I enjoy Judd Winick’s writing, I really do. He did a brief run on Batman right after Bruce Wayne “died” that was spectacular. I know he has great stories in him so when I saw that he’d gone back to his default character Jason Todd for Batman & Robin #23, I was really disappointed. Let’s just say it out loud so we can all move on with our lives, it’s time to kill off Jason Todd forever. Truth be told, his character never actually needed to return. It has never helped the Batman legacy, it has never added punch to the stories, all it’s done is give Winick a now very dry well to return to over and over again. I want Winick to continue in comics but not with this Jason Todd crutch.
The story behind Batman & Robin 23 isn’t anything to get excited about either. It starts with a flashback to when Jason Todd was Robin and how unstable he was. Really? Don’t we all know that story already? Did we really need an intro to remind us? Anybody who is even slightly interested in comic books knows Jason Todd’s tale. Then we jump to Batman confronting Jason Todd in Arkham Asylum.
We follow a typical back and forth word play complete with veiled threats and double entendre. It’s the kind of thing Batman has done countless times. The Joker, Two-Face, Black Mask; any number of villains could have slid into Jason Todd’s place. Cut to the Batcave scene where Bruce explains to Dick and Damien not to underestimate Jason because he knows that his former partner is up to something.
This is when the story completely falls apart thanks to convenient plot devices and way too much deus ex machina. First, even though there’s no reason for it, Jason is transferred to a Gotham prison. Don’t blink though, you might miss the one thing that indicates that he’s not still in Arkham, which makes the whole thing confusing. Then Jason starts killing inmates off in great numbers. Not by physical domination, but by these overly developed Hannibal Lecter methods. Jason has been in this prison barely a week and he knows how to poison just the inmates food? He can sneak into cells and make deaths look like suicide? I’m all for giving the students of Batman a lot of leeway, but this is just silly.
The real deus ex machina comes with Jason’s escape. Batman and Robin have given specific orders to the warden to tell them if anything weird happens. For some reason the warden decides, after nine murders and six suicides, to still not say anything to Batman and also decides to secretly transfer Jason back to Arkham. There’s no basis in logic for this, Judd Winick needed a device to get Jason in a vulnerable place to escape so he created one. It’s maddening to read a story so sloppily put together.
Art duties are split between Guillem March and Andrei Bressan. I like March’s work in the first ten pages more than Bressan’s stuff in the last ten, though both men do a decent job. My only big issue is why Jason Todd is drawn to look like the singer from Puddle Of Mudd. He doesn’t look like a mastermind; he looks like a douche from the grunge era. It makes him a really ineffective villain for this story arc. I did enjoy Gulliem’s play on Frank Quitely’s first issue cover of Batman & Robin, which was quite clever. Other than that Batman & Robin #23 is tedious and sometimes laughable story about a villain whose time has long, long, long passed.