I'm going to do this review a little differently than normal. Kind of long.
Despite not visiting forums much I still managed to hear some negative talk about the writer, the previous series and the character of Jason Todd. For the first two I can say that I've enjoyed most of what was written by Lobdell during his RHATO VOL. 1 and RHA runs. I've had a couple people question this thinking I was blindly liking the two series which puzzles me. I kind of make make my opinions known in my reviews writing the good and/or the bad. I tend to over-analysis everything because I love stories that make me think with all the tiny details. I might give something a try because my favorite character(s) is in it but I have a cut off point. If I don't like it I'm not wasting more money on it. The only time I almost left the first series was with Tynion.
As for Jason Todd I've never understood the hate and from what I've read the prime complaints seem to be based on the retconned idea of who he was. Because street kid Jason Todd wasn't written like he was after his death or the many different interpretations after UTH or even some of the current DC writing staff. The point of the character wasn't a stereotypical bad boy or an arrogant angry kid. Jason was the type of kid Bruce wanted to protect, a poor kid that had lots of guts and with help could make something of himself.
Now I have seen this characterization with some other writers that used him for cameos but yeah I honesty think that thus far Lobdell has done the best work on him. Jason has progressed in the other two series where most writers just stick to the one note characterizations and bad boy cliches that don't suit the character. There have been things Lobdell has done that don't work for me although their usually small things in comparison that I can usually shrug off. For example the stealing from Leslie plot.
While I understood the change in Jason Todd's origin for the relaunch I'm glad to have the return of the tire stealing origin. It really tells you so much about his character. One thing that always felt off with the previous reboot origin was the lack of spunk. Jason stated he was scared of Batman there when a defining detail about his character was that he's never been scared enough. It's something Batman has remarked on and I could see that being seen as reckless. But he was a survivor that had to fight most of his life which is an interesting combo with his greatest strength/weakness of caring too much about others. Jason simply empathize too much with the victims and wanted justice for them. I'm so glad to see it acknowledged that Jason is a fighter and him calling Batman out on being a bully.
The original post-Crisis origin will always be special to me but I like how Lobdell changes the scene just enough to make it different but also keep that defiance. One of the big reasons Bruce was so affected by this kid was his gutsy nature, he was the bravest person in Crime Alley and he got a kick out of that. I can acknowledge that the old origin was silly after this point (although Ma Gunn was hilarious) and this one has a great humanizing factor for Bruce by having him give Jason food.
I'm not sure about Jason having plans for stealing from Wayne Manor as he was never the master thief like Catwoman. That said I could see it being a dream to stick it to the rich guy and get enough to take care of himself. Jason has shown a slight disdain for the upper class with his previous comments of "rich folks" in RHATO #9 VOL. 1 and his remark to Ollie. I like that in general this trait hasn't been overblown and is basically a background detail about his character. It's a nice dimension to how he sees things and his relationship with Bruce.
The advance education Jason gets from Batman was mentioned before although it always bugged me when people forget it. Thankfully Jason is shown as a smart kid which was how it was before his death. In canon he even loved learning so I appreciated these details. Some don't like the narration but I've always loved it. One reason for that is the fact Jason Todd hasn't been defined as well as the other Robins before his series. Sure his Robin stuff was good but then we got the negative biased "bad Robin" retcons then the various out of character stories when he returned. Winick and some other writers added depth but not nearly enough. We never got into his head before and his POV is fascinating. I truly enjoy reading his side of the story.
I can and have gone on about what I love about the narration. Jason isn't always the most reliable narrator as he hides things but you can always tell when he does. It's usually because he's hurting which brings about a vulnerability you wouldn't get if we didn't know his thoughts. There's lots of little bits that make your heart ache for him like thinking he found people that believe in him. The almost acknowledgement of seeing Bruce like a father followed by a dismissal because of who he is. While I don't like seeing "problems" on their first mission I do like that Jason attacked to protect Bruce. Having him simply beat villains for kicks or because of issues never rubbed me the right way.
Nor does the idea of Batman helping Jason to prevent him from being a bad guy. Mostly a pet peeve of my because of it previously being used to prove he was a bad kid and absolve Batman of blame. Even so this works here because: a) it's Jason's POV and b) the idea for this series is to address what direction Jason takes. Here's where things get changed from the norm. DC is pretty much doing a back to basics approach with its characters. Returning them to more "iconic" roles which means the Red Hood from UTH. Which could create problems of it's own since Jason Todd has developed from that point. In general Jason was not handled well after that story since no one knew what to do with him. As many fans wrote he shouldn't be a villain.
So what do you do in order to take a character back to a certain point without ignoring years worth of character development? Have Red Hood work undercover for Batman. This creates another potential problem since many have assumed that wouldn't change enough and would be too similar to Dick Grayson working as a spy. The difference is the issues between Jason and Bruce. Then take into consideration how the operation differs from Dicks' too. At worse everyone thought Dick was dead Jason on the other hand has to look bad.
I love Batman, truly I do, but his behavior never fails to drive me up the wall. It's a well established character flaw that he has trust and control issues. I love the exchanges because their so in character and emotionally packed. It's just Bruce, he of all people has the nerve to ask why Jason didn't tell him something. The man that constantly does things behind everyone's back. The one that more than once excused his own actions by saying others had to trust him.
Needless to say Jason notices the lack of trust. He calls out the fact Dick got to go undercover and Bruce admits he doesn't think it's a good idea because Jason has crossed the line before. I'm surprised Jason decided to go undercover as I expected Batman to suggest it although this makes sense. More so if Bruce realizes what Jason recently went through.
In general I'm leery of possible DC mandates forcing the writers' hand but regardless of what's to come this is written really well. I came in expecting one thing and got blindsided by emotions at the end. I can't tell you how brilliant the trophy bookcase and photo is. The trophies Batman gets has been mentioned before and Robins have had their own elaborate set ups for these. Yet Jason Todd has such a simple one that you probably miss it if you weren't looking for it. That says so much about him and what he values. Not achievements to showcase how awesome he is but memories to remind him who he is. One of them being a freaking bat tire! I'm getting misty eyed over a tire which makes the origin have even more of an impact.
Which is one of the main reasons I love how Lobdell writes Jason Todd. He gets what is important and manages to write an emotional journey through his character development. Much is explored and the real essence of Jason Todd shines through. Hell we even have a reason for him not killing. I never liked the idea of Batman taking Jason down though since this raises questions with the ID and imprisoning him with the rogues is cruel. Hopefully it wouldn't come to that. That line was still brutal.
The art was solid and has plenty of detail. Extra points to Soy for being the only artist I've seen to almost get Rocaforts' Robin design perfect. I think it's just missing a few things. The image of Batman and Jason eating fast food on the batmobile is glorious. The bomb shelter lair is also a lot of fun. I loved his issue and have high hopes for the series. Happily the next issue will be coming up and I can't wait.
Questions Raised?: What is the story with Jason's mom? Catherine was his biological mother in the relaunch which combined the Shelia Haywood character story of DITF. But Jason usually refers to her as dead from an OD when she couldn't have been if she was the reason he died. I'm not sure if this is supposed to be Jason mentally avoiding the incident in a "she betrayed me so she's dead to me" way, denial or bringing back Shelia into the biological mom role. I don't see either in the flashback so maybe this version excludes the mom?
How long would Jason have to be Red Hood for him to get this warning now? I guess no one saw them fight in public so they figure they never met. I could buy that. I forget if most assume Joker is dead though.
Jason had no mask? Not that it matters since Joker (Jokers?) knew for awhile in the relaunch.
Did the "we have no idea how he came back" get dropped for the Lazarus Pit again? I was really looking forward to that explanation. It would have made Jason's return different from the others too. Or is this like the RHATO #0 issue where it just not mentioned?
Wouldn't Black Mask hate Red Hood for UTH?
Say What?: I know Bruce is trying to help Jason but asking why he thinks it's okay to steal? But the kid is starving and he knows it. I've seen him ask this in other situations it always strike me as odd.
During the Robin War tie in Jason claimed he was 17 now he says 16. I prefer younger or for this to be vague. The whole thing is even more confusing with the missing five years plot from DUR#1. Jason's only supposed to be a couple years older than Tim minus the months he was dead. Yes this is a pet peeve of mine that I can't help.
Jason called it cheating but in a fight with Batman? I think anything goes.
While I was never a fan of Jason being in a bar all of the time in other books I love that everyone seems aware of how young Red Hood is. I don't just dislike the drinking because of his age it also feels odd for someone who's been around people with substance abuse problems. Plus it usually comes off as the creators trying too hard to say he's a rebel.
Not surprising I just wanted to mention that I love Bruce complimenting Jasons' cleverness. It makes me excited about what's to come.
The talk about S&M not being his thing. Now I'm sure Jason is just being a smartass and knows who this henchman works for. From a meta standpoint this makes me happy because of all the toxic talk about Jason online and how people think he acts. I don't try to give these things any thoughts but unfortunately you find these views if you look up fan sites, headcanons, etc. Before anyone says it yes I know that's not S&M is supposed to be. It's about trust and all that which probably would be another reason he wouldn't be into it. Anyway I'm talking about the negative view that some seem to think he'd have that goes along with the BS bad boy image.
Did You Notice?: I have to say the image of the bat symbol on his chest acting as a tazer is incredible. Also? I love seeing a return to Jason planning ahead which reminds people that he has gone toe to toe with Batman. With Kori and Roy it was more by the seat of your pants. Which was fun although I missed this part of his character.
Tim is present as Robin when Jason attacks Joker.
Two-Face was the first villain Jason fought but he didn't freak out on their first outing as Batman and Robin. He later did on the same case when he found out Two-Face killed his father. Jason flips this time because Batman (his adopted father) almost was killed by Harvey.
I noticed the tire when Jason entered but the impact of the bookcase still hit me hard. I love that Jason has tons of books as past canon has his shown his love of books. Art of War is on the shelf.
Batman tells Jason their going to take a serious picture but Jason's copy shows Bruce smiled. That's a great detail that conveys a lot of characterizations with the art. I'm going to love Soy if he keeps putting in stuff like this.