SPOILERS FOLLOW for Batman Annual #25:
The Annual confirms that the re-animatory spark was a kind of all-purpose Get Out Of Jail Free card, courtesy of Infinite Crisis. Writer Judd Winick linked it to Superboy’s pounding on the walls of netherversal reality, but it might just as well have been a tap on the forehead from the Blue Fairy.
Admittedly, the Batman titles have historically been in something of a bind when it comes to cosmic themes. The books pride themselves on not getting too far from the plausible, but they have to exist side-by-side with characters who travel through space and time at will. Despite conventional wisdom which holds that Batman could single-handedly neutralize most of the Justice League, any incursion of the science-fictional into a “regular” Batman story will likely be greeted with skepticism. Batman’s “sci-fi closet,” postulated by Grant Morrison in the context of a Justice League story, was arguably one of the more daring departures of recent years. However, given the strategic thinker into whom Batman had evolved, he would have been stupid not to have such an arsenal.
Therefore, on one hand it is similarly practical to have Infinite Crisis facilitate Jason’s return. In the larger scheme of things, it’s just as good a mechanism as any other, and probably no less convoluted to explain.
Still, though, it feels like a cheat, given that Infinite Crisis had played such a small role in the story. Winick had already used a number of more traditional superheroic elements in his Batman issues, including Amazo, the android with all the powers of the Justice League. Working a similar established plot device into the story would have drawn both on Batman’s history in the larger DC universe, and would have felt more organic than the almost-literal bolt from the blue Infinite Crisis provided. Heck, Amazo himself could have used Zatanna’s powers to re-animate Jason.
In a way this situation reverses the equities of previous comfort-zone-busting story arcs like “Knightfall” and “No Man’s Land.” In both of those arcs, the main problem suggested a quick solution via one or more of DC’s ultra-powerful characters. Zatanna or Dr. Fate could have repaired Bruce’s broken back, and a crew of superheroes could have rebuilt Gotham like they rebuilt Metropolis a few years before.
Both of those arcs therefore illustrate the need for the key to the mystery to be planted within the story itself. In the inevitable comparison with its Captain America counterpart “The Winter Soldier,” “Under the Hood” will surely come up short for having to go outside its own boundaries. (The Cap story didn’t depend on House of M to bring Bucky back, and even eschewed the Cosmic Cube as a possible explanation.) The fact that most of “Under the Hood” was handled well makes the big revelation of Batman Annual #25 harder to take.