I wrote at great length everything Roy Harper has been going through before. His break up with Kori, his struggle with drinking, the stress of his resurfacing memories and guilt over the Iron Rule. All of these factors have Roy acting (at times) overly childish around Jason or brooding when he's away from Jason. He clings to the only friend around him and buries himself in work. Despite making an effort to break down Jasons' walls during RHATO Volume 1 Roy's not opening up about anything he's going through. Yet he's miffed that Jason doesn't tell him Batman is gone. (*5) When Jason decides to help JD Roy's vocal about not trusting her but still helps simply because Jason cares.
There's a lot more focus on Roy in this series that still manages to develop him even as the series plans change. There's also hints that Roy is annoyed that he's seen as a sidekick by the public instead of a partner. Several times he's disregarded and/or mentioned as an afterthought which is played off as a running gag.
This even comes into play when Roy advertises their business since it's apparent that Red Hood is the one that gets all the attention. He's the image while Arsenal only shows up as the last half of their contact number. We don't know if this ever dawns on Jason or if he just decided not to call attention on it. He is a little stunned by it but he never sees Roy as anything but an equal. Roy doesn't seem to begrudge the attention (kinda hard when he's the one putting Jason under a spotlight) still it's easy to see why he'd be irked. His past with Ollie isn't something he wants to repeat.
At times Roys' behavior is extreme yet Jason goes along with this ideas despite misgivings. We do learn later that Jason exaggerated his resistance to the idea but I still think he was exasperated with these things. The reason is because Jason wanted to be partners with Roy as we learn that this idea first came to them on their very first meeting. Jason feels guilty for going along with it and sees himself as being selfish because of this. Throughout this series he sees Roy as a hero, admires him and doesn't see himself in the same light.
The character work is amazing throughout this, honestly it's some of the best in comics right now. Many writers can't keep in character much less develop characters. There are little moments throughout this that have me stunned by how Jason is written so on point. Far too many writers never bother to read his stories and it shows. We get nods to UTH with Roy mentioning the head thing and one of my favorite bits happens before they meet Underbelly.
Jason complains about being in Detroit which leads to Roy asking if he has something against cars. In early RHATO VOL. 1 he'd tell Roy off for missing the point. They've come so far in their friendship that Jason actually addresses the question before clarifying. He admits he loves cars which could be a nod to the tire theft but it also reminds me of another story. When pre-Flashpoint Cassandra Cain was "introduced" to Jasons' grave by Bruce who tells her about him. One of the things he lists is that Jason loved cars. It's the little moments that make me happy to be a fan and have a writer that seems to get him. There are also little things I don't like but really their tiny compared to other writers.
Anyway, Roy does some over the top stuff without asking for permission and Jason seems more worried about how he fits in.
Red Hood/Arsenal # 2
Jason Todd: At heart I'm a loner. Roy? He's always wanted to be part of something bigger. With Ollie. Then the Outlaws. Now this. I used to live with Batman. Batman. I've practically got a PhD. in how to screw up in an epic way.
According to Lobdell in interviews Jason is constantly conflicted on wanting to be a loner and wanting companionship. He sees the business is something Roy wants and goes with it for his benefit. There are concerns even more than he's saying here. Jason worries that he's going to screw this up, he has no faith in himself yet he doesn't let Roy see any of this.
His low self esteem has been implied through out both series. Sometimes in more subtle ways that most seem to miss.
Red Hood/Arsenal #4
Jason Todd: Yeah, Gabby Christensen. Just another street kid like me. No, not like me. She actually cared.
Jason hasn't been the most reliable narrator in either series. He's kept information from the reader, he sells himself short and doesn't see himself in a good light.
Jason Todd: I want to tell her she doesn't need a me in her life. She never did.
This sounds awfully close to his thoughts after meeting Isabel and thinking how fortunate it was that they'd never meet again before she slips him her number. Notice that he also refers to himself as "a me" like he's the worst of the worst. He never gives himself enough credit or remembers the good he's done.
Gabby Christensen: Oh Please--I didn't do anything. The way I remember it, I owe you for kicking more than a little ass in my defense.
She knows what he did and when she brings it up he shrugs it off which she catches. Gabby doesn't dwell on it long but she notes "that's the story you're going with?" Back in RHATO #0 Jason said "that's my story and I'm sticking to it." He doesn't tell the whole truth even with himself, Jason is so used to thinking negatively of himself that he doesn't even think of the positives.
Jason Todd: Could I have lived another life if I'd never met Batman? A short order cook to Gabby's waitress? Dumb questions. I am what I am. I am not what I am not.
This is one of the many more subtle moments when Jason wishes for normalcy. This was apparent around Isabel and even when he went to a mob funeral back in RHATO #8 VOL. 1. Where he says their the first normal people he was around after leaving the All Caste. Jason yearns to be normal and doesn't see himself in that light. Something Lobdell has said he will explore more in the second volume of Red Hood and the Outlaws. I'm thinking that this also plays a big part on why he sees himself in such a poor light.
Part of that has to do with the many things he has on his plate. Now note how Jason approaches him when he sees Roy with two drinks. Asking him if he's okay, feeling guilty for doing so and letting Roy know he's not judging him. It's one of the only times Jason actually directly confronts him on a concern about his behavior that isn't played for laughs. As he states (ironically after Roy shoots him though the chest with an arrow) there's no one he trusts in the world as much as Roy Harper. While I have no doubt Roy cares deeply about him in return I'm not sure the level of trust is the same.
Remember around Death Of The Family when RHATO tied in with the event? Isabel was drugged by Joker and Jason has to leave her in Bullocks' hands to save her. Bullock makes a deduction that the guy he saw in her apartment is "J/First Class" on her phone. He calls and Roy hears it because he hacked into Jasons' phone to hear his messages. This likely has to do with his abandonment issues as it's implied he does the same thing with Kori although he might be more worried about Jason. Later on in Red Hood/Arsenal #5 Roy spies on Jason when he's visiting Bruce. Instead of asking Jason if he's okay Roy resorts to spying when a talk could have done wonders. I do think he might spy because he worries about Jason keeping things from him.
When they meet Jokers' Daughter instantly tries to rile Jason up by claiming she killed Roy which he doesn't believe. He starts to wonder if she's actually trying to kill him during their fight which reminds him of how he pulled his punches with Bruce. I'm under the impression JD was just rolling with it during the whole encounter since she's stunned that she's offered a job. Jason assumed that because she went out of her way not to kill Roy there must be some good in her. As time goes by he suspects he's being played, he's warned by different people but he wants her to get better.
All because he wonders if their so different and in the end he shoots her shoulder because he can't let go of that hope. Especially since she got it into his head that Joker is their creator. That they both take after him. At one point Jason thinks about this and seems to believe it's at least partially true. What I think is being overlooked is that when Jason leaves Roy he's lying to his friend. Jason isn't quitting because he doesn't have faith in people. We've seen him give people second chances including JD. He believes in Roy, Bruce, Tim, Gabby and Tara Battleworth to an extend. In the first issue he knew Kori hadn't abandoned them and understood her reasoning. If he truly felt that way he wouldn't go out of his way to help people in the first place.
Thinking bad things about himself is also going to come into play in the new series which will highlight another reason he thinks this way. Jason lost faith in himself, thinks he's not worth Roy's time and he will only get hurt in the process. I think he's mad for allowing himself a type of (what he assumes is) false hope. Since he feared for Roys' life killing the Iron Rule felt like it needed to be done. Jason knows all too well that if they live Roy is endangered. In a stroke of brilliance Roy knocks out Bea because he knows Jason well enough to know he won't attack. He knows Jason will relate it to his mother overdosing. Unfortunately that doesn't help Jason's emotional state since he is already comparing so much to his own experiences.
By killing Jason also does what JD wants and her stalemate brings all these emotions to a boiling point. If he kills her then he's proving her point that their both like Joker. Jason only killed the Iron Rule to prevent Roy from ending up like him and Tara's life is on the line. But if he kills JD then he's giving up on her completely and in his mind it means there's no hope for him. When Roy takes the choice out of his hands it only leaves him feeling more confused. The poll is an excellent connection to DITF but it only pisses him off further since these people let Roy down. JD wanted to rip Jasons' heart out and she succeeds.
What makes this more depressing is that the whole reason this happened is because DC is going back to "iconic" images for their characters. I want Jason Todd to be happy and while I feel bad for Roy Harper I feel worse for Jason. Roy will have the Titans no matter what while Jasons' future is always up in the air. The poll becomes even more symbolic because I feel like they let Jason down again. By mocking these titles without getting the more heartfelt messages and wanting the character to be miserable. I'm going to miss this relationship and more hopeful feel. I doubt Titans or anyone besides Lobdell will acknowledge any of this which make me even more annoyed.
In the end Jason was wrong, not just about his faith in people but in not being the hero Roy wanted him to be. Roy was always proud of Jason and sees him for what he is. Jason's a hero and it's about damn time people caught onto that fact.
*5 Despite Roy keeping secrets Jason does know where Roy goes because he knows Roy well enough, he just wants to give him some space. Jason was in denial about worrying that Batman was dead which is why he didn't tell Roy.