While the resurrection of Jason Todd may have shocked fans, one Nightwing storyline suggests that Jason’s return as the Red Hood was always his destiny. Revived by the Lazarus pit of Ra’s al Ghul, Jason Todd was devastated to learn that his killer was still alive, which spurred his transformation into a Red Hood. However, it is possible that even before the events of “Under the Red Hood” began, Jason’s return was always his destiny.
After Dick Grayson left Gotham and became Nightwing, Batman quickly found a replacement in the person of Jason Todd, the short-lived second Robin. Although Nightwing’s initial opinion of Jason Todd was not stellar, Dick was deeply shaken by Jason’s death. Years after his murder, Robin Jason’s tattered costume was immortalized in the Bat Cave, serving as a grim reminder of the high stakes of heroism and Batman’s inability to save his partner.
Before his return as the Red Hood, Nightwing: Secret Files and Origins “Taking Wing” by Chuck Dixon and Scott McDaniel plays off Jason’s haunting legacy, forcing him to appear before Dick as a ghost after the experience of clinical death knocks Nightwing unconscious. Dressed as Robin, Jason Todd guides Nightwing through his memories as they piece together the events that led to the creation of his identity. The bizarre journey takes an even stranger turn when Jason decides to leave, saying, “See you later, Grayson,” to which foggy Dick responds: “You too, Jason.” The story plays with the idea of whether Jason is a hallucination or a real ghost, but since the DC universe has confirmed the existence of not one, but many afterlife, there is no reason to doubt the latter.
A significant hint that Dick’s “hallucination” is indeed Jason’s spirit is the dialogue between them when their paths diverge. Jason’s insistence that he will see Dick soon suggests either that Nightwing does not have long to live, or that Jason’s spirit is watching him and will return in the future. It is also important to note how Jason is portrayed in Dick’s “dream”. With most of his features hidden by shadows and glowing red eyes, Jason’s ghost looks ominous. Such a grim image may be another hint of Jason’s fate, as the Red Hood has returned with stunning fury.
By the time Dick wakes up, Jason is gone, but his effect is instantaneous as Nightwing prepares to rush into battle. At the moment when Dick was at his lowest and would have lost his life if he had remained unconscious, Jason’s spirit stepped forward, reminding him why he decided to become a hero. In order for Jason to know that his brother needed help, he probably watched Dick, assuming that his spirit never moved on—a detail that unfortunately makes more sense than his spirit finding peace. Jason Todd’s constant connection to the bat family, even when he is dead, indicates that he was always destined to return to them.
Although there was no way to know in this story that Jason Todd would one day return, the hint that he still existed in spirit, watching the bat family, is a fascinating detail that speaks to the events between his death and the subsequent resurrection. Since many people forget about the connection with mysticism, it is easy to imagine that, having failed to move on, Jason Todd was always just waiting for the opportunity to return to life in the image of an evil Red Hood.