*I do not own any of the images used in this post, but rather they are all property of DC Comics*
Under the Red Hood collects its storyline from Batman #635-641, #645-650, and the Batman Annual #4, which means there’s a whole load of writers, illustrators and letterers, and all the other amazing people who are involved in producing comics, including Judd Winick, Doug Mahnke and Shane Davis.
Black Mask controls most of Gotham’s underworld, and while Batman is busy trying to take him down, a new player appears on the board; the Red Hood. This mysterious figure is well-trained, his moves are precise, and worse of all he seems to know how Batman will react. We get to see the world’s greatest detective in action he tries to unmask the mysterious new figure, but will Batman regret it when he’s done?
What do I need to read before reading:
Theoretically nothing, however in an ideal world you would have read Death in the Family. Now, I have not read that, though I do know the big plot point that happens. I have, however, read Injustice Year One, and I think that serves as a nice, albeit tangental intro to the events of this book. Basically I wouldn’t recommend it as your first Batman read.
What do I need to know before reading:
So, you’ve never read any Batman, and you want to read this one? Well, good luck to you! I’m just kidding, it’s completely do-able, and in theory you can go into this blind. However, there is a slight possibility that you could be a little confused by a certain turn of events. You should know, and this is referenced toward the 50% mark, that there has been more than one Robin. That may be common knowledge, and you may be wondering why I’m wasting my time telling you this, but if you’re a newbie then this might be new to you.
We Are Family
The best part of this storyline is by far the familial ties, which I always find an interesting theme in any Batman story. Bruce is such a closed off character that to see him in a situation where he has to show genuine emotion, is really hard to pull off, and make believable, keeping the character true to itself. Usually he’s grounded though his interactions with Alfred, but this relationship, while still present, and still vital, is overshadowed by his role as a father, both to Dick, and to Jason. There is something about Nightwing that I just really adore, and it that always makes me want to see more of him (hit me up with your Nightwing recommendations down below), and his relationship with Bruce is especially intriguing. It never ceases to amaze me how you can see that Bruce cares, but how he’s also trying to distance himself, believing that he’s doing the right thing, in just a couple of panels. This theme goes even further, when as I said before we are reminded of Robin, the original Robin, and how the evens of the past still haunt Bruce, whether he is Batman or not.
The Big Reveal
Don’t worry. This is still spoiler free, and I’m not about to tell you who Red Hood is, I just want to talk about the reveal itself. It was awesome. That’s it.
Just kidding, but seriously it was awesome. I already knew who Red Hood is going into this novel, however, I did my best to bock that knowledge from my mind, and focus on the pages. If you don’t know, and you have keep detective skills, I genuinely think you can work it out. I wish I could show you the reveal pane, because I love it, but of course I can’t so you’ll just have to read the book and experience it for yourself. Also this story isn’t necessarily about the reveal itself, it’s not some huge plot twist that precedes a final fight. Rather the story is about the implications of this reveal, and what it means for the characters involved, meaning that the identity goes so much further than just as a shock tactic.
Let’s talk about the Bru-tal-ity
I’m pretty sure that is such an obscure reference that no one will be singing it, but that’s what we’re going with. My favourite comics are the brutal ones, the ones where you feel like Batman is in danger, and could get seriously hurt. Batman is my favourite hero because he’s only human, because at the end of the day anyone (with a certain amount of money) could be Batman, and unlike other superheroes he can be killed. Under the Red Hood captured this beautifully, both through the plotting of the fight sequences, both physically and emotionally. Take a look at the pane above, look of beaten down Bruce is, he’s bloody, he’s lost his mask, the rain is pouring down. It feel like this could be the end for him, and that’s how Batman should make you feel. This could be his final fight, the one that finished him, but he’s going to fight anyway, and that’s all any of us can do.
Make Me Your Villain
Shall we play spot the quote? Comment down below if you recognise it!
There are two main villains in this story, the first being Black Mask, who is perfectly fine as a fancy mob boss, he’s scary enough to keep you on your toes, and has quite a few comical moments. I don’t know anything about him, so this might be a thing already, but eve time I look at him I can’t help but thing about Marvel’s Red Skull. I don’t know which one came first, and I understand that from my limited experience (namely CA; The First Avenger film, and this comic) they are very different people, but I can’t; help but compare them. I will say that I’m interested in his back story to some extent. Not in a “I’m going to go and buy some more comics” sort o way, more of a “Oh cool this has Black Skull in it” kind of way. But still, thee could be a good story out there.
Most of the attention, and rightly so is on Red Hood. I loved loved loved, Red Hood as a villain. He had the unpredictability of the Joker, the sass of Nightwing, and the tricks of Batman, which was a great combo. I want more Red Hood! He was morally grey for a long time, and I could not for the life of me work out what his play was, until all the prices come together at the very end. He pushes, and pushed, and pushes Batman, luring him toward that line that he refuses to cross, until even I didn’t know how Batman was going to react to the choice in front of him. There is something undeniable cool about Red Hood, that makes you want him to stick around for a while.
Home is where the heart is
One final thing that I want to tell you all about is the depiction of Gotham thought this comic. There are multiple time, and multiple characters, who talk about their city, about ownership and understanding of a place. Each time its fantastic, because Gotham really is this living, breathing city. that breads its own unique breed of criminal and hero. It’s always been the most interesting of the DC location for me, and that has not changed. I always say that Gotham is what has given DC this obsession with being super dark, and I stand by that. These musings of Gotham, make her feel gritty, in a way that contrasts with the fact that we have villains parading round dressed as Clowns, or heroes dressed as giant bats.
All’s well that ends well
Again, I’m not going to tel you want the ended is, and I just have one thing to say, just the one this time I promise. Everything comes full circle, and that in itself is gorgeous.
What about you; Have you read Under the Red Hood, and if so what did you think? If not, have I piqued your interest? What are your favourite comics?
Thanks for reading!