I'm unsure how much of previous canon (New 52/DCYOU that is) happened but right now it doesn't matter. I can wait for those answers. There may be more information in interviews but I'm saying that for later.
To Recap: Jason Todd went over his past as Robin and how it shaped him into who he is. This also explored the trust issue between Batman and Red Hood. Jason wanted to go deep undercover to get information on Gothams' criminals. He's earned their respect by looking like he was shooting the mayor although he actually saved his life. Batman fears Jason won't be able to handle the mission but decided to give him a chance. If he feels Jason is into deep he'll pull him out and will take him down if he kills for any reason.
I can not tell you the sheer joy I felt at seeing Ma Gunn. I'm dead serious, I was thrilled as I never expected to see her mentioned again. See Ma Gunn was in the original post-Crisis Jason Todd origin. She managed to be both ridiculous and awesome at the same time. I might have sounded like I was coming down on the premise at times (sometimes it's hard to write your tone) but really I loved it. After Batman meets Jason they make a deal to keep him out of social services and agree to Ma Gunns' school which they heard good things about. She looks like one of those stereotypical schoolmarms with old fashion clothes and manners. The second she's left alone with her charges her true persona comes out and it's glorious.
This old woman fooled a whole city into believing she's a sweet person when she's really a criminal using her students to commit crimes. Jason attended actual classes on the proper guns to use, saw Ma Gunn chastise a boy for smoking weed and informed the class booze is better. Despite Bruce coming off kind of dumb for sending Jason to her I couldn't help but love her addition. Admit it, a teacher like her isn't that shocking for Gotham. From a meta stand point it was also a nice contrast to how people are judged by appearances. Bruce thought she was what the city needed and didn't trust Jason when he told him the truth. Jason even called Bruce out on his mistakes and was ready to take her gang on alone if Batman didn't arrive.
This version does show her more badass side, still has Batman enrolling Jason in the school but drops the jewel theft. I truly enjoy how Bruce and Gunn are written in this scene with them pretty nonchalant during their encounter. She's not even surprised that he didn't die and continues their conversation as if Batman is just an annoyance. Going as far as to mock the cliches of bad guys being impressed with his toys or evil monologues. Batman's response manages to be funny and in character. It comes off like he'd appreciate if she followed the usual pitfalls of super villains. It's amazing, I absolutely love it.
There's also an exchange that's rather poignant about Gunn using her charges as soldiers and weapons to point at the enemy. Given Batman's relationship with his Robins there's some real meaning to it that can be read a few ways. He is either different than her because he cares for those he mentors or blind to the fact he's no better. Maybe a combo of both though he only trained Dick at this point. Jason decided to tackle Gunn himself though he thinks Batman would have gotten the upper hand eventually. One of the reasons I love the crime school connection was how it highlights what a good kid Jason actually is. He proves he's a great choice for Robin before Bruce even takes him in. That he's able to take out bad guys and has strong morals that make him stand apart from everyone else in Crime Alley.
Great transition to present day Jason leaping out the window with Gunn. I'm not surprised that Lobdell gave Gunn more depth, I'm still impressed. Back in the old version she was a lot of fun while her vulnerable state here makes her more human. Likewise Jason is more sympathetic towards her. Originally she sicced some kids to beat on him, then decided he would join them, he left, told Batman and helped stopped her plan. The two didn't really connect which makes this update more satisfying. The fact that he saves her and she recognizes him as Jason (before deciding it can't be him) was a wonderful touch.
Far too often it seems like Gotham forgot who Jason Todd is/was. Most books act like Bruce never adopted him and not many seem to know his face. I like that she remembered him not just because he's forgotten but because it means he had an impact. It means Gunn isn't a "for me it was Tuesday" villain that doesn't bother to remember anyone. Major kudos to Lobdell for expanding on this character and using her backstory with "juvenile delinquents" to link her to Black Mask. This also ties Black Mask more to Jason as he finds out that the man was willing to kill innocent kids to get back at Gunn. He wants to kill BM but he already has an agreement with Bruce.
The art continues to be amazing really making me feel like I'm watching a movie. I had the biggest smile on my face when I saw Jason's direct approach. Which is greatly helped by the art with Jason attacking a moving vehicle guns a blazing while upside down. I've loved how Jason is written intelligently but I also love how he still has the same spunk as the kid who fearlessly took Batman's tires. This is the scene Lobdell mentioned in the interview that amused Soy.
Black Mask expected Jason which leads me to believe he might be more cunning than he was in in previous versions. I saw this coming since Jason was given a card and while Black Mask isn't quite like he was in UTH I don't really mind. There's seems like there's more of a distorted mirror effect on him being Jason's opposition. Their orphans though BM is self-made in that respect. Jason was poor Roman wasn't. Ma Gunn has a past with them and they treat her differently. Masked guys that are trying to make an impact on the city. Black Mask talk about Gotham really reminds me of Jason's in UTH when he explained the city to Bruce. Where he saw it as evil to the core where BM sees it as a woman you have to court.
The flashback with Bruce telling Jason there is no coming back once you cross the line cut in with Joker killing him really pull at the heartstrings. Does this mean Bruce thinks Jason is forever tainted because he killed? That he sees him in the same light as his enemies? BM wants to make Red Hood his second in command and tests him by rounding up the men who failed to kill Ma Gunn. Jason declines saying it's pointless to kill henchmen only BM decides to kill them himself. He claims he likes a man with his own morals which is unusual for a crime lord. I'm curious what he playing at since its clear he doesn't trust Red Hood.
I knew it was Artemis as soon as she called him "little one" since it reminds me so much of her referring to Diana as little sister. It's just a very Amazon phrase. Also...is her ax bigger than the promo pics and covers? That thing is huge! I'll comment on how I feel about Bizarro and her as the story goes on but so far so good.
As you probably guessed I love when writers show they not only get the characters but they use things from their past stories to flesh then out more. I have yet to seen anyone else that's written Jason Todd post-death mention anything about him delved into his past further than the surface details. I adored the Harvey Bullock mention in RHATO vol. 1. This goes further and really feels like there's some real love towards the character which is sadly a rare thing for Jason Todd. There are so many little things showing such a great understanding of the character that I'm struggling to find words to convey how I feel properly.
I've always enjoyed how Lobdell wrote Jason though there were only a handful of little details (from the previous series) that felt off. Not anywhere as bad as some portray him just a few throw away dialogue every now and then, etc. So far this series has the strongest connection to post-Crisis Jason Todd I've seen and meshes all the development from Lobdell. I've skimmed this to find more Easter eggs in the art that truly add to the experience. This really is one of those books you have to pay attention to as more of the story is told within the art that could easily be missed.
I'm a little reluctant to say this is the best work Lobdells' done since I don't think it would quite fair. The Red Hood titles he's done have been my favorite books I've read from him. The first RHATO volume was full of many editorial mandates and there were times you could see that in the series. Red Hood/Arsenal also had some mandates but it felt like those were given with enough time to make them work better in the story. The three series also have different tones to them despite Jason Todd mostly being the focus. It's hard to compare because of that especially since we haven't seen how he will handle the three leads. Even so this is a solid foundation for Jason's new series and I do adore this book.
I've said it before but Lobdell excels at character work. He manages to say a lot about those he writes making heartfelt moments while respecting the past and moving the character forward. The lazy labels often given to the Robins like "street punk" and the stereotypes that come with that title aren't present. Jason is a complex well rounded character that's more than most suspect. Which was always the case but that fact is remembered with at least one writer. As much I love UTH Winick never really developed Jason or explored him beyond his return. Which I never understood because this is a lead that's a gold mine of story potential.
I would love to see Ma Gunn as a recurring character that has the possibility of being redeemed. At the very least a source of information for Jason. Thus far this series isn't the same kind of fun as the other Red Hood titles as he has only interacted with more serious characters. Yet it manages to still have a sense of fun of it's own with our lead doing things his own way. I could and have gone on in more detail but this is getting long. In short (ha) I love this series and how Jason Todd is being written.
Questions Raised?: Did Bruce send Jason to Ma Gunn before or after he took him in? Previously it was before.
Did Gunn dismiss him as being Jason because he's supposed to be dead? Or is she just pretending she thinks she was mistaken?
Did Black Mask rig the masks his men wear? That reminds me of Jason's exploding helmet.
Is Black Mask just trying to use Jason to fight Artemis since he doesn't have anyone that could do that? We'll see.
Did You Notice?: I'm always impressed with details especially when their taken from past stories that aren't mentioned much. Soy has the pictures of the guns up in the class room! Ma Gunn had a lesson about guns! This is glorious!
Jason covered Ma Gunn with his jacket. That's such a great detail about the character that I hope no one missed. He's always been much closer to women in general as he's more open with them than men. Gunn however was someone that once tried to exploit Jason. He could have just got information from her yet he makes sure she'd not cold. That's so on point with the character that I think I'll be even more pissed off the next time another book misses the crux of what makes him Jason Todd.
Ma Gunn gave teenage Jason a Teddy bear? I assume so since it doesn't look like he took it with him.
Jason around junk food while at the monitors like UTH and likely a nod to having Batman giving him fast food. I talked about Jason eating healthy food in RHA but I could see him doing this when he doesn't have the time. But leaving a burger out to go bad? Come on Jason, out of all the bat kids I'd never expect that of you.
A shot of Red Hood (Jason) among the Black Mask information so I guess UTH links between them are vaguely canon. Or Jason wanted to check out how the suit looked.
Catwoman and Black Mask as enemies still exist too.
Say What?: "Well, no one's accused me of being the smartest Robin, have they?" I have no idea how people are taking that but no I don't see it as a diss. Maybe a meta nod to readers acting like he's stupid. I see it more as Jason mentally sighing because he needs to be more direct to get information which goes against Batman's lesson. Thus he knows it's risky and it is self deprecation.
I have the physical copy and a digital version. I noticed the digital one seems to make Jason's green shirt stand out more. It looks brighter. Now for a random bit of information that has no bearing on the story: Bruce once told Cassandra Cain (in old canon) that green was Jason's favorite color.
Black Mask is asexual? I can't recall if I ever saw him with anyone and he might just mean he doesn't want a relationship. I suspect this will be something that's talked about online so I thought I bring it up here. I don't think it matters in the story though.
I like the touch of Jason hoping Black Mask monologues which links to Batman wanting Gunn to at the beginning. Much like Gunn Black Mask doesn't believe in those cliches.
I believe Winick had Jason kill off his own men in Green Arrow but that never made much sense to me. Plus canon seems to have shifted anyway.