Friday, May 18, 2007

Seeing Red Part Four: Back To School Night (DC comics)
Green Arrow #72 When: May 2007
Why: Judd Winick How: Scott McDaniel

The story so far...
Red Hood has teamed with former Star City criminal mastermind, Brick, to initiate a sinister plan against Green Arrow and his former ally, the Batman, but to what ends?

Though Green Arrow and Batman successfully defeat their opponents in the villain swap, the realisation that they were being distracted while the real plan was enacted comes too late.

With Speedy subdued, the Red Hood plans t ocontinue his path of corruption, turning to the current generation of sidekick. Will the Red Hood allow Speedy to live? Will he convert her to his extreme tactics? Read on to find out!

Previous Form:
Red Hood (#26): Victorys against Hyena, Captain Nazi, Count Vertigo & Brick.
Speedy: Mia Dearden has not yet been featured on the site.

Tale of the tape...
Strength: Red Hood 3 (Athlete)
Intelligence: Red Hood 4 (Tactician)
Speed: Draw 3 (Athlete)
Stamina: Red Hood 4 (Athlete)
Agility: Red Hood 4 (Gymnast)
Fighting Ability: Red Hood 5 (Martial Artist)
Energy Powers: Red Hood 4 (Arsenal)

The battle of the sidekicks! One all grown up, the other still in the infancy of her career, despite a considerable degree of training behind her. It presents an interesting situation!

Technically both are fairly evenly matched, bringing most of the same sorts of attributes to the table by the nature of their humanity. To compensate for the extraordinary threats they face each has honed their fitness, physicality and fighting skills to the sharpest degree. Adding to this natural arsenal comes an array of weapons.

Red Hood has turned his back on the non-lethal utility built from his days as Robin, opting instead for a more diverse range of weaponry. Hidden up his sleeves is anything from knives, high explosives, automatic pistols, and a range of other handy little gadgets.

Speedy stays true to her origins, wielding the bow and arrow like her master and mentor, Green Arrow. While her skills are probably not quite as sharp as GA's, her determination, will and extensive training cannot be doubted.

In this particular match-up, a lot has to be said for experience.
As comparable as any of the characters in these families are, Speedy is a new kid on the block. Despite only being resurrected a few years ago, we mustn't forget a lifetime of experiences that have been laid on top of the Jason Todd character. He's as street as Speedy, and as skilled as Green Arrow. [Green Arrow #71]

At the end of the tape, Red Hood is bigger, older, and better than Speedy.
The Math: Red Hood (Champion Class)
The Pick: Red Hood

What went down...
Our issue opens with Speedy, blindfolded and tied to a chair, sharing a dialogue with her captor; the sinister hero who ecsaped death -- Red Hood!
A fancy curved blade slits the ropes that hold the arrow slinging youngster in her chair, as the Red Hood informs her that their duel will not be one of violent interrogation. Her hands freed, Speedy removes the blindfold and is surprised to find her bow before her.

Her eyes adjust to present a second surprise -- her high school gym. With the standium lights on overhead, Red Hood stands at centre court, suggesting she take hold of her bow, because he has a lesson in store for her.

Speedy happily takes the opportunity to leap into battle, firing off several arrows. The Hood slices them out of the air with his curvy dagger, suggesting the young Speedy is only as good as her quiver's supply. She threatens to put an arrow in his eye in retort, but slashing at the airborne missiles, the Hood scoffs at the conviction of her threats.

Red Hood lords his expertise over his junior, calculating her range of attacks limited to thirty-three, all non-lethal.
The debate of morals continues, as the Hood guarantees to come for her the moment she runs out of arrows.

Perhaps out of agitation or provocation, the young arrow slinger fires an arrow that sneaks past Jason Todd's blade, finding his protective helmet. Physically fine, he offers his approval, before moving his mentoring to the next stage.

Red Hood fires off a barrage of hot led, offering little opportunity for Speedy to literally duck and dodge for her life. She does so with relative ease, emulating her teacher's training. Though she survives the assault, the string of her bow does not, leaving her unarmed.

Red Hood chuckles to himself about his skills with the lethal weapons, remarking, "Got real good with guns to piss off the old "boss"."
He tosses his opponent two blades and removes his helmet, declaring the next stage "higher learning."

Speedy doesn't spare a moment to look the gift horse in the mouth. She leaps at Red Hood, who competently defends against her two sword attack with his single dagger. He comments on her performance, complimenting her ability to hold her own. She replies with threats to be holding more than her own momentarily.

Todd takes the tough talking, and relates it to the similarities between the two of them. The crimson clad sidekick verbally spits in the Hood's face, whilst delivering a swift knee to his mid-section. She follows with a cracking elbow that spills blood from Todd's mouth, whilst defying his evolution, referring to him as, "Another one of the sick @#$&s who couldn't handle staying on the right side..."

Todd repeats that the two are alike, ducking a lunging attack to strike the younger hero hard in the back. She strikes back with a stiff kick, but Todd takes it and brings his knife down like an axe: Speedy blocks it in time with her own blades.

Red Hood lets flow the vivid information he has on Mia Dearden, making up the milestones of what have made her character. She interrupts him, using the gym seats to lean back and throw her legs out in a kick that topples the Red Hood.

He lands on his feet, and continues, arriving at one of the most defining facts of Speedy's young life: her testing positive for HIV. He asks if HIV is the reason she finds it so hard to kill, as though it has bestowed her with a new appreciation for life. She lunges at him in response, but the Hood gets in low, sliding under her leap. He throws his dagger up into her cape, tearing it as he fights to bring her down.

Speedy flows with the leap, taking the advantage from behind, but the Hood throws an instinctive fist behind him, connecting hard with Dearden's jaw.

The Hood gets in personal, grabbing the grounded Speedy by the throat to pin her down. He explains himself, telling her that his "surrogate daddy" comes from the same pampered upbringing as hers, and that like her, he was made on the streets. Streets where like her, he had to make hard choices to persevere.

The Hood retrieves his knife from the court floor, as Speedy struggles to regain her breath. "And I know that sometimes very bad things have to be done to do a great right." As though the message had someone fallen on her, the young girl agrees, "I don't think either of our "fathers" will ever understand that."

Todd replies, "But you do."

The hammer...
Batman and GA roll up the school as the gym explodes, but Speedy is safe, having escaped the explosion set by the victor - Red Hood.

Though it might not seem like it, this was a fight that actually contained a good amount of story and character development.
Red Hood isn't a particularly unique scenario. The hero who chooses more extreme methods became perhaps the most popular type over the course of the eighties and nineties, but what is interesting to read in this issue is the stake that Red Hood takes in the matter.

This doesn't revolve around any kind of seduction of the innocent, or scenario of revenge, which would be the more obvious result. Instead, Jason Todd's history as a homeless street child provides a bridging understanding between the two characters, once they work through their differences by fighting, of course.

One might have expected something far less subversive from Red Hood, who has more often than not been characterized as leaning closer to "evil" than the anti-hero stylings of a Punisher, or other heroes who kill. It's a pleasant surprise then to discover this storyarc, which has been pretty blatantly disposable, in it's conclusion was more than another attempt to destroy or brainwash a sidekick.

Instead, Todd opens a relatively sincere dialogue, and seems to relate his reasons for doing what he is. It could almost be read more like a final confession to someone who understands, rather than an attempt to sway Speedy away from the oath she's sworn with Green Arrow. Because, honestly, despite a frosty moment between Speedy and her mentor when he finally arrives, there doesn't seem to be any reason to expect the character to be anything but her usual heroic-self.

Thus, Secret Earths continues to sponsor the return of Jason Todd, even if this was a less than stellar chapter in the new history of the character.
We continue to watch over the character as he finds his way into the weekly DC mega-series, Countdown, where he's been tying up with his former surrogate big brother, Nightwing. It doesn't sound like things are getting much better for the character, but we'll keep our fingers crossed there's something more in his history than sacrificing himself to stop a new Anti-Monitor, or some such.

As the Red Hood/Winter Soldier debate rages ever on, one can't help but feel Jason Todd is starting to lose the stakes where focus is concerned. While Winter Soldier has been splashed around since his return as the shiney new toy, he seems set to benefit greatly from the death of Captain America, with his latest objective being to kill Tony Stark.

Granted, it's still a little whimsical in it's direction, but Winter Soldier's new mission, similar to Red Hood's time on the streets of Gotham, does highlight something intriguing about this new breed of character. That being, despite their inherent connection to mainstream icons like Batman and Captain America, they seem to be free to take things steps much farther than even some of the well established anti-heroes of the big two companies. Which is very interesting.
These guys go further than just extreme methods. They're practically heroes applying the methods of villains.

Anyway, we'll wrap it up here. Looks like I'm not going to get caught up before the end of the month, but stay tuned anyway for lots more Infinite Wars!

The Fight: 5 The Issue: 4.5

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