Jason in Nightwing: Year One
Previous posts have already noted that there's a trend in canon retconning Jason has having been more violent, angrier and more of as street punk than he was originally depicted as in the handful of issues Collins was writing him.
One of the most blatant examples comes from Nightwing: Year One, which was published from March to May 2005 – for comparison, Under the Hood's first issue was published in February 2005, though the reveal that Red Hood was Jason was only published in August. I have no idea what the information sharing regarding Jason was at the time between editorial/writers of different title, and thus can't say if Dixon was even aware that Jason was in the process of being revived, much less if there were directives as to how depict him.
Meanwhile, Dick's gone back to the circus in a temporary attempt to see where he fits now Batman has fired him because he was jealous of how much time Dick spent with the Titans and refused to admit that Dick might possibly grow up and have other things in his life than Batman and Gotham, but he's come to the conclusion that what he wants – what he's meant to do – is help people and be a hero. Bruce himself has more or less been tracking Dick down in order to check if he's coming back – which is less stupid than you might think, given how often Batman fired him and/or Dick has been retconned into running away during his teenaged years, only for everything to fall back into place at the end of the story.
(Alfred was being possessed by Deadman, who'd been checking up on Dick like Bruce had asked him to and wanted to tell Bruce that Dick was apparently not coming back, not needing Bruce's “safety net”.)
Tsuki noted that this version of Jason taking the costume is particularly interesting in that it shows Jason willing to become Robin before he had the slightest as to who Batman was behind the mask. It's the version where it's made clearest, but it's not a theme that's directly contradicted in other versions either; you get the idea that to Jason, masks don't matter. The differences between Batman and Bruce – real or imagined – don't matter as much as what Batman does.
Chapter Four: Night and the City - 3 1/2 pages
In which Bruce trains Jason.
Meanwhile, Dick is making sure all the right people in Gotham know who Nightwing is, and that's a post for another day, but it is too awesome for words. Such people include Jim Gordon, Babs, the Joker, the Penguin, Crazy Quilt, and various random thugs.
The discussion with Jim include these reflections:
Jason's training goes in a way that's especially painful in words of characterization and only make sense if you keep in mind that the training situation is fictional, and the Batkids at the beginning of their training are going to treat it as such. They don't say “but it's not real!” but they act differently than they do in real situations. I'm using the plural here because something not entirely unlike this happens when Babs goes through the same test in Batgirl: Year One. Batgirl: YO was also written by Dixon and Beatty, so you know it's a voluntary parallel, especially since Beatty has also emphasized the parallels between Barbara's and Jason's fates in Gotham Knights #43-45.
Jason not caring about school is another case where the authors lay it way too heavy on the character. In his original meeting with Batman, he was actually quite willing to go to a school where he'd be given a roof and fed, even if you discount the later issue – between Collins' run and Starlin's – where he shows himself an enthusiastic student of history. But that's not how the character is remembered.
Of course, Dick's acting up gets noticed.
Chapter 5: Like Killing Two Birds... - 7 1/2 pages
The gauntlet Bruce has in mind for Jason involves Alfred dressing up as Two-Face, because Robin facing Two-Face for the first time always goes over so well. (Hint: according to Robin: Year One, it was the first time Bruce fired Dick.) More seriously, Jason's first outing as Robin involved Two-Face in the original story, so kudos to Dixon and Beatty for the homage to that aspect.
Meanwhile Babs gave Nightwing a meeting hour and place that she doesn't intend to keep, because she's Batgirl. I see it as somewhat like paying rights for a patent or using a character. Dick shows and waits, because Babs may have insisted it was business, it's the kind of business that keeps looking like dates.
Jason shows up instead.
Meanwhile on the Alfred + Bruce front, things get out of hand, Alfred as Two-Face is kidnapped by goons, Bruce is forced to go to Leslie's hospital. The goons are Killer Croc's; it's supposed to be Croc's first appearance in Gotham. It's another homage to Jason's previous histories, since Pre-Crisis Jason's parents were killed because of Killer Croc.
Dick overpowers Jason and calls Babs.
(Dick misses the point in an epic way when he tells her that 'he knows her loyalty is to Batman first' – Dick, no. That's Robin, or that's you, but it's never been Babs.)
That's interesting. I can see two factors explaining this: first that Babs maybe isn't as active as Batgirl as she used to. Second that Bruce fired Dick because Dick was spending too much time with the Titans; he's trying to do as much the reverse with Jason as possible - make Robin as much Batman's as possible. (It also reminds me of Bruce not telling Steph Malone is one of his idenities, and not telling her who he is.)
Babs decides her orders can go hang and she's going to help anyway, because 'they need her to tell them what to do'. Why yes, in Dixon and Beatty's Year Ones Babs is more often right than Batman, because she grows to be Oracle, and Dixon and Beatty like the wink-nudge-symbol school of continuity Easter Eggs.
Dick, Bruce and Jason are all being especially bitchy in N:YO, not that it's not justifiable from their perspective.
Bruce manages to get in contact with Jason over the comlinks as he gets to Leslie's clinic, tells him that Alfred's been kidnapped, to work together with Dick, and is out for the rest of the night. It's not about him, it's “about the Robins-- and maybe a distantly related bird of prey”.
Chapter 6: First Flight - 7 1/3 pages
During this chapter's, Dick's narration insists a lot on teamwork and partners, which my choice of scans haven't been able to reflect.
(In the hospital, Leslie's taking care of Bruce, chiding him for endangering himself and encouraging others, and going “a new one already?” Again, previous Jason histories had Leslie attempt to discourage Bruce from keeping Jason as Robin – and of course Steph had died in Leslie's care during War Games in late 2004. Leslie's often involved when there are Even Robins afoot.)
Between the time we last saw Dick and Jason and now, Dick's taken Jason trainsurfing to get faster to the docks, where they know Alfred has been kidnapped. Dick's surprisingly charitable in his narrative to Jason, as well, which is perhaps less surprising since Jason has stopped taking him off guard and is not half at ease with acrobatics on a train as Dick himself.
Jason doesn't say “a game”, but he might as well had. Given that he's usually pictured as 'having thought being Robin was a game, and that's what killed him', it's a refreshing change.
Just so we're clear, I'm still waiting for Steph and Dick to go trainsurfing together, DC.
By this point Dick and Jason know that Alfred's been kidnapped, so they go looking through the windows/glass ceilings of warehouses. It's adorable.
They find Alfred-as-Two-Face, free him, and then the goons arrive with Croc and they have to fight.
Babs arrives in time to save the day. In perfect Dixon-and-Beatty Batgirl tradition, her bike takes a beating in the process. Croc goes down.
All's well that ends well.
Thank you, Dixon & Beatty, for reminding us that Jason's a thief. I was going to forget he wasn't the good kid Dick had been. </sarcasm>
And Dick decides to leave, without seeing Bruce again.
“Because the costume I last saw you wearing was tattered and torn.
The robin's egg blue was inspired.
But how can one take flight without new wings?
If the feathering is familiar it is because you once wore this color to great distinction in your youth.