After some technical difficulties I read this and finally have a chance to review it.
Roy remembers his past with the Iron Rule and the guilt that comes with it. He saw one of the members in the Nethers somehow knowing who it was and figuring out the radiation changed them.
JD recalls her time in high school lying about being popular and telling Jason how excited she is about going to a new school. Then he reveals he found the Joker mask and asks if the whole thing was a lie. She claims it wasn't, that she needs his help.
Disgust enters the picture as Roy feels sicken that he used to be a freelance merc. He wants to make amends and finds a broker to get information on Iron Rule. The guy doesn't believe Roy will kill him if he doesn't speak up.
Naturally Jason isn't too pleased and claims he doesn't care what JD does. She says their both like Joker or as she dubs him "dad." Further more she calls Jason an ingrate for not accepting the new start he got after Joker killed him. Now that Joker is dead (she thinks he is anyway) they just got each other.
Meanwhile Roy practically freezes Bing the Broker to death to get Iron Rule info. Realizing that he was being used by Bing at a low point in his life makes this pretty dark.
Instead of accepting her offer Jason makes a counter offer for her to come with him. Not impressed she tries to shoot him but he stop her before shooting her.
Iron Rule find Roy before he can attack them by surprise and he realizes he's outgunned.
Overall: There's some good character work on Roy that bring together many of his problems over the course of this series and manages to tie it into the beginning of RHATO VOL. 1. We learn what happened prior to him being imprisoned which gives a new outlook on his partnership with Jason. Roy struggles to deal with all his loss, trying to prove himself and guilt which was why he was so manic at the start of Red Hood/Arsenal. He wants to make something of himself as well as make amends for his past.
Back in the old canon in Countdown I wondered what it would be like if Jason saved that version of Jokers' Daughter. That one was less creepy and more sympathetic but this provided a "what if" I never thought I'd see. He might not have killed the other Duela like his brothers thought but he might have killed this one. (Solicits are iffy.)
To be completely honest I'm always on edge with any scene JD is in. I'm constantly waiting for her to make her move. It was kind of painful to read Jason reaching out to her by opening up about his past knowing what she's planing. Knowing that she doesn't care. It's hard for him to talk about himself making the moment all the more uncomfortable but the pay off was wonderful. Jason knew about the mask and while he's still deluded himself a little (thinking there was still a chance) it's nice to see he wasn't fooled. I think that's what I've been dreading the most in terms to her arc. That Jason would be blindsided by his desire to help her and I love that he remained vigilant.
While writing this part of the review I decided to check out reactions on this issue and I saw it was mixed. I don't know why anyone that hated this for "ruining" JD/Duela is mad. Not only has she been characterized as loving the chaos she causes by multiple writers but Lobdell has--in my opinion--foreshadowed this pretty well. Jason himself has realized more than once that he might have been seeing things that weren't there. That he was projecting his own experiences onto her wanting to save her like he was saved by Bruce.
JD herself made him promise to kill her when she went too far and told him that she knew she was going to fail. I had trouble buying her "guilt" in the Nethers and her attempted suicide? That's just another thrill for her much like Joker doesn't care if he dies if he gets what he wants. Not to mention she's escaped death before like the thing with the airplane. Shooting her prevents another Joker from being made and if you think Jason wants that then I don't know what to tell you. Because a huge part of his character is stopping monsters like Joker since Batman won't.
There's also a comparison to how Roy and Jason deal with their respective situations. Roy is on attack mode, he doesn't try to be reasonable and is damn serious. He has never been this intense in any book after the relaunch. Much like Jason he thought he saw something in the Iron Rule and had to take them out. Jason on the other hand confronts JD yet he still gives her a chance to try again. It should also be noted that unlike the Iron Rule she hasn't crossed the line yet. She does when she tries to shoot Jason and even though he doesn't want to. Jason has proved to be a honorable person many times. When someone asks him to kill them Jason follows through with his promises.
What I thought was a nicely understated but powerful moment was JD seeing Jason and her as Jokers' kids. I kept thinking there has to be a reason for her hanging around besides just screwing with them. The idea that their both "siblings" since Joker created them is a nice layer that explains her interest. It's a creepy scene with JD trying to tempt him onto the villainous side that was more effective than recent Joker stories. I've read many stories when such an idea would be beaten into the ground.
Lobdell is capable of writing dark stories, this issue, the Futures End one shot and some of the moments in the drug addiction arc come to mind. Two more issues to go until the new team dynamic comes into play.
Questions Raised?: Did everyone besides Jason think Roy was part of the killing? Or did they think he was still responsible for being in charge? Was that why no one else tried to help him?
If the Iron Rule is powered by radiation then that's how their powers work, right? Didn't Jason get hit with some when they met?
Who paid the Iron Rule to kill people in the Nethers?
Was Roy into drugs too in this canon? It seems to imply he did some.
Where does this take place, after Titans Hunt? He shouldn't remember them before he met up with Caveboy.
Shouldn't Jason or Tara been able to find out JD's past history? School, etc?
JD knows his real name? Not surprising given how freely Roy and him use each others' names but still bothersome. Apparently he told her about dyin too. Although I believe Duela from pre-Flashpoint knew his real name and there's no real reason she should have known that. Then again Countdown didn't make much sense.
Where was JD hiding that big gun?
Is Jason going to leave her there? It's a school plus if she survives it's because he's leaving her.
Did You Notice?: JD tore out a hunk of that girls' hair.
The picture of Kori, a subtle and nice touch to show everything he's going through without naming everything.
Say What?: Jason mentions his mother smoking which was last brought up in RHATO #0. Which means Willis likely knew she was a smoker when they got together.
Just thought I'd mention that I love that Roy called them Iron Rule because he wanted to make it a rule that all their missions leave things better than they were.
Much like the start of the fight with Essence way back Jason says he's sorry then after he's asked what he's sorry about he attacks.