WARNING: This article contains SPOILERS for Red Hood and The Outlaws #9
Pick up a comic book starring the Red Hood these days, and it's easy to forget that Jason Todd began his rise to true DC Comics fame by... well, dying. But bodies don't stay buried for long in comics, and while Jason has been alive and kicking for decades, only now is he coming to terms with the ghost of the Robin he used to be. It's a story only beginning in Red Hood and the Outlaws #9, a team-up adventure seeing Jason Todd join forces with Artemis, a wayward Amazon exile and a new Bizarro Superman clone.
On the surface, the story spotlight has shifted to Artemis, with a horrific attack in the country of Qurac suggesting an Amazon superweapon at work... and jogging a painful memory for Jason Todd, since that same country was his final destination as Batman's sidekick, Robin. Needless to say, the Outlaws' attempt to quietly infiltrate the country and investigate goes sideways, leaving the team fractured, frazzled, and in the case of Jason Todd, haunted by the specter of the superhero he used to be. Dark times lie ahead for the Red Hood.
Red Hood Recalls His Death
By this point, it's hard to believe that anyone who even knows the DC character 'Red Hood' could be oblivious to his origin story, but the DC Rebirth gave writer Scott Lobdell and artist Dexter Soy a chance to clear the story up. So it was, in the very first issue of the new series, that Jason Todd explained his own origin, from his days as a thief on the streets of Gotham right up to his death as Robin in DC's famous "Death in the Family" storyline (where his details get hazy, since he was... dead).
In Issue #9, Jason once again offers some backstory for the newcomers, recalling how his last trip to Qurac was made in pursuit of his birth mother. That turned out to be an elaborate ruse courtesy of the Joker, who then proceeded to beat Jason nearly to death with a crowbar before killing both him and his mother in a massive explosion that Batman was too late to stop. It marked the greatest failure of Batman to date, and when Jason was brought back to life courtesy of a mystical Lazarus pit, he and Bats were returned to their original collision course.
It was a story of pain, through and through, as Jason embraced rage and violence to cover the hurt of discovering Batman never avenged him. Batman kept Jason at arm's length to protect himself from the pain of failing him. The Red Hood Rebirth brought the two together on a new mission, but as Jason soon learns, he'll have to come to terms with a whole lot more than his father/son issues with the Dark Knight.
Jason Todd Returns To The Scene
Once the Outlaws are separated when their aircraft is destroyed by a Qurac ground-to-air weapon (possibly the same mystical weapon they're looking for), Jason finds himself surrounded by Qurac military. They toss him into a cell and demand to know why he seeks to infiltrate their country... offering what Jason - ever the opportunist - sees as a shortcut through the red tape. Explaining that he will only speak to the country's leader directly, the soldiers inform him that is exactly what is about to happen - at which point The General will decide this American interloper's fate.
The tingling feeling in Jason's mind - that this is all feeling a bit too familiar - is what returns his memories of death at Joker's hands, informing the guards that he's not actually a total stranger to their country. That aside from a brief rescue mission, he's kept his distance from Qurac ever since he was killed there... in the exact building sitting outside his window. At which point the famously level-headed Red Hood begins to lose composure.
Whatever the armed guards were expecting, hearing their prisoner suddenly demand to know if they're working for the Joker wasn't it. Believing such a coincidence to be downright impossible, that this must be another case of the Joker's twisted game - despite any and all evidence making that seem ridiculous - Jason has clearly gone off the deep end. And as the guards leave, that itch in the back of his mind becomes an entire person: the hero he used to be.
A Visit From His Former Self
Explaining that even in an empty cell, Jason can "feel him tugging on the hem of my brain," the haunting presence in question is soon revealed to be Robin himself. The younger vision of Jason is battered and beaten, bearing the wounds he received the last time he visited this exact spot (assuming Jason isn't hallucinating that building, as well). Real or not, the specter of young Jason takes in the misfit vigilante he one day becomes... and is less than impressed.
That's where the issue leaves Jason Todd, promising that he will be his greatest critic... while also suggesting that the divide between the boy that Jason was and the one that returned to life may be larger than once thought. It's a top-notch tease, and judging by Nicola Scott's cover art for the next issue - depicting Red Hood cradling Jason's broken body as Batman famously did on the "Death of the Family" cover - it's going to be a haunting for the ages. Where it leaves Jason Todd... that's a question nobody but he can answer.
Red Hood and the Outlaws #9 is available now.