Comic characters are always changing, whether through personal choice or the experiences that shape them. No one can stay the same forever, otherwise it leads to repetitive stories. Red Hood is a character that’s gone through a lot of changes, developing from a murderous anti-hero into a trusted member of Batman’s inner circle. Jason Todd’s progression was built up over years, as he needed to earn back his mentor’s trust and overcome his personal demons.
At his core, Red Hood has always been motivated by his own sense of justice. His willingness to kill criminals set him apart from other members of the Batman family. But as he developed, Jason chose to honour Batman’s wishes by no longer killing. But did taking that aspect away make Red Hood less intriguing?
Being reintroduced as a popular character
When Jason was first introduced as Robin, a lot of fans thought he was similar to Dick Grayson. Many people rejected the character, which eventually led to the vote that decided whether or not he should be killed by The Joker.
Jason stayed dead for years until 2005’s Under The Red Hood arc. Judd Winick brought him back to assume the original identity of The Joker. Like Batman, Jason chose to embrace his greatest fear and take it inside himself by becoming Red Hood. He was reintroduced as a major antagonist to Batman, killing his way through the Gotham underworld to become the new crime lord so he could protect the city in his own way.
Red Hood’s desire to kill freshened up the character and it could be argued that it was one of the main reasons why he became popular. His use of guns put him at odds with Batman, while also making him an outcast among his extended family. The turmoil and conflict made for some compelling stories.
It wasn’t until the New 52 that Jason and Bruce were able to patch up their relationship. Red Hood received his own ongoing series alongside Roy Harper and Starfire. Through being around his new friends, Jason learned how to let go of his anger and it helped him to become a part of the Batman family again.
Old habits die hard
All of this culminated in the promise that Jason made to Bruce during DC: Rebirth. Red Hood chose to stop killing criminals, yet it didn’t stop him from fighting crime on his own terms. In a recent arc of Red Hood and The Outlaws, Jason appeared to break his promise. After finding out the Penguin was responsible for sending his late father Willis Todd to jail, Red Hood went on a personal vendetta against Cobblepot.
Jason destroyed all of his new business and confronted Penguin. He revealed his identity so he could look Penguin in the eye. Jason was willing to compromise his association with Batman in order to avenge his father. Jason admitted that he knew how bad of a father Willis was, but his memory still needed to be avenged. Red Hood shot Penguin at point-blank range, thus damaging his relationship with Batman again.
Red Hood’s attempt on Penguin’s life demonstrates that he’ll always be someone who struggles with violent tendencies. His motivations are understandable, though the reignited conflict with Batman is sure to test his resolve.
From a storytelling point of view, Red Hood’s relapse felt like a natural progression. Dealing with crime in a permanent way is his defining trait. In my opinion, his decision not to kill made him even more intriguing because it clashed with his principles. Jason was willing to to reform in order to feel worthy in the eyes of his father figure. However, the relationship between Red Hood and Batman seems destined to be marred by strife. I can’t help but be biased, given that Jason is my favourite character, but I’m looking forward to seeing how he deals with the consequences of his actions.