It’s been more than 30 years since Jason Todd was killed in the DC Universe – but Bruce Wayne is still feeling the effects of that death, despite Jason’s return as the Red Hood.
And now it’s Tim Drake in the line of fire… literally.
In Batman #125, Bruce is faced with a situation that brings back sharp memories of Jason’s death. Marking writer Chip Zdarsky’s first issue in the series and reintroducing artist Jorge Jiménez and colorist Tomeu Morey, all working alongside letterer Clayton Cowles, Batman #125 kicks off the ‘Failsafe’ arc with a bang – literally.
When the Penguin attempts to pick off Gotham’s wealthiest citizen by attacking the Flugelhelm Gala, Bruce and Tim Drake, AKA Robin, take down him and his goons. Unfortunately, just when he’s about to fling open the doors of the ballroom and save everyone inside, Tim is shot through the neck by one of Penguin’s hired hands.
Bruce is at Tim’s side in an instant, and he rushes his protégé to the hospital to save his life. On the way, Tim insists on Bruce changing him out of the Robin costume, so their identities can remain secret.
Immediately, the issue launches into a flashback, with yellow-toned panels showing Bruce’s memories of Jason Todd’s death.
He laments his loss, saying, “When Jason died and I removed that costume I thought… is there a bottom to this mission? Can I really keep falling? I almost stopped that day. Let the world know that I was Batman. That they’d lost a hero in Jason Todd. But the mission. The damned mission.”
Now, he successfully removes Tim’s costume and rushes him into the emergency room, seemingly just in time to save his life. This is a huge moment for Bruce, as illustrated by the direct comparison to Jason’s death. Saving Tim – the current Robin – means he won’t always fail the people he loves. It isn’t quite time to throw in the towel.
However, later in the issue, after Penguin frames Batman for his murder, Oracle notes that Bruce hasn’t gone to visit Tim in the hospital even once. On the surface, this seems to be because he’s gone to ground, but the way the conversation is framed implies that Bruce is feeling guilty about Tim’s injury. He doesn’t respond to Oracle, and when she says his name to see if he’s still on the call, his inner monologue says, “I’m lost.”
Because Tim insisted on Bruce removing his costume, their secret identities remain intact – so ultimately, Bruce has no legitimate reason not to visit the hospital. His guilt is just eating at him.
Although Bruce manages to save Tim, the memory of Jason’s death and the knowledge that Tim almost met a similar fate is clearly a weight on his shoulders. Given Jason’s return as a villain and Bruce’s overwhelming guilt about how everything went down, this makes sense.
As Batman, Bruce puts himself in danger every time he puts on the suit – and Robin and the rest of the Bat-family make the same choice each time they don theirs. One of Bruce’s core character traits is that he feels responsible for the safety of everyone in Gotham, most especially his teammates and family. So when one of them does get hurt – especially when it could be a mortal wound – he’s bound to beat himself up about it.
Jason Todd died in Batman: A Death in the Family, one of the best Batman stories ever.