With every issue that I read of Red Hood and the Outlaws, I find new reasons to enjoy it. It gets increasingly apparent to me that Lobdell is really working hard to commit his run to the idea of death and rebirth for Jason Todd, as this collection really focuses on Jason’s relationship to the other members of the Bat-family. Red Hood’s post-Batman #17 epilogue issue is without a doubt the most emotional of those I’ve read, and its follow-ups dismiss all but Bruce and Jason from the scene in order to really get a picture of their relationship now that the Joker has been defeated, for now.
STORY AND SCRIPT
With a wide range of artists contributing to this volume, Lobdell’s plotting provides just the anchor that the story needs. As with the other Death of the Family volumes, we get a picture of what happens to Jason Todd during his personal run-in with the Joker prior to the ultimate showdown with Batman in Batman #17. It isn’t remarkably different than the others–maybe a little better than Robin’s, but not as good as Batgirl’s–but it crosses over with Teen Titans and, while Jason and Tim are sorting out the Joker’s psychopathic machinations, Starfire and Arsenal show some of the leadership they picked up during their battles on Tamaran as they help Wonder Girl, Kid Flash and others deal with some Joker-caused menace in Gotham City. This sidebar really worked as character development for Arsenal, especially after Starfire’s character gained a lot of ethos during her central role in Vol. 2, ‘The Starfire’. Arsenal hasn’t gotten a central role in a story yet, but he takes charge during the team-up with the Teen Titans in a believable and welcome way.
But this story is about Jason, and this is where the story really stands out. From the aftermath of the Joker’s attack on Isabel to the two-issue follow-up after Batman #17, Jason develops as an anti-hero and provides a lot of introspection with regard to his place in the Bat-family. By the end of the volume, his re-introduction to the Joker is everything it’s supposed to be.
PENCILS AND ARTWORK
There’s a lot going on here with regard to artwork, as a wide range of artists contribute a lot of artwork. The absence of Kenneth Rocafort does change the tone a bit, but Brett Booth brings a similar realism to his issues and while Timothy Green II has a simpler, more juvenile style, it doesn’t derail the story by any means. And the final issue’s pencils from Tyler Kirkham match up perfectly with the tone with which Lobdell approaches the problematic relationship between Batman and Red Hood. In the end, each artist’s work contributes a fresh look to each of the many arcs that this collection contains.
8/10 – Of the collections unified by the Death of the Family crossover mega-event, this one does the most on a character level, which is doubly appropriate as Jason Todd has been victimized by the Joker more than any other Gotham crimefighter. We get a sincere look at the Red Hood with just the right amount of help from Starfire and Arsenal, and by the end of this collection, we’re as invested in him as we are in any member of the Bat-family. Red Hood and the Outlaws is a title on the rise as the second year of DC’s New 52 moves towards its conclusion.