is trying to help her while it's been argued that he used Scarlett instead of finding her help. The mask JD uses is something she wants, I read a wiki on her and she thinks ugly is better than pretty. The character doesn't get any growth in this issue and mostly focuses on Roy still struggling with his misgivings about her. Honestly JD hasn't done anything to prove herself yet leaving the reader wonder if and when she'll stab them in the back.
I'm looking forward to the fight with the Iron Rule as Jason really hasn't had too many solo battles lately. I was just trying to remember when he's last done something impressive by himself and found myself drawing a blank. Since this book has started it's ususally teamwork or Roy doing something cool. Maybe to make up for Roy being somewhat overshadowed in RHATO. I just love seeing Jason kick ass. Nothing enrages me (unlike other recent titles) and I had a fun time reading this despite a few WTF moments listed below.
*1 Yes he realizes at the start of RHATO that he lost his way and what Ducra taught him but before his death Jason showed plenty of empathy. The wording seems to imply he didn't see a problem with beating on people.
Did You Notice?: That one guy that attacked Jason was naked. Was he supposed to be? Not a bright idea to rush an armored guy. He's lucky Jason went so easy on him.
Say What?: I think this is the first time in this canon JD is called Duela. If it isn't this is the first time I recall seeing it in this book. It's brought up here in Jasons' narrative boxes. This is more confusing if you know the original JD history. See she was called Jokers' Daughter but her gag was that she either didn't know her own origin or kept messing with everyone's head by stating it was someone else. Her "real name" was Duela Dent after Harvey Dent, one of her supposed dads. It got to the point even her creator had no idea what he originally had planned. Countdown happened and they decided she was from another world. She was the Jokesters' daughter with a woman with three personalities and the last name Dent. The name doesn't really work here.
Editor Box, Paul don't kid yourself or us. Robin War isn't awesome, it's the furthest thing from awesome.
Jason mentions being in Arkham again. How does that fit into canon? Winick was the only one that outright had him in Arkham and it was because Bruce was a jackass. Legally Jason didn't belong there and this also raises all sort of questions like how he could stay there without anyone recognizing Bruce Wayne's adopted kid. I could never buy the "logic" of Arkham being safer.
Can you say douche bags in mainstream comics? I don't think I ever saw that before.
Roy saying he hasn't been so cold since he was in his mom's arms and she told him to get the hell to sleep. At first this line seems simply mean since it might suggest his mother wasn't loving. Then again it could mean they were freezing on the streets and she wanted to sleep and was losing her patience with him. He says he's joking but Roy's humor usually has some truth to it. I don't recall Roys' mother ever being mentioned in any canon. Old canon had Roy Sr. as a park ranger that left his three or so year old son in the care of a friend before he died.