How can a comic that starts off so well end in the kind of trainwreck that will damage two of DC’s Bat-books for months to come? The latest issue of Batman and… gives us a team-up of a more brutal Batman than we’ve seen in a while with Red Hood who has finally found some peace with his mentor after the fallout of mostly wretched Death of the Family.
The only good thing to come out of Death of the Family was bringing Jason Todd back into the fold. Well, that was short lived. When Batman tries to force Jason to face his death and resurrection, hoping for clues to do the same to Damian, the hard earned respect between the characters is thrown away in a handful of panels (perhaps for good).
Although I think Todd overreacts to Batman’s grief, the result is to push yet another member of the Bat-Family further from the Dark Knight Detective. Batman and Red Hood #20 also offers another appearance by Carrie Kelley looking for Damian, teasing that she’s not going away anytime soon. Pass.
Jason Todd gets little more than a cameo here as the story focuses on Arsenal and Starfire tracking down their friend who, after surviving the Joker‘s final attack, left them and headed straight for the All-Caste. By the time the duo track him through the Himalayan mountains and discover the secret entrance to the home of the magical monks who continued to train Todd after he returned from the dead, Todd has already made a rash decision which will effect all three of their futures.
Red Hood and the Outlaws #19 is a mixed bag as we’re given a Red Hood wiped of nearly all his memories (at his own behest). If this was where the New 52 planned on taking the character I’m not sure why they didn’t just allow the Joker’s final attack to do the damage.
The issue also has an odd appearance by Essence who attempts to influence Arsenal through his dreams. The point of this subplot isn’t very clear (or interesting), but it’s arguably better than the beyond bland blank slate of Jason Todd we’re left with as the issue closes. The consequences to this issue might be interesting, but this issue is a mixed bag.
After last month’s cliffhanger, Jason Todd struggles through a dream state after putting on the Red Hood mash which the the Joker lined with acid as his final joke on the Bat-Family.
It’s an odd issue with Alfred and Bruce Wayne at Jason’s bedside, whose conscious of them but trapped in a nightmare concerning his past mistakes, the Joker, and Ducra the former head of the All Caste who comes with a message concerning Jason’s failure to move on from the horrors of his past and a warning about what may happen to those he loves if he continues on his current path.
We’re told there will be no lasting physical damage from the Joker’s trap and it seems Todd’s mental state isn’t impaired either, so the entire episode feels a little pointless unless the goal is to use this experience to transform the Red Hood from anti-hero to hero and bring Jason back into the Bat-Family. One further note, Red Hood and the Outlaws #18 also brings Jason and Bruce a little closer (possibly foreshadowing his return as Robin?). For fans.
Set immediately following the events of Death of the Family, the latest issue of Red Hood and the Outlaws returns its main character (whose been conspicuous by his absence the last couple of months) as Jason Todd says his goodbyes around Wayne Manor before leaving with Starfire and Arsenal.
Not only does the Red Hood return here but the comic returns the focus of issue to Todd which makes quite a bit of sense as the former Robin talks with the current version, Dick Grayson, Alfred, and finally Batman himself before he’s finally ready to hit the road. I like all those conversations as well as Damian and Arsenal fighting to prove who is the more juvenile of the pair.
Red Hood has been a complicated character well before the New 52 in finding the right balance with the character’s deadly intentions and still honoring his past as Robin. For this issue writer Scott Lobdell gets it right which makes the comic’s twist all the more surprising as the Joker left our protagonist one final present which may have lasting effects on the Red Hood’s role going forward. Worth a look.
With both teams missing their leader Arsenal and Starfire help the Teen Titans take on a Jokerized mob. Writer Scott Lobdell continues the current trend of having Arsenal, not the Red Hood, be the voice of the book (of course he kinda has to do that this month as the Red Hood doesn’t appear in his own book). The issue is actually one of the better Death of the Family tie-ins. Of course that’s not saying much.
Arsenal comes up with a plan to find the antidote for the Joker Venom (in such a way that made absolutely no sense to me, no matter how many times I re-read the panels). While he and Bunker keep the mob at bay the rest of the team retrieve the supplies (something Kid Flash probably could have done quicker on his own, but oh well).
Aside from the main story, and its logic problems, Lobdell throws in tons of extras including a glimpse of the person responsible for getting Roy off of heroin (it ain’t Ollie), and the foreshadowing of not one but two DCU baddies coming their way once the Death of the Family crossover concludes.
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Despite the fact that we’re in the third month of Death of the Family this is the first (and likely only) time the Bat-book crossover truly makes its presence felt in Red Hood and the Outlaws. The issue isn’t great, but compared to most of the subpar storyline so far about the Face-Off Joker hitting the Bat-Family where they live, it’s not too bad (and far better than last month‘s wasted appearance by Superman).
After the Joker gives Isabel an overdose of heroin the Red Hood sets out for payback only to be drugged and beaten again by the man who killed him years ago. Despite the comic staying with Joker teasing knowledge about the Bat-Family and his hand in crafting Jason Todd’s destiny there are a couple of good moments here including an appearance by Harvey Bullock (who thankfully hasn’t been given a New 52 revamp) and some nice back and forth with Starfire and Arsenal.
The comic finally gives us a confrontation between the Joker and the Red Hood. Even if it’s not as good as I hoped, at least the crossover feels legitimately underway. For fans.
The Red Hood, Arsenal, and Starfire return from their outer space adventure only to have another alien hunt them down – Superman. Despite knowing they can’t win the battle the Outlaws take on the Man of Steel until eventually exhausting themselves and hearing what Superman wants.
I’m glad to see the group back on Earth, and the appearance of Superman (and their reaction to him) works well-enough. However, the comic gets into deep trouble with Superman’s weak explanation for showing up and the comic’s 180-degree shift to move the story into a Death of the Family crossover.
Given Jason Todd’s personal experience with the Joker it should have been the easiest thing in the world to tie the comic to the ongoing Bat-title crossover. However, what we are given here is awkward beyond belief reinforcing the idea that the Joker is responsible for Todd being chosen as Robin in moves that make the impossibly complicated plans of Heath Ledger’s Joker look amateurish by comparison. Hit-and-Miss.
The Outlaws’ outer space adventure comes to a close as Kory and her older sister lead a battle against The Blight with the help of the crew of the Starfire and their human friends.
The choice to make Roy Harper the sole narrator for this issue works well as it seems to be the easiest character for Scott Lobdell to write (Roy seems to share his jaded but humorous view of the world). The issue certainly delivers plenty of action and we get a glimpse of how powerful the New 52 version of Starfire can be when she looses control and truly lets loose.
Although I enjoyed the final two issues of the arc I’m happy to see it come to and end and return Starfire, Arsenal and Red Hood back to Earth where they belong. Next week should begin “The Death of the Family” crossovers and we should, hopeful, see a confrotation between Jason Todd and the Joker looming before too long. Red Hood and the Outlaws #14 also promises an appearance by Superman. Worth a look.
Jason Todd‘s origin (before he became the Red Hood) is the focus of Red Hood and the Outlaws #0. In the first-half of the comic writer Scott Lobdell fills in Todd’s past before he became Robin making slight tweaks to the character’s origins most notably removing the character’s post-Crisis on Infinite Earth‘s first meeting with Batman (by stealing the tires off the Batmobile).
Given the amount of backstory about Todd and his parents we’re given very little time to deal with his days as Robin – only four pages (and half of those focus specifically on “A Death in the Family” and the character’s death). The character’s resurrection is suggested but no detail is given (other than the mention of a Lazarus Pit) and his entire history as the Red Hood is ignored giving the zero issue a very incomplete feel.
Most troubling of all is the back-up story presented by the Joker (the super-genius Christopher Nolan version who relies on impossibly complex plans) where he states he is completely responsible for Todd’s history. It’s best ignored and forgotten. Hit-and-Miss.
I haven’t been the biggest fan of writer Scott Lobdell taking the Outlaws into space in Red Hood and the Outlaws‘ current arc. In fact last month’s issue was the lowest point of the series so far. Thankfully, things pick up here as the Essence back-up story has been dropped and Arsenal takes center stage in a somewhat ill-conceived rescue attempt.
Even though the current arc centers around exploring Starfire‘s past this issue is presented, almost exclusively, from Roy’s point of view. We also see that Arsenal and Starfire’s relationship has gotten more serious than either of them expected.
The logic of Arsenal getting himself captured, tortured, and telling his captors all about his days in space not withstanding, the story utilizes the comic’s offbeat sense of humor well. I’m pretty sure I’m going to hate whatever the hell the “Thirteen” is which is ominously mentioned at one point, but, at least the comic has gotten back on its feet after a horrible mis-step last month. I’m also happy to see Timothy Green II has taken over as artist for the title (even if some of the art here looks a little rushed). Worth a look.