Red Hood and the Outlaws #2 Review
Review by Max Mallet (@GlobeTrotterMax)
There are several ongoing DC series that focus on an anti-hero’s moral high-wire act. The difference with Red Hood and the Outlaws as opposed to Suicide Squad or Deathstroke is that to this point, the Jason Todd (the Red Hood) clearly identifies more with the second part of the term ‘anti-hero.’ Jason’s motives and methods successfully demonstrate this. In this third installment, Jason initially fights an Amazon named Artemis and together they stumble upon Black Mask’s secret weapon. It’s not of this world, and highlights why this story arc is called Dark Trinity.
First order of business: let’s address the cover by Cam Smith and Giuseppe Camuncoli. Artemis is restraining Jason, and he’s saying, “I guess Amazons don’t have a word for ‘uncle’?” The art is certainly up to par, and the RHATO Rebirth issue did demonstrate a penchant for effective humor in this series. However, this feels forced, especially given that this dialogue is on the cover. While Jason does have more of a personality than Bruce, he is still from the streets of Gotham City and is a member of the Bat Family. Unless Peter Parker is cosplaying as the Red Hood, this doesn’t sound like the dialogue of a gun-toting anti-hero who operates in Gotham City and was once beaten to death with a crowbar at the hands of the Joker (spoiler alert from 28 years ago).
Scott Lobdell’s writing is strongest when the characters in his books are having fun and exchanging quips. When Jason and Artemis address each other as “Not-Wonder Woman” and “Not-Batman,” it feels like very natural dialogue that merits a chuckle. This issue does a solid job of balancing pistol-and-melee action with character-defining moments. Lobdell also illuminates that what’s driving Artemis is the notion that she’s somehow being lied to. Readers that are also consuming Wonder Woman will no doubt sit up straight with renewed curiosity. It’ll be interesting to see if Jason and Artemis come into contact with Diana in this or a future story arc.
In the middle of the issue, the story does start to get a little muddy. The first two issues in this series promised readership that Jason’s endgame is to take down Gotham’s criminal underbelly from the inside. However, Jason makes a couple of choices during action sequences that should set off alarms in Black Mask’s head. It’s hard to imagine that this thread doesn’t start to unravel, and very soon. It’s difficult to pin down the soul of the story that Lobdell is trying to tell. However, the cliffhanger does help bring the issue full-circle, and should leave readership feeling more curious than confused.
It’s getting tougher to rank post-DC Rebirth series based on artwork because there are many teams churning out captivating visuals. Dexter Soy and Veronica Gandini are no exception here. Jason’s facial expressions under a very battle-damaged helmet are fantastic, and Artemis looks like a force of nature. The shadows that decorate nighttime action scenes are particularly rewarding, adding to an ominous mood. Throughout the issue, the art gives readership strong levels of detail without over-saturating the pages. One distracting artistic choice is that Black Mask appears to be wearing a gimp mask. Perhaps we will find out why in an upcoming issue.
Verdict: Wait and See. This issue is a mixed bag, with very promising art and strong character moments. The dialogue is also pretty natural throughout. However, Jason’s role in Black Mask’s master plan is becoming very ambiguous. If you put more emphasis on art than story, then you shouldn’t hesitate to give this a shot. If you are a huge Red Hood fan, then you should pick this up. Otherwise, you should wait to see if the next installment marks an improvement in storytelling.