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BOOK REVIEW:
Under The Hood, Vol. 1

Author: Bill Ramey
Tuesday, November 21, 2006

SYNOPSIS FROM DC COMICS:
Shocking revelations and age-old foes make this new collection — featuring BATMAN #635-641 — a must-have! Batman is confronted with a hidden face from the past — it's the return of the Red Hood! With Black Mask controlling the Gotham underworld, what role will Red Hood have when all is said and done?

Lot’s of things happened to The Batman during my (almost) decade long abstinence from Batman comics. Gotham was destroyed and rebuilt…Bruce Wayne was framed for murder…and, among other things, The Batman himself fell further and further into a dark abyss of sociopathic behavior.

Oh yeah, one of those “other things” just happened to be that the dead Jason Todd -- the second Robin who had been beaten to death by The Joker -- returned from the grave.

The storyline in which this occurred is titled “Under The Hood” and was written by Judd Winick and featuring the art of Doug Mahnke and Tom Nguyen, Paul Lee and Cam Smith, and Matt Wagner (BATMAN AND THE MONSTER MEN) on covers. “Under The Hood” ran in BATMAN #635 thru #641 in 2004 and 2005.

OK, got all that? Good.

Now even though I wasn’t reading the comic books when “Under The Hood” ran, I was award that Jason Todd had returned. And I wasn’t very happy about it to say the least. I was reading them back in the 80s when “A Death in the Family” ran in the comics and is one of my personal favorites.

I thought that bringing Jason back was gimmicky -- and it was. I figured I'd pick up this book, read it, and then procede to rip it a new one in my review. However, it didn't work out like that.

Why? Because it's quite good, actually.

In short, here’s here’s a rundown of the story .

Roman Sionis, The Black Mask, is now the undisputed crime lord of Gotham City. He has brought in Victor Fries, AKA the classic Batman villain Mr. Freeze, as an enforcer in his crime operation. However, a new vigilante/villain has appeared in Gotham and is throwing a monkey wrench into Sionis’ crime machine -- The Red Hood.

Batman fans will remember that the moniker “The Red Hood” was once used by The Joker himself, well, actually before he was The Joker. This happened during both the Golden Age (DETECTIVE #168) and Modern Age (THE KILLING JOKE) periods of Batman history.

Anyway, this Red Hood character proves to be both good and bad at the same time. He’s certainly not good based on the fact that he’ll resort to killing criminals instead of simply apprehending them Batman-style. On the other hand, he’s certainly helping Gotham out by taking out these lowlife bastards. Naturally, The Batman isn’t going to stand for this in his town -- no one fights crime in Gotham without his permission -- so he begins to pursue The Red Hood. But there is something strange about this guy, something, well, familiar.

Added to the mix are appearances by Nightwing (who engages in some old school partnering with The Batman), Superman, Zantanna, Alfred, Lucius Fox, The Demon, Green Arrow, Onyx, and predictably, The Joker.

As previously stated, I was wanting to dislike “Under The Hood,” but I didn’t. I found The Batman to be unlikable and troubled as I remembered, but there was something vulnerable about him at the same time. Of course, this story takes place on the eve of the INFINITE CRISIS miniseries and we all know that The Dark Knight has changed since it occurred. Perhaps this was the beginning of that eventual epiphany that came for him.

If you were like me and avoided this story, don’t listen to the poor-mouthing it received. And yes, you know the identity of The Red Hood before you even open the cover of the book. Let me suggest that you check it out and judge for yourself.

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Bill Ramey, AKA "Jett," is the founder and editor in chief of
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