Monday, December 26, 2011

Graphic Novels - Batman: Death in the Family

This installment of Graphic Novels is brought to you by...a rapping Cookie Monster. 

Hello and hello! It's ARW with another tale from the 80's. This one is a bit...controversial, as you see the title of the post and the image at the right. This is the death of Jason Todd, the second Robin. I might as well spoil what happened since it's well known. There's also the fact that one of you guys/gals out there may have voted to have Jason killed or not killed, I don't know. All I know is that this is a nice, sad, messed up tale. For those who don't know who Jason Todd is, don't worry, I'll talk about him a little below...or you can look him up on Wikipedia. I first read this tpb when I got it from Giles County's library.I thought it was pretty good.  I recently found it for cheap at a book store. Now, let's get to the creative team:

Geoff Johns - Hold up! You didn't write this! Get outta here!

Jim Starlin - a well-known writer who has done some books like Infinity Gauntlet.
Jim Aparo - a well-known Batman artist. He's the one who drew the "breaking" of Batman in the 90's. 

The issues of this story are Batman #426-429. So, with that being said, let's get to it!

Chapter 1
We start out as Batman and Robin scope out some illegal activity. All I can say is this: go get them!  Jason, who’s been a little more reckless lately, doesn't follow the plan and goes in and beats them up.  After all of that, Bruce talks to Alfred about Jason’s rebelliousness. Bruce thinks it has something to do with Jason losing his parents.  Bruce then decides to relieve Jason, who does not take it well at all.  He storms out of the mansion and heads to his old neighborhood.  Meanwhile, the Joker + nuclear warhead + terrorists = Oh #$@#.

While Batman is on the case of capturing Joker again, Jason goes to his old neighborhood and runs into an old friend of the family.  She has some items from Jason’s old home, which she gives to Jason.  At the mansion, he goes through the items and finds his birth certificate where he makes a shocking discovery: the woman who he thought was his birth mother was not his birth mother! It turns out it was some woman with the first name ‘S’.  He uses the Bat computers along with three names he found with the items and finds out that the three women are over in Africa and the Middle East.  Jason then decides to leave and head overseas to find his birth mother. During all of this, Batman finds out that Joker is going to sell his warhead to terrorists in the Middle East. When Bruce gets back from his case, he finds out that Jason is gone.

Chapter 2
We start out with Batman in the Middle East tracking down the Joker instead of looking for Jason. He finds the plane that Joker used to transport the warhead, but he doesn’t find the Joker or the warhead. Afterwards, he finds out through Alfred that Jason is in Israel. Meanwhile, Jason tries to use his trick acquired from Batman to find Sharmin Rosin, the first on the list and an agent for Israel. Eventually, the dynamic duo cross paths and figure out that the people they’re after are together.  

They then follow the Rosin and the other guy, and this leads them right to the Joker and that warhead. Apparently, the Joker has gone into arms dealing. Yay? This causes Batman and Robin to go in and start kicking some terrorist butt. Frank Miller, this is how you do it! Anyway, the warhead ends up going off after some idiot pressed the red button, but luckily the nuclear part didn’t go off. Afterwards, The Joker retreats to the desert, beaten and a bit down.  Batman and Robin then ask Rosin a few questions and it turns out that she is not Jason’s mother. The Duo then decides to look for the other two women together. The part ends as the Joker (in disguise no less) books a flight to Ethiopia.

Chapter 3
Part three starts off with Batman and Robin on the hunt for the second woman on the list, Shiva Woosan. Apparently, she’s a freelance mercenary and loves long walks on the beach. Anyway, it turns out that she was snatched by some guys, so the Duo set out to find the encampment. When they get there, they take all of the guards out with ease. While all of the interesting stuff is going on, the Joker is in Ethiopia searching for someone named Dr. Sheila Haywood. When he finds Sheila, he blackmails her into helping him with his plans.

Back at the encampment in the Middle East, Batman and Robin wonder why these guards are so easy to beat. They find out when Shiva knocks out Robin. It turns out that the encampment was a terrorist training camp and that she was the teacher. Batman and Shiva then duke it out, with Shiva being a match for the Dark Knight.
 Batman: Don't you know who I am? I'm the Go--- Ah!!! Not the face! Not the face!

Robin wakes up and hesitates at first on who he should help: Batman or the woman who might be his mother. He ends up helping Batman out by lending that extra hand and the fight ends. After they blow up the camp, they interrogate Shiva to see if she has had any kids. Shiva’s a prick about it, so Batman does the sensible thing: Truth serum! In the end, she is not Jason’s mom. So, after that action-packed episode, they head to Ethiopia to see the last woman: Sheila Haywood.

Chapter 4
Bruce and Jason finally make it to Ethiopia, where they look for Shelia. It turns out she’s not that hard to find. They find her and a mother and son are reunited. Bruce leaves to let the two talk. After they finish their talk, she tells Jason she has some business to take care of. It’s at that time where Jason spots Joker, in his pretty dumb disguise no less, as he goes into his mother’s tent. As he eavesdrops on the conversation, it turns out that Joker wants Sheila to get him some trucks so he can do some killing with that lethal gas of his.  Jason leaves the camp to find Bruce and tell him of the situation.
Great disguise!!

Bruce suits up to keep the truckloads of gas from hurting anyone.  He orders Jason to stay where they’re at until he comes back. Jason, being rebellious but for good reason, goes back to where the Joker’s at to get his mom out of there. He heads to the warehouse, where they’re at, and reveals to Sheila that he’s Robin and he’s here to help. Shelia then ends up turning him over to the Joker and his goons, who start to beat the crap out him. Robin does get one hit in on the Joker, but after that, it’s pretty much over for him. We then get to that infamous “Crowbar” scene everyone remembers from this story. All Shelia does is turn away while Robin is beaten up.

Meanwhile, Batman goes to stop the truckload of lethal gas from being dispersed. After that, he starts to head to the warehouse. At the warehouse, Joker decides he will get rid of all of the evidence (as well as Robin AND Sheila) by blowing the place up. His goons tie Shelia up and leave an explosive behind. Robin, bleeding and bruised, gets up and unties his mom and they try to get out of there, but the door’s locked. Unfortunately, the warehouse explodes as Batman arrives.

Chapter 5
We start out the part as Batman looks through the decimated warehouse for Jason. As he looks, we get a two page recap of Jason’s time with Batman. The recap ends as he finds Sheila. As Sheila passes on, she tells him that Jason did what he could to keep her safe. He then goes and finds Jason — dead. Meanwhile, Joker has done his thing and gotten the supplies to their suppliers. He then is escorted by two Iranian government agents as he meets ….Who is this guy? I know he was like real important in Iran at the time, but I don’t know who this dude is. Anyway, the dude offers Joker a job.

At the warehouse, Bruce is back in his civilian attire as he tells the authorities “some” of what happened” and that he will take care of Jason and Shelia. He then goes to look for the Joker at the warehouse where he took the supplies to. He finds Joker’s goons dead from Joker gas and a message from the psycho himself. It says that he will see him at 42nd and 1st  (New York City). Bruce then heads back to the US with the bodies and we see the funeral for Jason and Shelia.  Only Bruce, Alfred, Commissioner Gordon and Barbara Gordon (who also got recently screwed by the Joker) attend. Bruce then leaves the funeral, telling Alfred to not have Dick (Nighwing) involved in this. He wants to do this alone.

He finds out the address is the United Nations Plaza. He goes there to settle it once and for all with the Joker...and suddenly Superman shows up. It turns out that Iran has a new UN ambassador who was a baddie in the States. Because of this, the man has diplomatic immunity and can’t be touched by the cops or even those two. Batman asks who the man is, but Superman is hesitant, so Batman punches the Man of Steel. Luckily, batman lives (lol).

The man pulls up in a car and it is revealed to be the Joker. Man, the nut gets around, doesn’t he?
I think this is the one villain that Al-Queda would not want in its group.

Chapter 6
Batman and Superman meet with a man from the CIA and discuss the new development. Basically, no one can mess with the Joker, not even Batman, because the US is having talks with Iran. Batman is peeved at this, but nothing can be done. Superman is also with the government in this. After this, the two heroes talk about the situation involving Jason. Superman warns Batman to not mess with the Joker. Batman does his “hell to the naw” thing and leaves. At his hotel, he is able to pull some strings to get himself (as Bruce Wayne of course) to sit in on the UN meeting. He then can’t take it anymore and sets out to “talk” to the Joker. In the Iranian Mission, Joker is still awake and preparing for his speech tomorrow. Suddenly Batman comes in and Joker basically admits to killing Jason. Batman says that was all he was there for and leaves, which ticks off the Joker a bit.

We then shift to the next night where all are gathered in the UN General Assembly Chamber. Bruce is there, waiting for Joker to come. As Joker walks up to the podium to deliver his speech, I notice that Joker has one of those “DUHHHHHHHH” looks on his face. It’s kind of funny, which is weird because this book has mostly been depressing. Anyway, Joker gives his speech. Afterwards, he pulls off his robe to reveal that he has canisters of Joker Gas strapped to him. He then starts spraying the stuff around. Bruce starts to change, but then notices that the security guard has smashed joker’s sprayer and has begun to suck out all of the toxic fumes. It turns out that it’s Superman (Oh yeah!). As Superman leaves to get rid of the poisonous gas, Joker uses explosives to hide his escape. Luckily, Batman has come to kick some butt. Their fight moves from the chamber to a helicopter. One of Joker’s goons gets trigger happy and shoot at both Batman and the Joker. Batman gets one in the arm while Joker the chest. Batman jumps from the choppa’ as it crashes and is saved by Superman. The story ends as Batman knows that Joker may be still alive.

So, what do I think? Well, this is a pretty decent story. It’s pretty gritty and sad as well. Joker steals the show with his constant killing spree. I think that it's rare to see Batman out for revenge, and it's done well here.  The Superman appearance was cool as well. The artwork was pretty decent, and I think the artwork got better as the story went along, especially when we got to the death scene. I do have to admit that this does seem a little dated, but I am a fan for the 80's after all. If you're a Batman fan, a Jason Todd anti-fan, or a Joker fan, you may enjoy this. I would also recommend some random movie called Batman: Under the Red Hood. Why? Just watch it and you'll see.  

 I did not experience Jason as Robin myself, but from what I have heard and read, he wasn’t well liked.  And I know why that is – he wasn't Dick Grayson. Instead of a kid who literally had no problems growing up (dead parents notwithstanding), Jason was a kid who had a fair share of problems. His mom died and his father was a criminal and died as well.  Bruce did what he could do, but that apparently was not enough. So, I think the character was okay. One does wonder why they brought the character back though. It seems like the only one who can do the character right is Judd Winnick (I know, right?). Well, that's all I got, so this is me saying...IT'S BACK!!

1 comment:

  1. One of my favorite stories, and yeah Jason Todd just didn't work at the time. Why did they bring him back? No good reason