17 years after the Death in the Family story arc, writer Judd Winick brings the dead Robin, back to life. With help from Super-boy Prime altering time or “setting things right,” and the Lazarus Pit, the former Boy Wonder returns with a vengeance. But why bring back a character that the people voted dead? It’s one thing to continue the cliché of superheroes rising from the grave (“no, he didn’t die. He was just stuck in a time vortex. No big deal.”), but it’s a whole different matter overthrowing a decision made by your readership. The critical reception of Jason’s returning piece, Under the Red Hood, was the equivalent of a groan. The story itself was solid, but why not let the dead stay dead? But this is not the same Jason Todd that the people condemned to death all those years ago. In his place is a murdered man, fed up with being the cute little sidekick. The following is why Jason, now the Red Hood, is an essential member of the Batman ethos and why it was a good idea to bring him back.
In 2003’s, Batman: Hush, Jason’s return is hinted at as Hush tears away his bandages to reveal an older version of the lost Robin. This, of course, is merely a persona taken on by Clayface and used to get into Batman’s head.
Later, it is revealed that Jason was, in fact, working with Hush and the associated villains as a consultant. But this illustrates one of Jason’s most important effects on the Batman universe. Batman sees Jason as his greatest failure and from the moment he dies, nothing is the same. Jason coming back and confronting him is a breathing reminder of that failure. When Batman fights the Red Hood, he is fighting a son. Written to be a “really, really horrible good guy” (Winink), Jason is not just a twisted version Batman; he is a version of Batman that Batman himself created. Jason has lost what it takes to be a hero. However, Jason has never been so popular with the audience. Not restrained by some moral code, like Batman, the Red Hood does anything and everything it takes to get the job done. To him, the end justifies the means, and the means does not exclude killing. The Red Hood and many antiheroes like him are popular with audiences because of this edge. They straddle the line between good and evil, making them far more complex than their heroic counterparts, and not as wholly unlikeable as the true villains. The volatility is exciting in ways that Superman’s selfless ventures are not. Jason holds the opinion of, “what is the point of always bringing the Joker to Arkham, if he’s only going to escape in a week?” which is a sentiment that many of Batman’s readers have. The antihero is the character of the people: angry at the lies of the day and not afraid to do something about it. But Jason is not only a worthy adversary for Batman; he is also one of his greatest allies. For a while, Jason was simply known as the “evil ex-Robin,” a title that suited him for many years. But when the New52 happened, writers were given the opportunity to leave that identity behind. While the Red Hood will always have his dark origins, his character grows and interacts with the world around him. The Red Hood, for lack of a better term, teams-up with fellow supes Arsenal (formerly, Speedy, the Green Arrow’s sidekick) and Starfire in the issues of Red Hood and the Outlaws. But to me, the biggest change is that Jason now wears a variation of the Bat crest on his chest, showing acceptance of the ever-present Bat-family in his life. Bringing back Jason in the form that he is now shows DC’s commitment to leaving behind the one-dimensional heroes of the past, and is a reminder that the characters who are successful are the ones who are allowed to change.