The following contains spoilers for the story “Hounded” Part Five from Batman: Urban Legends #15, on sale now from DC Comics.
Ace the Bat-Hound has been Batman’s dog since the fifties. In the decades since, he’s accompanied the Dark Knight on many an adventure. Sometimes the two have been absolutely inseparable. So much so, that the idea of Ace being anything other than Batman’s dog seems absolutely ludicrous.
However, the Bat-Hound has an entire past beyond the Dark Knight, which was explored in “Hounded” Part Five (by Mark Russell, Karl Mostert, Trish Mulvihill, and Steve Wands) from Batman: Urban Legends #15. During the DC Rebirth era, Ace gained a new origin as an old attack dog of the Joker’s. Because of this, a lot of his modern character has been influenced by his time with the Joker, including, as it turns out, his name.
This story in Batman: Urban Legends went to the very beginning when Ace was just a pup. He was adopted by someone in witness protection who was soon targeted by the Clown Prince of Crime. However, no kill is ever simple with the Joker. Once he finished with his intended target, he turned to Ace. He left the pup’s fate up to chance with a card game. The defenseless hound had to beat a king to live and, when an ace was drawn, his name was decided.
This gives a whole new meaning to the name of the Dark Knight’s canine companion. Up until now, Ace has always been a name associated with Batman. He was believed that the dog got his name for being the perfect crime-fighting partner, for acing every challenge put to him. A partner that was even capable of leading his own pet version of the Justice League. The name Ace the Bat-Hound evokes the ideas of perfection that the Dark Knight has always strived for during his eternal crusade.
This story gives it a totally different context. Now, the name Ace is associated with the Joker and everything he stands for. The name no longer evokes the excellence of being Batman’s sidekick, but the games of the Clown Prince of Crime. Now that he’s named after a playing card, it’s more about luck and chance than skill. It’s forever a reminder of the game of roulette the dog played with the worst Gotham has to offer when he was just an innocent puppy.
This version of Ace was introduced in Batman Annual #1 (by Tom King and David Finch) in 2017. After Batman was attacked by the dog when he was still loyal to Joker, Alfred took in trained Ace until he was the perfect companion for the Caped Crusader. Already, this version of Ace was scarred by the cruel history he had with the Joker. Now, having learned this tragic detail about his name, makes that history all the worse.
Every time Batman and Ace fight crime going forward, he’ll always have a reminder of the Joker’s twisted legacy. Even though he sees the Bat-Hound as his dog and knows that he shares his love, the name Ace will always be a reminder of what Batman’s greatest enemy did. Ace is no longer a name that evokes hope, it’s one that evokes pain. It’s something that will haunt the Dark Knight like any of Joker’s twisted crimes.
Ace the Bat-Hound is Basically Recreating a Classic Grant Morrison Story
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