Review: Batman: Under the Hood trade paperback (DC Comics)

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Sunday, July 16, 2006

It's hard to say if my reaction to Batman: Under the Hood (volume one, that is) would be different if I didn't already know just about everything that was going to happen. The story within is nearly earth-shattering, really, in its effect on the Batman mythos overall, but it's hard to raise an eyebrow when the big revelation was splayed across every comics news site the moment it came out (I feel the same way about the big moment in The OMAC Project, too, and so I'm making it my goal to try to learn as little about 52 as I can, so as to keep the surprising moments actually surprising). Still, the team of Judd Winnick, Doug Mahnke, and Tom Nguyen do a great job writing and illustrating a certain, distinct Batman at a certain time in his life, enough to make all the set-up here passable before the second volume.

Winnick portrays a Batman who is, frankly, old--far more the George Clooney Batman than Christian Bale. At one point, fighting alongside Nightwing, Batman thinks back on Dick Grayson's youth as Robin and notes that the happy memories make it "hard to be with" Nightwing now. When Bruce begins to suspect the identity of the Red Hood, he visits both Green Arrow and Superman to talk about the times that they were "dead"; though the two heroes dismiss their resurrections rather blithely, Batman insists that as a man of science, their rebirths have affected him more than he let on. This is a Batman nostalgic, a Batman feeling his age, a Batman tied up in thoughts of mortality. Since comics creators let Dick Grayson grow up, Bruce Wayne's age becomes more nebulous than those of Superman or Wonder Woman--sometimes he's a young billionaire playboy, sometimes he's an older father figure. The latter, we know, is more temporary, while the former more definitive, but Winnick uses it to his advantage here, especially given Batman's dynamic with the Red Hood.

I've been a fan of Mahnke and Nguyen since their Superman: Man of Steel days (not, sadly, since their Major Bummer days, which would allow me to call myself a true fan), through to JLA and Justice League Elite, and now Batman. And I admit, I wasn't always a fan, finding the far-off shots sometimes too cartoon-y, but I came to find that the two created beautiful close-up shots with great detail, and then I was hooked. Batman's positioning within this trade is awkward at times, but their artwork is highly appropriate for this storyline overall.

I'll save more detailed opinions on the Red Hood's resurrection for after I've read volume two. For now, I'm off to read ... I don't know what. Day of Vengeance and JSA: Black Vengeance, eventually, but maybe Green Arrow and Teen Titans/Outsiders: The Insiders first. We'll see. Thanks for reading.
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3 comments:

  1. I really dug the Red Hood storyline...right up to the reveal. I won't spoil it in case you don't know, but the explanation for how the Hood could be who he is was probably the most disappointing deus ex machina ending to a promising storyline that I have read in a long time.

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  2. I recognize that the logic of how the Red Hood came back is problematic. The reasoning behind it bothers me. There are few significant deaths in comics, and this was one of them.

    But...I loved the storyline, and I love the character that Red Hood has become. He is Batman's equal but with a simple removal of the moral restriction of not killing the bad guys. It makes for a lot of moral difficulties for Batman as well as a foe who is a true challenge for him.

    I enjoyed both the first and second volumes of Under the Hood. Have fun with the second one.

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  3. I was surprised to find that I really enjoyed the first volume, and would have called the entire storyline a classic if it weren't for the incredibly unsatisfying non-ending of the final chapter. Literally nothing is resolved, though I'm not sure who deserves the bigger blame here, Judd Winick or the Bat editors.

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