Friday, June 10, 2016

Red Hood/Arsenal Series Overview Part 2

The other half.

The Leads

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.

Jokers' Daughter and the Iron Rule plan on killing Roy which makes him feel like it's his fault. JD got into his head by reminding him of everything he went through. Because of that Jason relates Roys' situation with his own death. How Batman let him down and his fear that Roy will die because he wasn't a good enough partner. She knows this because he told her that he died. In fact he actually has a freak out in #12 over letting down Roy and reliving his own death.

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.

Why things fell apart: I haven't seen anything discussing this in depth. Some just think it's a disagreement on handling the bad guys. I think that's a big oversimplification of what happened and misses the point. This was built up for issues and while more subtle than some comics (which repeat the same thing over every issue) it is in the text. Like I said Roy is distracted by his own problems which Jason tries to help him with. Jason is understanding, gives him the space he needs and doesn't pry. Roy on the other hand doesn't want to talk about his own problems and doesn't do the best job with being there for Jason.

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.

Jason is "better" because it was his idea to stop killing when they took in JD. Thanks to her messing with him Jason is hurt, thinking the worst of himself because he saw her as his proxy. Anything to do with the Joker shakes him up then he hears Roy is in danger right after. There's an actual freak out over Roy dying like he did which is stopped when he sees Roys' weapon. The smile he has is a relieved one because he has a way to save Roy. Yet he's still terrified at the start of the last issue as the first thing he thinks is that his best friend is about to die.

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.


  1. Excellent overview and very on point.

    Is incredibly irritating the way people misses the point of Lobdell's characterization out of petty bias both against him and Jason. For them, Jason's core is that he's a failure and he will always be one and thus, they don't bother to actually engage with Lobdell's writing to see there's a lot more in Jason than just that.

    The most depressing thing is that DC actually agrees with them. So they could pander to all the people claiming for the return of the pre flashpoint status quo, DC pretty much throwd out of the window all the development Jason and Roy had over five years.

    Luckily, Lobdell is still in charge so all the progress Jason did won't be forgotten nor ignored (a shame the same can't be said about Roy)but is still really depressing the way DC continues to handle Jason.

    1. Thank You.

      It really is because there's so much depth that's being missed. Especially by other writers.

      It's really depressing to be a Jason Todd fan when many refuse to see him as more than the dead Robin that everyone blames for his own death.

  2. For all the shilling that this book seems to get on forums, it never really lives up to what people think it does. There's a lot of "people just don't GET it", but having read all of that, it's clear that there is very little underneath the surface. Consistency from character growth from issue to issue is nearly non-existent, and it's a sad thing when other writers have plotted more fully formed arcs for Jason and Roy as side characters in other books. If you were to try to characterize Jason and Roy without describing their appearances, their relationship to other characters, or their actions, you'd be hard-pressed to come up with anything beyond "angry" and "immature", respectively. And what Scott Lobdell doesn't understand is that you can't just shoehorn characters into these basic traits without developing them past that. For all the monologuing and exposition-wringing Lobdell does, he adds very little insight to these characters. Instead, it's simply repeating ad nauseum how Jason Todd was the angry dead Robin, or how Roy was a drunk.

    And that's not to get into the half-baked plots that seem to get dropped just so the writer can go capitalize on the latest crossover or whatever. Or the lack of consistency in character motivations.

    Red Hood and the Outlaws was a book that thrived off its controversial first issue, a tone-deaf instance of throwing out twists for the sake of shock value, and failing to develop past that twist. And Red Hood/Arsenal suffered from it, as its predecessor failed to do anything meaningful with its characters. It's obvious that this book is around solely due to brand recognition, but isn't powerful enough of a brand to warrant a capable writer, but rather just being relegated to whoever is friendly enough with the higher-ups.

    1. Opinions vary of course. I don't think people on forums praising this out number those that criticize it. Often unfairly by those that haven't read the title and many of whom only state "it sucks" as a reason. I'm not saying everyone makes blanket statements or dislikes it without reading it but there are also bandwagon critics too.

      I've done many pieces discussing the character growth for both Roy and Jason in these titles so I won't add more here. I haven't seen many writers outside these titles (RHATO/RHA) in the new 52-DCYOU era that gave either much in character growth or be in character.

      I've also discussed that quite a bit but from what I've read most titles reduced Jason to being the "bad boy" that often looks pathetic compared to the other Robins. Lobdell hasn't made Roy drunk in this title that happened when Roy fell off the wagon in Titans Hunt.

      Under Lobdell Roy has been a recovering alcoholic which has inspired others. In fact I've come across a review stating how affected the reviewer was because they relate to Roys' experiences. It has been mentioned FAR less than Roys' past with drugs was before the relaunch.

      Much of the insight Lobdell adds has been based on who post-Crisis Jason Todd actually was not what the various retcons after his death would lead us to believe. We got more background on Jasons' family which was barely talked about before. We actually hear from Jasons' POV how he's effected by his own death and explore his low self esteem instead of everyone just acting like he's a two dimensional street punk.

      Jason has friends which he's barely had prior to these titles. He was pen pals with Kid Devil, worked with the Titans and pre-Crisis was buddies with Harvey Bullock (which Lobdell gives a nod to.) The Titans didn't respect Jason enough to even acknowledge he was a member after he died. Now Jason has people that respect him and admit he did good as a Robin like Superman.

      We see Jason show compassion to those he could easily kill. He has showed mercy, tried to help them and in some cases let them die to honor their requests. That's not an "angry" person. In some cases like Night of the Owls he was one of the only ones to bother and treat a Talon like a person.

      As for the "half baked plots that get dropped" do you really blame a writer for editorial mandates? Prior to NOTO and Death of the Family Lobdell HAD planned to have Crux come back around #20. Remember who wrote #20? Tynion took over around this time and that didn't go over well.

      What twist? The first issue? I admit the first issues' tone is odd but after that I think it managed to handle the tone better. Tynion had the League of Assassins telling Jason they needed to prepare for an attack then proceed to waste time pointlessly messing with him. Or when Tynion had Cheshire flirt with Roy in a way that made it look like a potential assault.

      No, this title is around because people demanded Jason Todd have a title. DC didn't know what to do with Arsenal or Starfire since the old Titans canon was out. Then they started having plans for Starfire and this title came from that. But thanks for sharing your view it honestly was enlightening.

  3. Very well said. Now I'm sad again. D: