When I was younger the Death in the Family storyline in Batman comics touched me in a unique way at a very young age. This was not a super hero dying but a boy, savagely beaten by a psycho that turns a dark knight even darker. It was a story that said the good guys can lose; they can die and is still a favorite today for me. But this is the realm of comics and who really stays dead in comics? Batman: Under the Red Hood is the latest animated feature from the DC Universe and its rock solid on so many levels beginning with the death of Jason Todd, the second Robin, at the hands of the Joker. From the beginning the inclusion of Ra’s al Ghul will tell viewers where the story is going in the first five minutes but it still does not detract from the feature. Let’s take a look at this from a few angles.
The Story – A new villain takes control of the drug trade in Gotham and the Dark Knight must confront his past to reveal just who the new Red Hood is. To confront this new treat an old partner, Nightwing, lends a hand and two of his greatest rivals are taken on in the Joker and Ra’s al Ghul. Who is the Red Hood and why do his moves, techniques seem so familiar? To fight in the present Batman must confront the past.
Such a great story and one fans should and will know. In case not I’ll try to avoid SPOILERS but please take note. While fans will know where the Red Hood is coming from, who he may be, getting there in an animated manner is a treat. The story is well told with great drama brought on by the next two points. What DC is doing with these animated features is bringing to life some of the best stories from DC printed past. Batman fans do not miss out on this story.
The Animation – Yet another animation style is brought to Under the Red Hood. There was a time when the Batman/Justice League/Superman designs of recent years dictated all DC animation, the best being Justice League Unlimited but no longer. Each new tale from Wonder Woman to Green Lantern is different, as different as the artist that pens the comics we fans love. The animation and design in Under the Red Hood is more realistic than anime-ish. This is great in that the more realistic Joker brings home a more psychotic look and feel, gets home the severity of the murder he commits. The humanism of Batman, he’s a man angle, is easier to relate to thanks to the animation style. The action is superb and would make a great live action Batman tale … just forget the cyborg battle, that’s more super hero than anything else in this feature. Great animation folks that sets the emotional and action terms from the press of play.
The Voice acting – Emotion is real and felt. Joker is cold and methodical and while we long for the crazy of Mark Hamill the work delivered by John DiMaggio shows a crazy and real Joker. Bruce Greenwood does a great job with Batman showing signs of emotion, despair, regret and plain coldness while Jason Isaacs as Ra’s could have been a little more arrogant but he does show decent range. The rest of the cast, Neil Patrick Harris as Dick Grayson, is ok but Joker and Batman set the stage and delivers the emotion started with the animation. It’s a sad and somber tale with some funny lines from Wade Williams as Black Mask.
Overall Batman: Under the Red Hood is a must own, MUST OWN, for all Batman fans. He is the world’s greatest detective but not infallible and seeing him face his past, his greatest failure is a heart string pulling tale that sets a new bar for DC animated adventure. I’ll watch again and again and am pulling out my old Death in the Family comics (first print) to revisit the original tragedy. Emotions are the best selling point, stop reading and go out and buy/rent now folks.