24 years ago - Jean-Paul Valley is born & begins his conditioning for the Order of St. Dumas.
5 years ago - 19-year-old Jean-Paul Valley's father is fatally injured while on a mission to kill 42-year-old Mark Shaw, and reveals his role as Azrael to his son, who takes over his mission. Batman frees him from the Order of St. Dumas & he attempts to live without his conditioning.
4 years ago - 20-year-old Jean-Paul Valley is asked to take over as Batman while Bruce Wayne recovers from his broken back. He slowly rebuilds Batman into a reflection of Azrael. He overwhelms Johnathan Crane and defeats Bane, but after he kills Rupert Thorne, Bruce has to battle him to retake the Batman mantle.
1 year ago - 23-year-old Jean-Paul Valley returns to Gotham and begins to battle it's criminals as Red Hood, trying to adapt a new identity without his conditioning. Batman, dosed with Johnathan Crane's toxin, fears that Red Hood is a returned Jason Todd.
This was a big change. Jason Todd is a popular character, and the Red Hood is now firmly established as a part of Batman's family of characters. People really seem to have responded to the idea of his resurgence as the Red Hood and his roll as a Punisher-esque spin on the bat-family. Unfortunately, the role Jason Todd plays as Batman's single greatest failure is far to strong a part of the Batman mythos to cast aside. Jason simply has to stay dead. Still, the notion of the Red Hood is a confoundingly innovative concept. How do we craft the character while still retaining the death of Jason Todd?
The answer is Jean Paul Valley. Knightfall was one of the most innovative Batman stories on the books, despite being part of a wave of stories recasting prominent characters at the time. Valley's Batman is his own special brand of iconic, and even after the story was completed Azrael continued to be a prominent character in the Batman mythology. What you have here is a character who knows Batman's secrets, techniques and weaknesses, and who has lethal tenancies that have brought him into conflict with Bruce in the past. He's the ideal Red Hood. You lose the impact of the reveal that he's Jason, but honestly, that reveal is only impactful once. the costume in the glass case is impactful every time you see it. Of course, Valley is dead in continuity, but unlike Jason Todd, his death is an easy element to write out of continuity.
We've very deliberately kept to the beginning of Red Hood's career when he first arrived and started taking over the drug trade in Gotham. He was a much more borderline villain at the time, something Grant Morrison really dove into when he began his work on Batman & Robin by making him Dick Grayson's nemesis. The New 52 version of Jason's Red Hood is far more heroic, but in doing so they wipe out what makes him distinct from the rest of the Batman family. He becomes Nightwing with guns, but that idea is antithetical to the Batman characters, and it simply isn't sustainable.