Under The Red Hood Graphic Novel Review
Written by Judd Winick
Artwork by Doug Mahnke, Shane Davis, Paul Lee and Eric Battle
Released 2011 (Compiled from Batman magazine 617-618, 635-641, 645-650 and Batman Annual 25) Also a section from the Tim Sale and Jeph Loeb novel Hush which also featured The Red Hood.
After taking control of Gotham City's underworld, The Black Mask's operation comes under attack from a mystery assailant calling himself The Red Hood. When Batman becomes aware of this new threat to his home, he is obliged to deal with this new threat. But is there something more to this new super villain than meets the eye and what is behind his strange methodology?
The story opens with Batman and an unknown opponent kicking ten bells out of each other on the roof tops of Gotham City. Batman's adversary manages to relieve The Caped Crusader of his cowl, and in return, The Red Hood removes his mask. As it drops to the floor, Batman is shocked as he obviously knows who this new masked threat is.
We then track back to 5 weeks earlier and Bruce Wayne is dwelling on the memories of lost associates, meanwhile The Red Hood is making his first appearance. He serves up the heads of the lieutenants of some of Gotham's main drug dealers to their bosses and requests their allegiance. At first this just serves as an irritation to The Black Mask who has taken over as The Crime Lord of Gotham, but as The Red Hood slowly recruits more and more of Gotham's scum he becomes a major threat.
Soon after this, Batman has his first meeting with the Red Hood. He is joined in this first encounter with Nightwing, Dick Grayson, the first Robin. Quickly Batman notices that this newcomer is different. His fighting skills are phenomenal, he moves as though everything is just happening naturally, as if he doesn't have to think. His weapons are on a par with Batman's, and he uses them like they are a part of his own body.
Central to the story is an encounter The Red Hood has with The Joker. The Red Hood violently attacks The Joker with a crow bar leaving him barely alive. From this point on we are taken a strange set of meetings with various superheroes. Batman meets with Zatanna (The wielder of the mystical arts) Green Arrow and Superman. All are questioned about their knowledge and experience of dying and returning. Why does he need this information?
As Batman struggles to uncover the mystery of The Red Hood, The Black Mask loses his grip on the city and The Red Hood seems to be cleaning up Gotham in his own way, does Gotham need Batman? And where is The joker?
Batman, Under The Red Hood is a fantastic collection of comics all coming together to produce a super speed story that makes you turn the page again and again. Judd Winick delivers a fantastic story with fluid character interaction and hard hitting dialogue. As with any collaboration there is a mixture of artwork within the Novel, but the differences are minute. The artists have been immaculately chosen to compliment each other. Especially in the case of the Batman images, his movement mirrors in all of the chapters and the close ups of the head and shoulder shots all give you that split personality effect, that we should get after we have looked at Bruce.
All throughout the Novel Winick keeps true to Batman's true 'super' power, his second to none detective skills. We get the feeling that the identity of The Red Hood may not be as secret as it first seems, but every minute detail has to be struck off before the final unmasking can be believed.
A fantastically written and drawn book, well worth the read, and an explosion of an ending!