RED HOOD AND THE OUTLAWS 18
Writer: Scot Lobdell
Artist: Tyler Kirkham
Reviewer: Rob Patey (aka Optimous Douche – Ain’t It Cool News)
Before I climb atop my high horse, let me say this is an amazing issue. I would say THE BEST issue of RED HOOD AND THE OUTLAWS to date. Lobdell peeled away psychological layers in Jason Todd that few writers have ever dared to explore. This issue fully redeems the once nostalgia-riding upsell tactic of Todd’s resurrection into an actual honest to God good idea for the Bat and DC universe.
Kirkham is a wonderful welcome change to Rockafort. I’ll miss the Rock, I’m on the hells yes side for his unique stye. I’m also a bit upset I must retire my coined LobRocster contraction, because LobHam just doesn’t sound as good, but Tyler keeps the energy strong and fast which is a staple of this book. His style brings a darker less cartoony tone, which is exactly what was needed for the deep soul searching Jason undergoes in this issue.
However, I have an issue. And it’s not aimed at Scott, Tyler or any of the other creators on the Bat books. Unless you just woke up from a coma, you know doubt that Damian Wayne is no longer with us. To commemorate this event, the Bat books following Damian’s demise have all come with the sub-brand of “Requiem” with a beautiful Robin branded R leading the phrase.
Requiem is defined as “a mass for the dead.”
Makes sense, no? I mean Damian did die. So why for the sweet love of Fisher Brothers Funeral Services have I read two books now that have the Requiem moniker and not an ounce of Damian?
I actually defended BATGIRL on our Spoiler Alert podcast this past week when the guys wanted to rail on this topic…until I realized I couldn’t. Yes, I laughingly tried to argue that Dick Grayson telling he Babs he was too upset to talk right now counted as a nod to Damian’s death. I know I was reaching, but at least there was an attempt. RED HOOD though has not one mention of Damian. Not one.
Redemption. Regret. Hell even Rebirth would be very fitting R’s for this title as we watch Jason recoup from recent events in “Death of the Family.”
In his fugue state of recovery we see scenes from the monastery he went to after he was resurrected – a hallucination that crosses ever so gently into reality – interlaced with his lifeless body where Bruce and Alfred hold constant vigil. Between the words of the dead wise-woman we met earlier in the series and Alfred’s tough but tender caring of both Jason and Bruce a transformation occurs. Jason realizes he’s held grudges and those grudges have consumed whatever soul he was resurrected with. He comes to an understanding of self and more importantly the responsibility his gifts place upon him to live by some kind of ethical code. There was a tenderness and endearment to this issue that makes me glad it came so late in the series, because I think all the Mommy bloggers who came after this title simply don’t deserve this level of good storytelling in their lives (yeah, I’m still not letting that go). When Bruce and Jason hugged at the end, I was a little verklempt and not once felt it was forced or hokey.
I’ve had a few even stauncher than I defenders try to say this isn’t a literal Requiem. First off, no shit, I didn’t expect a cross-over comprised of Gregorian chants. When I probe further these Internet sages try to say it’s a metaphorical Requiem for the “Death of the Family.” I’ll be honest, I was close to buying this, until once again I look at the word on the cover and the R is clearly off of Robin’s costume.
This issue was a departure from the flippant norm (not a slight – I like the irreverence in which this book dabbles usually), but a great departure. It wasn’t a damn Requiem for Damian though.
Writer: Scott Snyder
Artist: Greg Capullo
Reviewer: Rob Patey (aka Optimous Douche -Ain’t It Cool News)
The frenzied pace that has been Death of the Family doesn’t stop for the opening pages of its final chapter. The eyes are wide open, the narcotics and concussions have worn off, and at last the platters are ready to be revealed. What follows will be one of most divisive moments in comics this year.
The “reveal” that we’ve all been waiting for, the thing that was theorized so much it approached Godwin’s law seconds after the series was announced (and no the Joker is not Hitler, just in case those folks thought they were right), is a delight of massive morbidity. It’s an atrocity exactly on par…I mean exactly….with the fate that befell the Joker at the start for the New 52.
Face…it’s what’s for dinner. Dick, Damian, Jason, Tim and Babs are all served a hearty helping of their own puddum puddin. It was a moment of horror, insight into the true face of evil, and a poignant, if batshit crazy poem to Batman’s one Achilles’ heel as Joker uses this to moment to show just how soft the family literally is beneath their respective masks.
And then we find it’s all just a fugazi, a falsehood meant to satisfy the sensationalists of the world who needed this to culminate in physical, not emotional entropy. The truth is The Reveal has been in front of our faces all along. I would say, “No pun intended,” but I’m honestly not sure there isn’t some kind of meta level joke in all this being played on us as well.
The true purpose of The Joker’s plans in Death of the Family was revealed two months ago when the clan found out the Joker had been in the cave and Bruce never told them. Death in the Family was all about deconstructing trust. It’s ultimate purpose was to separate all of the Bat titles so each character can find a light to grow outside of Bruce’s shadow. And more importantly add much needed continuity distance from the carryover Flash brought back with him from the Flashpoint universe.
So, no one’s dead, the atrocity is that of the sprit: Babs’ limbs all function, Jason didn’t take another crowbar to the face, and Damian still faces more danger from his mother in BATMAN INC. than he does inside the Bat-Cave. I know there will be fans who will cry foul in the fact the worst thing to happen to any character is a waft of ultra potent Joker toxin. But, when I’m asked the inevitable question of whether I liked Death of the Family the answer will be, “Yes, but only if…
Only if Bruce truly has to fight his way back into the family’s hearts and souls (including Damian). Only if once Snyder sets his sights on Metropolis we see other writers truly embrace the foundation Snyder laid before them. Only if DC commits to taking a break from Bat cross-overs for a while to let each character develop independently. This last point is most important. Snyder did what he does best, he built mythos through history. Now its time to honor this path and tread it truly, press forward with more tales of detective work in the now and let history come organically moving forward.
Death of the Family is a tragic story of love unrequited. This is the Joker’s tragedy. Even though he knew who Bruce was all along, it was never about exposing Batman, it was about keeping him hidden so the game could on and on and on….
Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist: Chris Burnham
Reviewer: Rob Patey (aka Optimous Douche – Ain’t It Cool News)
“You know what Jason Todd? I helped kill you 25 years ago. I was one of the legions who dialed 1-900-KILL-TOD and felt my parents’ wrath when the bill came so my voice could be heard. I felt a modicum of guilt for the decision and then felt the weight of that guilt subside with your return. All of my remorse went away when you found a good comic book and true direction in RED HOOD. However, after BATMAN INCORPORATED 6, I take it all back. I’m glad you died and I’m pissed you got to bang Starfire, because anyone who messes with BAT-COW will feel the wrath of Damian Wayne and Optimous Douche.”
OK, that feels better.
I chided Vol 1. Of BATMAN INCORPORATED. While I dug the idea of a bunch of Batman’s running around and once I got past the Knight & Squire issues I felt the execution was top notch, I just could not get past Bruce Wayne’s public declaration of financing BATMAN. I felt it was akin to giving Clark Kent contacts and still expecting us to buy his ruse. Essentially it opened the kimono WAY TOO far for comfort (and stretched the believability that comic denizens are really that obtuse).
Vol 2 though has completely shifted gears. Instead of Bruce travelling the world recruiting, all of his BATMAN’S have come back to the aerie in Gotham to battle Leviathan and their seductive mistress, Talia Al Ghul. Without the public declarations, trite cultural tropes, and Batman especially acting like an Amway salesman to get people on board, BATMAN INCORPORATED took on a persona I could get behind with the fullest of support.
The series also introduced BAT-COW, probably my favorite character of the NEW 52. I have no bovine fetish, what I adore is what BAT-COW symbolizes in my favorite Robin to date, Damian Wayne. Raised by assassins, spoiled beyond belief, and smarter than the average bear, Damian the little prick is easy to portray. And before you give me a petulant “ttt,” think about it. I’m right. For issue upon issue people wanted to beat this kid as he sassed off to Dick Grayson while Batman was on his sojourn through time. Since the return though, Robin the scared and is this issue reveals truly unwanted little boy has never been explored. Morrison rectified this with BAT-COW. In the adoption of this doe eyed creature we see the sad and all too often plight of only children befriending and anthropomorphizing animals for friendship. And it doesn’t hurt that the adoption took place in perfect juxtaposition with his killer side in BATMAN INCORPORATED 1.
Another reason I’m fully enamored with this volume, and this particular issue, is that Talia gets the best of all the worldly Bats and it’s up to the OB (original bats) to save their foreign asses. Squire, my least favorite of the international crew is hanging on the precipice of death at the end. I give a big Bally Ho to any writer that’s willing to off cockney stereotypes; with Morrison leaving DC I would pay him personally to rewrite My Fair Lady with Eliza turning to prostitution and heavy drug use at the end.
It wasn’t all shits and giggles for me this issue though. First there’s Jerk-Off Jason who takes a direct stab at BAT-COW in the Bat-Cave as the four Robin’s monitor Batman’s progress towards Talia in her abandoned warehouse maze of doom. Then there was a further blow to the fragile Robin ego. Hands down, Burnham draws my favorite version of Damian, making him look like a true little boy with a chip on his shoulder. What we hadn’t seen before in Robin though, was pain. In the past any emotional scars were firmly scabbed over with attitude. With Morrison’s words and Bunham’s art, my heart broke a little when she said the only reason for Damian was to have spare parts for Ra’s. It’s an epic blow to the little scamp that Talia then pours lemon juice on in the form of an epic cliff-hanger of danger to Damian or all of Gotham. I’m not going to say what it is, but the Judgment Scales on the cover will give you a clue and it’s a perfect swan song before Morrison he says sayonara to DC for a while.
I’ll buy anything with BAT-COW and receive a modicum of enjoyment from it, but in the hands of Master Morrison every BAT-MOMENT is Kobe instead of ground chuck including BATMAN INCORPORATED 6.
Oh, and fuck you once again Jason.
Writer: Scott Snyder
Artist: Greg Capullo/Jock
Reviewer: Rob Patey (aka Optimous Douche – Ain’t It Cool News)
The nature of Batman and the Joker’s relationship has changed with the sensibilities of the time. As we readers get deeper in touch with our feelings and have more free time to lament the human existence, so to have our heroes and their foils sought deeper introspection.
The Golden Age, when men were men and our enemies were eminently clear showed few emotional tethers between Bats and Joker. During the days of WWII, good was good and evil was evil — period. And of course good always triumphed. Flash forward to the silver age and you see the sanitized fifties bleed copious campiness into the title and little insight into either man, simply a goofy game of cat and mouse rife with ludicrous gadgetry and even more ridiculous crimes of grandeur. Go Bronze and we start to see a few chinks in each characters’ emotional armor, albeit the zaniness carry over of the silver age still forbade either from too deep of introspection. The 70s was the me generation and we began to see that essence in the pages of Batman. We began to know who the men were behind the masks and mayhem. The Dark Age propelled us into the ID of both characters as opposite sides of the same coin. Who made who was the question that plagued my mind leaving Tim Burton’s BATMAN, and can one really exist without the other was my walkaway from Frank Miller’s THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS.
Now, we have Scott Snyder, the modern man in an age where self-discovery isn’t a luxury, it’s a requirement for societal success. In a time when the term Bromance can easily cross the lips of guys who are straight as an arrow, is it any wonder that the transformation of BATMAN and Joker’s relationship is one of an obsessive affection? Love, ladies and gentlemen is the new emotional bedrock between BATMAN and the Joker, and the penance for that love being unrequited is, “DEATH OF THE FAMILY.”
BATMAN 15 bleeds motivation for the Strap-On Jokers’ need to squelch all things Bat. In essence Joker wants to be part of the Bat family, he wants to be that crazy cousin at Thanksgiving who someone has to go bail out of jail for drunk driving when they go to get more stuffing from the store. Joker needs to be chased by the Bat like the earth needs the son and Lindsay Lohan needs to smell the inside of jail cells.
Now, even though I’ve said words like Bromance and Strap-On, let’s please not get puerile with the often associated act of love. This is an obsessive love based on an unhinged desire, not the higher state of intimacy and becoming one in flesh. Spirit perhaps, but that’s it.
This issue also successfully divided the family, and we are left wondering whether it was of the Joker’s devise or merely a side effect to the Joker’s grand plan. It’s a cool little mind-fuck “later reveal,” that more serial books should remember to use. I won’t ruin the details on how the Bat Family splits, but I will say it involves Bruce being odd man out for living in a state of delusional deniability regarding the Joker’s prowess and wiles.
The back-up story continues to delight, mainly because of Jock’s eerie ass way of seeing the world of the Joker. Even the point of view in the panels gives pause for creepiness. The backstories have been trips down memory lane to moments before the crossover started and how the Joker set all the main story’s plans in motion. I have to admit this one didn’t give me the same ick factor as the Harley episodes, but seeing the first signs of the Riddler in the Bat-Verse as more arrogant than maniacal gave me great hope for future Bat tales.
Everyone who keeps saying, “Robin’s going to die. Robin’s going to die.” Please kindly shut the fuck up. That’s a hack move neither Snyder nor DC can afford right now. If after reading BATMAN 15 you still believe this inane theory, I suggest you take a class in understanding subtlety. It’s not Robin that’s going to die, or Barbara, Dick, or Jason. BATMAN 15 clearly shows that death does not have to be a physical state of being, emotional death or untethering can sometimes be the most painful end of all because you must continue living afterwards.
P.S. When is that freaking face going to rot? I’m not a Sciencey guy, but I always thought faces needed more nourishment than leather and dental floss to avoid becoming necrotic.