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Graphic Novel Review: "Batman: Under the Red Hood" by Judd Winick

Natalie is a writer who works at her local library. She enjoys writing reviews, watching anime and TV shows, and playing video games.

Batman: Under the Red Hood graphic novel cover.

Batman: Under the Red Hood graphic novel cover.

Quick Info

Author: Judd Winick
Publisher: DC Comics
Published: August 23, 2011
Page count: 384 pages
Availability: in print, available wherever you can buy comics, available on DCUniverseInfinte

Story Summary

Batman: Under the Red Hood is a graphic novel by Judd Winick. A new vigilante called the Red Hood has started battling Gotham’s criminals, but unlike Batman, he doesn’t hand them over to the police, he kills them instead, believing that killing criminals is the only way to save Gotham City. Batman must discover his identity and stop him before he kills more criminals.

The Story is Solid, but Comics Fans Figured this out Too Easily

The story is very well written. I enjoyed the plot and the characters and it was a fun read. The action is also excellent and for the most part, the story is good, although there are some plot holes and the ending isn’t the best, because it tells about an event that has a rather stupid retcon.

What makes Batman: Under the Red Hood an interesting story is the villains in this comic arc. Black Mask is the insane, psychotic gangster who rules the city through fear while the Red Hood views himself as the hero the city needs who is willing to do what Batman won’t: kill criminals.

Batman’s clash with the new Red Hood is both ideologically and personal, because of who the Red Hood is. If you’ve read other Batman comics you have probably figured out the Red Hood’s identity anyway.

Despite that, this comic is still a lot of fun to read.

Red Hood meeting with Gotham's drug dealers.

Red Hood meeting with Gotham's drug dealers.

The Artwork is Great!

Doug Mahnke’s artwork is really good. The fights are all very well done and it’s nice to look at. It does get inconsistent in the latter half of the comic, and the art from the earlier portion looks better. The character designs in the later issues just look odd, and while the fight scenes in the second half are great, the artwork doesn’t flow as well as the first half of the comic.

It is still a fantastic graphic novel when it comes to the visuals. This is one of my favorite graphic novels, not just for the story, but for the art as well. It’s not perfect but it is one that I find to be a memorable graphic novel.

The Story Shows Why Batman won’t kill anyone, not even the Joker

It’s a well-known character trait that Batman won’t kill anyone, with the exception of the very early appearances of Batman where he did kill people. While the real reason that Batman won’t kill the character is that we all know that Batman and Joker stories make DC a lot of money and killing Joker would be out of the question for comic sales and it would also be out of character for Batman.

But this comic has Batman actually say why he won’t kill someone, even the Joker. It’s also an interesting story because of Batman’s steadfast morality regarding someone that most people would probably give him a free pass for killing the Joker.

This story is an interesting look into Batman’s character and morality and that’s what makes it a great story, not just for the story or the fight scenes. It also gives us great characterization of Batman.

The Retcon was So Ridiculous, it Required More Retcons

While Retcons, or retroactive continuity, is a very common occurrence in comics, where something will be shown to have happened during a certain event and the reader just didn’t know it until the author wrote it, it can either be a good thing, like explaining how a character comes back to life after they died, it can also be ridiculous.

The retcon for the Red Hood coming back to life falls under ridiculous even for comics, and future writers and even Judd Winick himself made the Red Hood’s exact method of return into question because the idea of a punch from Superboy-Prime brought a bunch of characters back from the dead is rather silly.

Reader Poll

Red Hood talking on the phone to Black Mask.

Red Hood talking on the phone to Black Mask.

I did notice while reading this comic that there were references to other events that happened before or during this story arc that I wouldn’t have known about but I had read about them on Wikipedia. If you didn’t look up some of the other storylines you would be very confused.

There’s also the weird occurrence of other supervillains showing up in the story and then just disappearing out of the story without any explanation. The movie adaptation did fix this and removed those characters completely, but it can be confusing if you don’t read comics.

Parental Rating

This comic is rated T for teen because of violence, blood and language. It’s recommended for teens who are 13 years old.

It’s Not a Perfect Graphic Novel, but it’s still Fun!

that I have read. It has an interesting mystery that sets up a lot of different possibilities for the character of the Red Hood that was really wasted after this story arc. Even after the New52 continuity reboot, other writers couldn’t make the character as interesting or intriguing as he was during this arc.

Judd Winick wrote a miniseries starring the Red Hood called Red Hood: The Lost Days but that was a way to keep people interested after DC adapted the Batman: Under the Red Hood storyline into an animated movie, changing the original title from Batman: Under the Hood to Batman: Under the Red Hood.

It is a classic Batman story arc that wasn’t as well-received back when it was first published. The movie adaptation made the comic character more popular.

While it’s not a perfect story arc, it is still one of my favorites.

Quick Summary

What Works:What Doesn't Work:

Great story,, characters and world-building

The Way Red Hood was resurrected is riridiculous

Great writing and characterzation of Batman

Requires some knowledge of other story arcs that come up and then aren't addressed

Great artwork

 

My Grade: A

I highly recommend this to anyone who loves to read Batman stories. It’s a great plot with witty dialogue, stellar artwork and terrific fight scenes and characters. It’s not quite perfect but it’s a lot of fun and it’s well worth your time and money.

It is interesting to note that while this story is well-loved by newer fans of Batman, this story arc was controversial when it was released because some fans felt that a certain character should have stayed dead.

Despite being controversial, it has withstood the test of time to become a comic that fans do remember, even if it’s for the ridiculous retcon that had to be changed more than once.

If you don’t want to pay for it see if your local library has it. It’s my favorite Batman comic and I’ve re-read it a lot. If you like a look at Batman’s morality, and a deep look into his character, get this comic. It is a comic that’s worth owning. I’ve had my original paperback volumes for years and I have never stopped enjoying this story arc for Batman.

It is one that I can recommend blind buying, but if you’re curious about the story and don’t want to spend the money on the comic, you can rent the movie adaptation, Batman: Under the Red Hood (2010) on Amazon if you want to see what the story is about and you don’t want to pay a lot of money for the graphic novel.

My Rating

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