As DC fans reel from the news that Batgirl and Batman’s relationship becomes “complicated” in animated film adaptation The Killing Joke, DC’s comics showcases how the real Bat Family would interact. As DC’s Rebirth event brings back Jason Todd’s Red Hood, Batman’s once sidekick, turned villain, turned anti-hero returns with a stronger relationship to Batman than ever before.
Jason Todd will forever live in infamy as the Robin readers he voted would die at the hands of The Joker in the Death in the Family arc. Since then, Todd and Batman have had a complicated relationship. It could be argued however, that Todd’s character has been strengthened by his death and resurrection. His narrative as the black sheep Robin turned prodigal son is only heightened by his interactions with the other members of the bat family.
Ever since Red Hood returned to the fold, his interactions with other bat family members like Dick Grayson are fascinating. His jealousy of Dick’s talents, or Damian’s blood relation to Bruce fuels Todd as a character who desperately wants Wayne’s approval, despite deep resentment for letting him die. It took a while for writers to figure out Todd’s place in Batman’s family, but once they did Todd has been more compelling than ever.
This dynamic is what fuels his new book in DC’s Rebirth. As the loose cannon ally of Batman, Todd is the one Bruce sends when he needs an ally within Gotham’s criminal network. Unfortunately because of Todd’s history as an actual villain, there are some trust issues between them. But while an older Todd incarnation would resent Batman for this distrust, a fleshed out backstory in Rebirth helps bring a greater context to the two’s relationship, even to before Todd was killed by The Joker.
The flashback helps make a compelling case for Todd as possibly the one most wanting of Batman’s affections as a father figure. Not only that, but further strengthens the idea of Batman’s extended family in the first place. While Dick Grayson doesn’t make an appearance in the book, the fact they mention him as if discussing another sibling was a nice touch.
For me, the idea of a Batman family, created through his network of prodigies and sidekicks has always been fascinating. It gives Bruce Wayne a family he probably could have always had, but chose not to because of his work. As the family dynamic has become more interconnected over the past Batman arcs, the drama really resembles something out of a Gothic novel. As the rogue element in that family, Todd arguably holds the most interesting position within it.
For all it’s worth, the first Rebirth issue of Red Hood and the Outlaws acts as an origin story for Todd. It depicts him as a young street thug prior to becoming a Robin, but also shows off more of what his transition from the streets to Wayne Manor was like. As a character who went through a serious phase of forced “edginess”, this might be the first time the Red Hood Jason Todd has felt like a real character, and not a Hot Topic version of Dick Grayson.
While the later issues imply that Red Hood’s Outlaws will come into play, the first issue’s focus on Todd and Batman reminds me why he’s the most interesting anti-villain in the Batman universe. As someone with a direct relationship to Batman, it’s interesting to see subtle ways Wayne treats Todd differently than both other villains, and other members of his family. Hopefully this focus continues as the arc plays out, because the last page really does leave the two’s relationship at an interesting place.