Thursday, March 02, 2006

Quick Thoughts On Batman Annual #25

Last week, after reading Batman #650, I thought that the “Red Hood” storyline suffered by association with Infinite Crisis. To that point I had enjoyed both, but both were (no pun intended) worlds apart in terms of tone. The Big Event moment came out of left field, introducing an element of cosmic hoodoo into a tale which acknowledged the larger DC universe but wasn’t affected significantly by it. However, the crossover stuff wasn't that prevalent, and I went into Batman Annual #25 wondering how integral it would be to the return of Jason Todd.

SPOILERS FOLLOW for Batman Annual #25:

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The Annual confirms that the re-animatory spark was a kind of all-purpose Get Out Of Jail Free card, courtesy of Infinite Crisis. Writer Judd Winick linked it to Superboy’s pounding on the walls of netherversal reality, but it might just as well have been a tap on the forehead from the Blue Fairy.

Admittedly, the Batman titles have historically been in something of a bind when it comes to cosmic themes. The books pride themselves on not getting too far from the plausible, but they have to exist side-by-side with characters who travel through space and time at will. Despite conventional wisdom which holds that Batman could single-handedly neutralize most of the Justice League, any incursion of the science-fictional into a “regular” Batman story will likely be greeted with skepticism. Batman’s “sci-fi closet,” postulated by Grant Morrison in the context of a Justice League story, was arguably one of the more daring departures of recent years. However, given the strategic thinker into whom Batman had evolved, he would have been stupid not to have such an arsenal.

Therefore, on one hand it is similarly practical to have Infinite Crisis facilitate Jason’s return. In the larger scheme of things, it’s just as good a mechanism as any other, and probably no less convoluted to explain.

Still, though, it feels like a cheat, given that Infinite Crisis had played such a small role in the story. Winick had already used a number of more traditional superheroic elements in his Batman issues, including Amazo, the android with all the powers of the Justice League. Working a similar established plot device into the story would have drawn both on Batman’s history in the larger DC universe, and would have felt more organic than the almost-literal bolt from the blue Infinite Crisis provided. Heck, Amazo himself could have used Zatanna's powers to re-animate Jason.

In a way this situation reverses the equities of previous comfort-zone-busting story arcs like “Knightfall” and “No Man’s Land.” In both of those arcs, the main problem suggested a quick solution via one or more of DC’s ultra-powerful characters. Zatanna or Dr. Fate could have repaired Bruce’s broken back, and a crew of superheroes could have rebuilt Gotham like they rebuilt Metropolis a few years before.

Both of those arcs therefore illustrate the need for the key to the mystery to be planted within the story itself. In the inevitable comparison with its Captain America counterpart "The Winter Soldier," "Under the Hood" will surely come up short for having to go outside its own boundaries. (The Cap story didn't depend on House of M to bring Bucky back, and even eschewed the Cosmic Cube as a possible explanation.) The fact that most of "Under the Hood" was handled well makes the big revelation of Batman Annual #25 harder to take.

4 comments:

Filipe said...

I was expecting the solution to be Crisis related, so I wasn't disappointed as many were. Actually my two guesses were either that he got back into continuity pretty much the away it did or a lazarus pit, so I must confess that a part of me was really glad when both answers turn out to be true. DC's big mistake, I believe, was let the Annual come out before Wolfman's secret files were Superboy's role in affecting DC continuity would be first revelead (it should had come out a couple of weeks ago, I think), if we had get a larger better written explanation about the mechanics of how DC history were rewrote first, Winick's reveal would play better (and it's clear that he wrote it expecting readers to at least be aware that SB-Prime might be part of the answer).

On the whole I think the crisis stuff would play better if this were a Superman or Green Lantern story. It's to cosmic an answer for Batman (but then I really don't understand why the lazarus pit is anymore realistic besides Ras being a regular Batman rogue). As for the Winter Soldier comparision I dob't think it's very fair to Winick because of the difference on how shared universe works in current Marvel and DC, even if Winick originally planned this to be al Ra's doing (which I doubt), I still think DC would force him to tie it somehow to the ongoing crisis.

To be honest I was more disappointed toget no solution to cliffhanger of 650, than the Croisis-related answer. On the other hand, Detective 817 was great.

Tom Bondurant said...

I wouldn't have had a problem with it at all if Infinite Crisis, or some kind of cosmic weirdness, had been referenced earlier on. In fact, a perfect reference would have been the Babs-Batgirl reappearance from the Zero Hour crossover issue back in '94. Jason's resuscitation was basically the same thing.

And yeah, the new Detective was pretty fun.

Anonymous said...

and,of course,if we REALLY want to solve it,we could have the fans phone in a life-or-death vote...right?

Tom Bondurant said...

That trick never works!