Batman has finally crossed the line with his greatest failure

Batman and Red Hood
(Image credit: DC Comics)

The Gotham War crossover event has turned Batman against Catwoman and most of the Bat Family, with the Dark Knight resorting to increasingly questionable tactics in his fight against crime.

However, the storyline also highlights the strained relationship between Bruce Wayne and his most complicated Robin, Jason Todd. 

Batman has a long history of failing Jason, both as Robin and under his current mantle as Red Hood, with the Caped Crusader now having seemingly finally crossed the line in his treatment of his former protégé.

Art from Batman #138

(Image credit: DC Comics)

In the Gotham War story, Jason sees the merits of Catwoman's approach to controlling crime in Gotham by employing known criminals and redirecting them to careers of non-violent crime only targeting the rich and corrupt, rather than working for vicious mobsters and supervillains. 

Batman - who is currently under the influence of his violent Zur-En-Arrh personality - sees Jason siding with Selina Kyle as a personal betrayal and viciously takes him down, before brainwashing him so that if his adrenaline kicks in he will be overwhelmed with fear, unable to even move.

To justify such a radical strategy, Batman cites Jason's history of using excessive and lethal force as the Red Hood, feeling his former protege is best left sidelined for the foreseeable future.

Art from Batman #138

(Image credit: DC Comics)

This history came after the DCU rebooted its continuity in 1986, along with the depiction of its second Robin, Jason Todd. In contrast to the previous canon, Jason was revised to be more street-smart and rough-around-the-edges than his predecessor Dick Grayson. 

This personality change proved unpopular with readers and the fate of the character was put to a fan vote - should Jason Todd live or die? 

The latter was chosen by a narrow margin and Robin was killed off in 1988's Batman: A Death in the Family by Jim Starlin and Jim Aparo. The classic story saw Batman fail to save Jason from the Joker, who beat Robin within an inch of his life with a crowbar, before finally killing him when he blew up the warehouse where Jason lay incapacitated inside.

Jason's death haunted Batman, only worsening when Jason was eventually resurrected by the use of a Lazarus Pit years later. Given the Lazarus Pit's corrosive magical properties, Jason was now dangerously unstable and largely uninhibited from engaging in his violent impulses. Blaming Batman and his non-lethal approach for enabling his death and failing to make a difference, Jason began killing criminals under the guise of the Red Hood.

The Joker beats up Jason Todd

(Image credit: DC Comics)

The two men would eventually tacitly reconcile, with Jason softening his tactics and sometimes working alongside Batman, though the former Dynamic Duo never fully addressed their differences.

This unresolved friction comes back full force in Gotham War, unearthing the interpersonal issues between Batman and Red Hood that went unsaid for years. For Bruce, he sees taking the young Jason under his wing and training him to be a formidable crime-fighter as simply providing him with the means to become a murderer.

Though Batman is not entirely wrong, Jason has come a long way from being the bloodthirsty Red Hood that burst on the scene after his resurrection.

Conversely, Jason always resented Bruce with the perception that he was constantly in Dick Grayson’s shadow as Robin, never able to live up to the high bar set by the original Boy Wonder. After his resurrection, Jason was enraged that Batman hadn't avenged him by killing the Joker and that he was seemingly replaced by a third Robin in Tim Drake.

Batman and Red Hood

(Image credit: DC Comics)

Jason has since put much of this behind him and learned to work with Batman again, but his embracing of Catwoman's more flexible strategy on addressing crime shows just how willing he is to ditch his old mentor.

More than just reigniting the drama between Batman and Catwoman, Gotham War reopens old wounds between the Caped Crusader and Jason Todd. For years, Batman kept a memorial to Jason in the Batcave as a prominent reminder of his most explosive defeat. When Jason came back as a hardened killer, Batman's guilt deepened, but he was eventually willing to let bygones be bygones and welcome him back into the fold. With this new falling out and Batman's decision to brainwash his former Robin, bonds have been broken that may not so easily be repaired again.

Batman #138 is out now from DC Comics.

Bruce Wayne has many memorable foes like the Joker and the Riddler. Then there's these guys... Check out our list of the weirdest Batman villains of all time.

Freelance Writer

Sam is a freelance writer contributing to GamesRadar+. Sam has been working in entertainment journalism since 2016 for outlets including CBR, Popverse, /Film, and more, conducting interviews and writing reviews and columns covering comic books, television, film, and video games. With an expertise spanning the breadth of pop culture, Sam is especially knowledgeable on Star Trek, Nintendo, and DC Comics. In his free time, Sam likes to play guitar poorly and travel around the world.