Red Hood’s hidden past is revealed as Jason finally learns the truth about his dead parents.
RED HOOD AND THE OUTLAWS VOL. 2 #23
Writer: Scott Lobdell
Artist: Trevor Hairsine
Color Artists: Rain Beredo
Cover Artist: Trevor Hairsine and Antonio Fabela / Variant: Guillem March
Publisher: DC Comics
What You’ll Need to Know:
Prior to being secretly kidnapped and shrunk down to micro size by Bizarro, Ma Gunn gave instructions to her granddaughter to deliver a package to Jason Todd (aka Red Hood) in the off chance she ever turns up missing. True to her word, the package was delivered and now Jason is about to read the contents within.
So far only Bizarro knows what really happened to Ma, just as only Lex Luthor knows that the Amazon Artemis was secretly his paid assassin for hire prior to joining the Outlaws team. Among her known past assignments was the murder of various Hierve el Agua prison inmates and facility workers, before burning the bodies and equipment left within the facility to the ground.
What You’ll Find Out (SPOILERS):
The issue starts with Red Hood standing in Gotham City’s Potter’s Field, a cemetery for unclaimed prison inmates. He’s surrounded by hired thugs while holding a freshly used shovel. One of the thugs says that The Penguin sends his greetings before they start firing. Red Hood manages to dodge the bullets and one-by-one takes out the hired goons.
We then flashback to one hour earlier. Red Hood is dressed as his civilian Jason Todd persona, sitting before a fire at the building formerly known as Ma Gunn’s School for Wayward Boys. Having opened the package Ma had sent to him, Jason discovers that it contains several letters. The first letter he reads is from Ma Gunn, who apologizes for keeping the other letters a secret from him, and hopes that he can forgive her.
Ma explains that she kept the other letters from him in the hopes of better controlling him, but now regrets all of her past actions. She explains that the letters are from his estranged father. Reading his father’s letters, Jason learns that he wrote six letters to him in total while he was in prison. His father explains that he’s writing because he doesn’t want Jason to end up like him. He adds that he started out in life as a street drug dealer. He sold to anyone who could pay, including kids. This, we discover, is how he met Jason’s mother. She was an addict that his father sold drugs to. The two fell in love. When her well to do parents learned that she was dating her drug dealer, they threw her out of her home in the suburbs.
They ended up moving into an abandoned house in a bad part of town. Jason’s mother continued using drugs during their time together. One day, his father came home to find her on the floor. He thought she had overdosed, but they later learned that she was pregnant. His father tried to become legit, working at a car wash and taking Jason’s mother to Lamaze classes at the Gotham YMCA. They were eventually kicked out of the classes through due to their drug and alcohol issues. Instead, they decided to have the baby at home, where he was born in their bathtub. They decided to name the baby Jason, after his grandfather. Taking the baby to the roof of their home, Jason’s father makes a promise to him that he’s gonna be everything he never was.
Unfortunately for them, Jason started out with many health problems due to his mother’s drug use and his father’s bad genetics. Realizing that he now has high medical bills to pay and that a car washer’s salary wasn’t gonna cut it, he looked for another line of work. He realized that going back to drug dealing was too dangerous for his family, so he went on an interview to work for Two-Face as hired muscle and got the job. He found that he was a pretty good henchman and went on to work for other Gotham City mob bosses like Mister Freeze and The Riddler. He loved the lifestyle so much he considered becoming a gimmicked mob boss himself, but never went through with it. He soon also became a punching bag for Batman over time, and even was branded by him on the arm with the bat symbol. He suffered through it though as working as a henchman, he was able to put food on the table and pay off all of Jason’s medical bills. One of his favorite memories was the day he was able to take Jason to the circus.
Everything changed though when his father took a job to work for The Penguin.
Turns out that the new henchmen job wasn’t as straightforward as the others. The Penguin had set him up to take a fall for one of his crooked deals. Because of it, Jason’s father was sentenced to 20 years to life in prison. While in prison, his father learned that Jason’s mother had died. It broke him. Wanting to see his son again, his father made a deal with a science research company. If he survived the drug trials, he would be released from prison early. He goes on to tell Jason that he loves him and that he hopes someday that he’ll have a son of his own so that he’ll know what it’s like to love someone so much that he’d do anything to be with him again. Enclosed with the final letter is a strip of photo booth photos of Jason and his dad when he was a boy. Seeing it causes Jason to cry.
Flashing back to the present, Jason continues to dig in the spot where his father was buried. In the distance, The Penguin is watching Red Hood dig as a paid henchman also watches through a rifle’s night vision scope. Red Hood finally manages to reach the buried coffin and pulls it to the surface. While doing so, he admits to himself that he’s never visited his father in prison or visited his grave. He felt that he had nothing to say to him. The henchman then asks The Penguin if he should take the shot, but Penguin tells him no, not yet. When Red Hood removes the coffin’s lid, he sees that its empty.
Red Hood yells out into the rain that he doesn’t care what happened to his father, but he knows down inside that he now does. Deeply. The Penguin then tells the henchman to go wait in the car. After all of the financial damage Red Hood has given him recently, The Penguin wanted nothing more than to see him dead. Now seeing Red Hood in so much emotional pain brings much more joy to The Penguin, as he watches from afar, laughing.
What Just Happened:
Red Hood now knows that The Penguin was the person behind his father’s incarceration. This will undoubtedly amp up Red Hood’s fixation on bringing the crazed crime lord down. He also now knows that his father not only loved him and his mother, but that he tried to be released from prison at great expense to be reunited with them. Finding his burial plot empty, Red Hood is bound to track his father to the Hierve el Agua prison experiment and learn that one of his most trusted friends and love interest (Artemis) has killed his father at Lex Luthor’s behest. After learning this, and that Bizarro is really the person behind Ma Gunn’s disappearance, things will never be the same again for the merry Outlaws trio.
Final Thought: This issue was all about Red Hood, and it was mind-blowing. I wasn’t too thrilled with the art. After having Dexter Soy’s slick pencils for so many issues, seeing Trevor Hairsine’s art doesn’t quite measure up. It’s not bad, just not as good quality. That said, I do love the one panel posted at the top of the page Trevor drew of Jason Todd shocked and crying at seeing the photos his father left him. That shot is epic on so many levels.
I’m saddened too that the chemistry between Red Hood, Bizarro and Artemis looks to be going to a dark place that can never be repaired. Just sad and tragic after all the time they initially spent together, forming a make-shift family dynamic of their own. No one will be left clean by the time all of this is over.
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