There is a special place in my heart for just about anything Silver Spider writes, and this isn’t the first time we’ve recommended fics by her. The Choice of Family remains one of my favorite series on fanfiction.net, and The Changeling and its sequel, The Guardian, are currently ranked pretty high on my list as well. However, The Guardian is a post for another time. For now, let’s just talk about The Changeling. Yes, this is another Jason Todd story.
The Changeling is an AU fic that starts during the first issue of The Red Hood: Lost Days. Jason is still in a semi-catatonic state after his revival, but due to reasons, Ra’s al Ghul is away, meaning that when Talia throws Jason into the Lazarus Pit to jump-start his memories, Ra’s is none the wiser. This allows Talia to keep Jason around at her mansion as a captive for the next couple months. During his time living with Talia, Jason, who naturally wants nothing more than to get back to Gotham and Bruce, makes a startling discovery: Bruce and Talia have a son, Damian, that Bruce knows nothing about.
Potential trigger warnings for rape and suicide ahead.
This is yet another family-centered fic about the Bat clan. One of the biggest issues that I have with Bat-family stories is that women are rarely included in them—although, I believe that speaks more about canon in general than it does about fanfiction authors. This story stuck out to me because Talia plays such a huge role in it.
In the canon-verse, Talia is actually a rapist. She drugs Bruce before having sex with him. As such, I’ve never been her biggest fan; if this hadn’t happened, I would probably love her. The drugging also made little sense to me because I always thought that both Talia and Bruce were entirely compatible with one another, aside from the whole fighting-on-opposite-sides problem they both have.
In The Changeling, however, I’m quite certain the rape never happens. The coupling is completely consensual on both their parts, and that’s something that I can totally get behind. There are, of course, problems when it comes to erasing rape and writing a story where that particular scene is actually consensual—I didn’t even know that there was a rape in canon until Lady Geek Girl told me, and I don’t think canon really talks about it regardless—especially because male rape is a real issue that doesn’t get a lot of justice. So that is something to be aware of when reading Silver Spider’s stories.
That said, I don’t blame Silver Spider. By removing the rape, the story makes more room for Talia to be a part of the narrative and accepted by Jason as one of the family. She is still a minor character and most of the story centers on Jason’s relationship with Damian. But the scenes with Talia are still really good, and though she arguably falls into the role of “mother” for both The Changeling and its sequel, she is still a very well developed character, and her maternal relationship with Jason is actually one of the driving forces of the story. The Changeling is dependent on her character, as both Jason and Damian are dependent upon the sacrifices she makes to keep them safe from Ra’s al Ghul. However, as Talia is a very secretive person and the story is told mostly from Jason’s point of view, a lot of what Talia does takes place off screen, which is a shame.
What is interesting about her and Jason is that the two of them do come to think of each other as mother and son, since she jump-started his memories through the Lazarus Pit and protected him like a mother should. This is something Jason is grateful for, even if he does get angry at her for other legitimate reasons, such as her keeping him captive for months and preventing him from returning to Bruce. The relationship between them is incredibly complicated, since she may have decent motives but goes about them in morally objectionable ways. It’s very well written.
Additionally, Jason’s relationship with the other characters is also very well done. The Changeling ends with Jason and Damian making it to Gotham, and Jason discovers that not only is there another Robin, Tim Drake, whom Jason feels has replaced him, but that the Joker is also alive. In the final chapters, while dealing with a whole bunch of issues that just keep compiling, Jason actually attempts to commit suicide, which is another scene that The Changeling handles very well. This is also a scene that has a lot of consequences for Jason. Damian, who had been growing very close to him and had latched onto him emotionally, since Talia ends up faking her own death to protect both of them, feels betrayed and abandoned. This is something that Jason eventually has to make up for, since he didn’t realize that his actions would have such a negative impact on the person he started thinking of as his younger brother.
All the way around, The Changeling is a fantastic story. It puts the characters through tough, horrible situations, and it doesn’t justify their lashing out in anger and hatred as a response to those situations. It makes the characters work toward being able to live together as a family and get along, and there are sacrifices that are made for that to happen, particularly when it comes to Talia. She is no longer just Damian’s mother, but Jason’s as well, but in the end, she can’t be with them, because it’ll endanger them. This is an amazing story, and you can check it out here.