Overview

Batman #641

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Batman #641

Credits

  • Words: Judd Winick
  • Art: Doug Mahnke
  • Inks: Tom Nguyen
  • Colors: Alex Sinclair
  • Story Title: Family Reunion (Conclusion): Face to Face
  • Publisher: DC Comics
  • Price: $2.50
  • Release Date: Jun 29, 2005

Did anyone ever watch A Pup Named Scooby-Doo? I swear this has a point, and a point relating to Batman, no less, so stay with me.

So the premise of that cartoon spin-off was that the Scooby Gang used to hang out even as little kids and solve little kid mysteries involving monsters. The best part about that show was young pompous Freddie who was always trying to pin the crimes on the local bully, Red Herring. Red was, as his name suggests, never the actual culprit.

So I know that I’m sometimes pretty hard on one Jeph Loeb, in particular when he’s mucking about with the established narrative throughlines of the DC Universe. He is, if you will, my Red Herring. Especially when it comes to Batman #641, and the whole Red Hood storyline in general.

This particular issue is written by Judd Winick, and is in no direct way affiliated with Jeph Loeb. So why the long and perhaps pointless explanation above? Because this Batman story has had to do with the identity of a new vigilante in town, one calling himself the Red Hood, who has in fact executed a few of his criminal prey. The Red Hood, was of course, the guy who fell in the acid and became the Joker. This is a different Red Hood, who they’ve been sort of hinting for like three issues now is none other than Jason Todd. In fact, two issues ago, we got let in on the secret and it’s being revealed to Batman in this issue.

Fanboys get all up in arms about this kind of thing and usually I like to keep a cool head. People come back from the dead so often that if they killed Superman in today’s comic environment, I wouldn’t even call it an event. I’d call it "Wednesday." But Jason Todd, man, that wasn’t just a death. It was a defining moment in the story and character of Batman. The Joker kills Robin. (Actually, fans killed this Robin because they hated him so much they actually voted to kill him off. Keep this in mind, DC.)

This is also important in the sense that in the larger perspective, Jason Todd is probably one of the only famous comic hero deaths who actually had the sense of greater narrative to stay dead. Barry Allen, you’re all alone now, buddy. What’s really interesting is that is sort of going as a non-event. The storyline is kind of ho-hum. And that’s the real crime.

The big problem is that there was no need for the Bat-folk to descend into this mid-90s publicity stunt. So much good work had been done to turn these comics into a vibrant read. Even the core story could have been really good without even involving Jason Todd. Judd Winick isn’t a bad writer. I frequently sing the praises of Doug Mahnke’s pencils, especially on a Batman title. Talent is being wasted here.

Go ahead and give us a compelling story with a character who is about law and order but has this philosophical difference with Bruce on a really core level. Jason could be right. If Batman killed the bad guys right away, they wouldn’t have lived to still be evil. It’s a safe assumption the Joker’s never going to turn it around. Why doesn’t Batman kill? It’s a compelling argument and is a foundation for good drama. But all that gets distracted from with this Jason Todd business. It doesn’t even need to be Jason. Give us a new character!

Here’s where I’m like Freddie. I really on some shameful level want to blame Red Herring for this. After all, it’s Hush that even put the idea in people’s heads that Jason could come back from the dead. In this issue Jason even confirms that at least part of that fight was with him, not Clayface after all. What?!!

Sigh. But I can’t pin this on Red. Hush showed us the Pandora’s Box, but they didn’t actually pry the darn thing open until just now. The new movie might inspire a craving for a good Batman story. This arc’s just not the one to jump back in with.

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