BatWatch Review: Red Hood and the Outlaws #24 - Shakedown

I hate to say this because James Tynion IV follows me on Twitter and has always been friendly to me, so I'm just going to hope he doesn't read this one. However, I have to be honest with these reviews, and I hate this series since he took it over. It was with a profound sense of obligation that I read this the other day, and I disliked the process from beginning to end.  

Look, the entire All Caste/Untitled mythology is an ill defined mess. I have no idea what these baddies can even do or why they do it, so the fight which makes up a good part of the issue is completely boring. Nothing interesting has been done with Jason's since the mind wipe. He just seems like a little kid unsure of what to do and basically directionless. Roy, who I used to like, has become annoyingly whiny. Starfire has been even further relegated to the position of eye candy. The art is not great though I will give props that it seems to have improved over the last several issues. The reveal at the end was seen by everybody from fifty miles away.

Mostly, things just happen in this arc. To be fair, it's occasionally a cool thing that just happens, but it seems kind of like when I was a kid and would get every single action figure out and make up stuff as I went along. There are some cool things, but mostly, it's shallow chaos.

I love you James! Keep up the great work on everything else! 

BatWatch Review: Red Hood and the Outlaws #23 - All Fall Down

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All Fall Down

I can't say I've been a big fan of Red Hood and the Outlaws recently. This whole arc seems like a waste of time. I've explained my hangups with the current arc in multiple posts, so I guess I will not bother repeating myself, but I will say that it would just be nice to have a more simple, fun loving series as opposed to this more soap operatic approach.

At least it appears we have a good fight scene on the way with Arsenal trying to take on the whole City of Assassins. It does not seem like the kind of battle good old Roy could win, but it should be interesting to watch.

Does this battle end with Roy Harper's speedy death or does Roy plunge a red arrow of justice through his enemies hearts? 

In this issue, Arsenal attacks the City of Assassins all by his lonesome, but the other Outlaws are standing in his way.

Yawn...

This issue has two major flaws in the two major sections of this story.  

The first section is basically just an extended fight between Arsenal and every assassin in the DCU. The problem here is that Roy should have about a billion more enemies facing him than he actually does. I guess the artist just got carried away and thought, "Wouldn't it be awesome if there were swarms of enemies coming at Roy?" and then he forgot to follow through on that thought.

On the first big spread, we see what must be literally thousands of man-bats heading towards Roy. (which in and of itself is a bit excessive. How many man-bats did Talia create?)  Thankfully, he has little flying spheres which he took time to design with individual smiley faces which appear to weigh much more than he could reasonably carry especially while being already overloaded with a million guns, but we are going to ignore for the moment the fact that Roy should be immobile like a character in an RPG trying to hold too much loot. We are also going to ignore that these darts apparently carry Mad Hatter's brain control device...which is weird since we've never seen it in liquid form. Getting back on target, Roy deploys about three dozen of these which open up and shoot their darts in every direction. It looks like each of these spheres has about a hundred darts, so theoretically, this could take care of the man-bats. The problem is that the art shows four darts hitting one man-bat which obviously indicates that these bots and not firing carefully; they are throwing darts at random. With it distributing at least four darts per man-mat, there should still be a crap ton of man-bats left flying.

Still, you could argue that the man-bat part is a bit nit picky, but there is another swarm of enemies that never manifests. Right after Roy takes out the man-bats, about a hundred foot soldiers that are shown to be rushing Roy and are less than ten feet away from him. A second later, Graystone engages Arsenal in combat for a couple of minutes forcing Roy to stop and fight, yet none of the other assassins ever make it to Roy. The only way this makes sense is if all the others are waiting in the wings so Roy can take them one at a time which is the stereotypical scenario from martial arts movies. Somehow, I don't think assassins would be so kind.

The second section is all the aftermath of the battle where the plot tries to stutter forward. The problem here is that nothing makes any freakin' sense! 

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The Untitled want to destroy the Well of Whatever because it has the power to strip them of their powers. Once it is destroyed, they will be unstoppable. Here's an idea, evil spirit thingamabobs, take over the rest of the world and let the City of Assassins continue to exist. Wouldn't that be the logical thing? Why freak out about this stupid well? Just ignore it! If I were the Untitled, the last thing I would want to do would be to go on a mission to the one place that could strip me of my power. It's asinine.

The City of Assassins are trusting Jason as their leader. Why? They are a massive, massive force with no particular loyalty, it would seem, to anyone, so why would they care who Talia thought should lead the charge?

What the crap are the All-Blades? I'm willing to overlook such unexplained silliness when this was just a silly yet fun series, but if you are wanting me to take this mythology seriously, explain it!

I could go on, but I've raised most of the questions previously, and there are no answers to be had at least for now. Mysteries are okay, but they need to be actual mysteries. This doesn't feel like there is a secret to discovered through careful consideration but rather that we are all just supposed to be going along with these premises that really don't make much sense.

Conclusion 6/10

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This issue has a pretty cool battle at the beginning even if Roy should have been swarmed and killed by the end of page four, but the story here just doesn't provide much worth enjoying. Until I feel like I actually understand the motivations of the groups in play, I don't think I'll care very much about what happens to them.

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BatWatch Review: Red Hood and the Outlaws #22

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Dangerous People

I love, love, love what James Tynion IV (current writer of Talon, Red Hood and the Outlaws and Batman) has done with Talon, but I'm beginning to think I hate, hate, hate what Tynion is doing to Red Hood and the Outlaws. RHATO was a high octane, high violence, low drama thrill ride. Yes, there was definitely some darkness skirting the edges of the story and there was definitely a considerable portion of the fan base who found Starfire's boobs the best plot element of the series, but overall, it was a buddy cop action/comedy series, and it was a lot of fun.   

Now, it is not a lot of fun. The buddies have been split up, and what used to be fun is now drama central as our trio of heroes have parted ways. Jason isn't even himself since he has been mind wiped, and it's almost like dealing with a completely new character. I liked the idea of Jason doing some soul searching while wiped, but instead of facing the hard facts of life, seeing the necessity of violence, and coming to terms with the scars of his past, we have some plot from left field about Jason being the head of the League of Assassins. This would be an interesting concept if the real Jason Todd were getting this opportunity, but why would mind wiped innocent Jason want anything to do with it?

Long story short, this arc is getting on my nerves. I gave Tynion a lot of rope waiting for things to build, and if it doesn't build to something I enjoy in this issue, then you can count me among those eager for a new writer to take this series.

Does Red Hood and the Outlaws finally demonstrate that there are still good times to be had with the Outlaws or have the good times come to an end? 

In this issue, Starfire tangles with Essence and Jason takes a tour of the city of assassins.

I Didn't Hate It

If but one thing positive can be said about this issue, it is that the story is finally coming together to form the big picture.  

This issue was better in many ways.

Perhaps the most surprising area of improvement was in terms of the art. Julius Gopez's (former cover artist for Devil's Due's Dragons of Spring Dawning and penciler of The Ravagers and current artist for Red Hood and the Outlaws) art has been, quite frankly, ugly in past issues, but here, there are many scenes that look quite nice. Previously, Gopez seemed unable to draw a good looking face, but in this issue there are only a few hiccups in facial renderings. It seems that people are not Gopez's strength because while people look fairly good this time, the city of assassins looks great and highlights Gopez's skill. The colorists also deserve a lot the credit for making the city of assassins look so otherworldly.

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The drama is still present but is a bit smaller than in the last issue. I'm not sure I buy the break up between Kori and Roy, and I certainly do not like the negative vibes from this series that used to be so light hearted, but the choice to break them up is already made, and at least the two do not whine overly much about it this issue. Jason, on the other hand, is a bit whiny as he blames his friends for lying to him which to my remembrance isn't even strictly true, but I digress. The point is, drama was not a huge factor, and that's a good thing.

A large part of the story takes place in the city of assassins which is fun to explore as it sets up an entire new world never before seen in the DC universe. I know this is the home of the League of Assassins, but even so, it seems like there is too much rampant killing in the city for any sort of society to subsist. Still, it's an interesting glimpse into a different world.  

The crux of the issue is the unveiling of the central plot and showing so much that was shrouded in mystery. I have two countervailing feelings on this. I think the basic premise for the story is pretty cool with the League of Assassins protecting the Well of Sins from an even greater force for evil and using Jason as their predestined champion, The Untitled using Roy as a mechanism to invaded the city, and Essence trying to simply maintain the balance of good and evil. It's a clever way to take our three leads and throw them against each other with a pretty cool fantasy plot.

The negative side to all  these revelations is that I don't really get it.

Perhaps it is just because I'm tired or didn't pay close enough attention in previous issues, but I feel a bit lost with this whole scenario. I never really understood the roles of the All Caste or the Untitled. By my recollection, they were loosely defined concepts which was fine while Lobdell (former writer of Uncanny X-Men and current writer of Teen Titans, Superman and Action Comics) was just using them as en excuse for cool action, but if Tynion actually wants to make the story the thing of importance, then I need a bit more info to really understand. It's classic BatWatcher overthinking no doubt, but I see that the All Caste strives for balance between good and evil, and I can't help but wonder why the crap anybody would want a balance. Doesn't every sane person want good to win? On the counter side of the equation if the Untiltled were evil, why would they ever agree to keep the balance with the All Caste in the first place?

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There are a million little things that don't make sense in this scenario. How can the Well of Sins be more powerful that a Lazarus Pit. What more could it do? Why would Ra's refuse to use it? Why do these assassins have the honor to stand guard over the city and/or refuse use the Well for themselves. They do not seem to be motivated by high moral principle and the Ghul's are out of power, so what gives? How was Ducra's attempt to strip herself of all her powers supposed to help defeat the Untitled.? What's up with Essence carrying the essence of pure life? Why would the assassins turn to Jason because of a prophecy from Talia Al Ghul who has never had any ability to prophecy and appears to be unrespected in the assassin community?

Perhaps I'm missing answers that are in the story, but at the moment, a lot of this plot just isn't clicking into place for me, and of course, none of this addresses why Jason was mind wiped in the first place, but I'm assuming that is still meant to be a mystery.  

Conclusion 7/10

I might not have understood big parts of the issue, but I can't say I was bored, and I am quite interested in seeing the next chapter. I still miss the old fun times RHATO, and I hope they make a swift return, but for the moment, this will have to do.  

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BatWatch Review: Red Hood and the Outlaws #21

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Dissolution

Red Hood and the Outlaws has left something to be desired these last two months. Though James Tynion's (current writer of Talon, Red Hood and the Outlaws and Batman) work on the title has not been bad, it hasn't really been a lot of fun which makes things a bit boring. With an artist who seems to struggle to come up with a look on par with the industry average and characters that no longer have a devil may care attitude towards death, RHATO has become heavier than I would really prefer.

Is RHATO #21 a creative step in the right direction or a fate worse than death?

In this issue, Roy gets counseling from Doctor Strange, Starfire confronts Essence, and Jason faces down some of his old assassin buddies.

Quick reminder, I'm doing super short reviews today.

Disappointed Yet Again

This issue isn't bad, but I've waited four issues now for Tynion to find the right tone for the Outlaws. I'm beginning to think that this is the new normal, and I'm not crazy about it. My problem with it consists o a whole bunch of little things, so let me make some examples.

The Hugo Strange plot line feels like it adds little to the story other than just throwing in a familiar face. This could have been a long subplot with Roy counseling with a villain, but it appears to have been wrapped up fairly neatly with this one issue without much fanfare.

Starfire has clothes in one panel and doesn't in the next. Apparently, the ability to summon slutty atire is now a superpower.

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Jason finally battles a lot of assassins, but it doesn't feel very satisfying. The assassins are just a random collection of new and old faces, and there are almost no standout moments in the brief battle. On a tangent, Lady Shiva is present, and her name is given. She is not Sandra Wusaan, so what gives with that? Back to the main point, Jason gives nearly as good as he gets which is ridiculous since he has been mind wiped. Why would he retain his skills if “everything connected to the dark” has been wiped?

I will give credit to Gopez (former cover artist for Devil's Due's Dragons of Spring Dawning and penciler of The Ravagers and current artist for Red Hood and the Outlaws and Earth 2) for the coolest art in any of his issue thus far with his design of the City of Assassins. Other than that, his art is as it has been...not great with the faces. Also on the art front, the color pallet is pretty bland.

The relationship changes between Roy and Kori in this issue are pretty bland and contrived and the revelation about Jason's role with the assassins appears completely nonsensical.

Conclusion 7/10

I've really been trying to enjoy RHATO since I've been such a big fan of Tynion's other work, but I'm starting to sour on this one. I'd like a fun adventure series, and all indications are that this is moving towards a forced melodramatic adventure series. In the spirit of trying not to curb my wrath, I'll still give it a seven in hopes of it all coming together down the line, but I really need to see something better in the next issue.

BatWatch Review: Red Hood and the Outlaws #1

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Trust Fall

Oh boy! I think this is going to be good. Let's review, shall we?

Jason had his memory wiped because he was tired of his life sucking, Arsenal is determined to get Jason his memories back whether he wants them or not, Starfire was just revealed to be lying about her poor memory skills.,Ducra and the Proctor are manipulating the Outlaws for an unknown purpose, the worlds' assassins are going to be hunting the Outlaws down at the behest of some unknown financier, and Green Arrow is coming into town to save his ex-partner in crime fighting, Roy Harper. It sounds like a good time to me. Let's get to it.

Does Red Hood and the Outlaws Annual #1 show that James Tynion can deliver solid action as well as drama or is this going to be another issue which gives Hoodies a conniption fit?

In this issue, Green Arrow and Cheshire pay a visit to the Outlaws' island.

Just Like Old Times

This issue felt much more like the series did under Scott Lobdell's (former writer of Uncanny X-Men and current writer of Teen Titans, Superman and Action Comics) pen that Tynion's (current writer of Talon, Red Hood and the Outlaws, and Batman) past two issues, and that's a bit of a mixed blessing.

The main thing that this issue has in common with Lobdell's run is that the action is back to it's previous level of intensity. The Outlaws fight quite a bit, and there is also a fun line or two of dialogue. The story is definitely not slow covering a good bit of ground in its forty or so pages.

Also like Lobdell's run, a lot of elements feel thrown in at random. For instance, Cheshire plays the part of the main villain in this issue, but in addition to her martial arts prowess and skill with toxins, Tynion changed her to have some superpowers which...seem a bit out of place to me. I suppose as new unexplained power go, they are okay, but she would have been a much more impressive threat if she had managed to keep the Outlaws on their toes without this new power. I suspect that fans of Cheshire from previous series will probably be outraged by the idea that she needs to rely on superhuman abilities now to be one of the world's best assassins.

Similarly, Bronze Tiger makes an appearance in this issue, and as has already been made clear by the drawings released earlier this month, he has now been transformed into a feline form rather than simply being a man with a Tiger theme. It seemed a bit odd in the earlier released character design sketches, but it actually seemed ever more peculiar when he was shown without explanation here.

An Origin for Arsenal

From the solicits, it appears as if this issue would be geared around Arsenal, but Jason fans will be happy to know that Red Hood gets some significant, if brief, development his own. Starfire plays her usual role of being the muscle and little else though the issue of her memory is still in play. However, Roy is indeed the star in this issue, and his past and present with Green Arrow share the spotlight with the attack from Cheshire.

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As origins go, this one seems pretty good to me, but I'm not terribly attached to Roy's pre-Flashpoint early days, and this very well be anathema to someone who loves those old stories. In the DCNU, Roy essentially acted as the tech support for Ollie's war on crime. He was a petty thief in his early years much like Roy on Arrow (I suspect Tynion was encouraged to unify the two presentations which means we might be getting insight into the future of Roy Harper in this coming season of Arrow) before being recruited by Ollie. Roy wanted to get out in the field and Ollie would not let him partially because of concern for his safety and partially because Roy was an alcoholic. This story seems to work well in the DCNU portrayal of the characters, and it does establish that older brother/younger brother vibe between the two that characterized their relationship before Flashpoint. However, it does minimize Roy's fall from grace if he always struggled with alcoholism.

Hugo Strange is seen in the past as Roy's psychiatrist. The exact nature of his role in events should be quite interesting as things develop.

My only complaint about Arsenal's origin in this issue is that crucial information is still missing. No doubt, Tynion wants to string this out for a later reveal, but this is somewhat annoying. Still, I suppose the teasing is fair game.

Art Unexpected

I have not been a fan of Julius Gopez's (former cover artist for Devil's Due's Dragons of Spring Dawning and penciler of The Ravagers and current artist for Red Hood and the Outlaws and Earth 2) art on the RHATO's regular series. Thankfully, there is a different art team working on the annual. Al Barrionuevo (former penciler of Gotham Knights and Teen Titans and current artist of Red Hood and the Outlaws) handles the art in this issue, and I much prefer him to Gopez though he's still not my favorite. His art strikes me as a bit cartoony, and it does not seem to jibe too well with the tone of the book. There is nothing wrong with his work, (except perhaps some slightly off faces. GA's domino mask always looks off) and some pages are quite nice, but it never really wows. The coloring also feels a bit to simple though I lack the artistic sensibilities to pinpoint what exactly is wrong.

Bat Droppings

1. The vehicle GA flies is kind of odd. Is this a product of Justice League of America or Green Arrow's own series? Somebody drop me a line if you know. Just curious because it doesn't seem particularly like Green Arrow.

2. I did enjoy the Roybots.

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3. Obviously, there must have been something that caused Ollie to reach out to Roy and recruit him. I assume GA doesn't generally pick his potential team members from prison cells, but I'm willing for this to be revealed later.

(Spoilers until Conclusion)

4. This is the second time in the last couple of months I've seen someone rescued by a catchall set of poison antidotes. I'm pretty sure it doesn't work that way, but I suppose I should do some research and write an article on it.

5. I didn't care for Cheshire's teleportation power, but I do like her use of poisons. Despite being outmatched in terms of power big time, she held her own in a manner I thought was reasonable because she had planning, surprise, and a concoction of chemicals.

6. It will be interesting to see what happens next with Jason.

Conclusion 8/10

This was a pretty fun issue, but it felt just a tad scattered and I didn't care for Cheshire's new power. Still, this is a solid purchase for any RHATO fan.

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BatWatch Review: Red Hood and the Outlaws #20

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Confessions

James Tynion IV (current writer of Talon, Red Hood and the Outlaws, and Batman) has steadily grown as one my favorite writers since he started Talon, but I was dismayed to find myself disappointed in last months' Red Hood and the Outlaws. It was not really a bad issue, but it felt off as Roy and Kori stalked across the tundra to find Jason without any obvious motivation. Throw in a couple of lackluster fights, and you've pretty much summed up the last issue of RHATO except for the big reveal at the end where we learned that Jason had his mind wiped to forget all his pain. This concept intrigues me, but I can only hope that Tynion picks up the pace a little in this issue.

Does RHATO #20 restore the fun vibe the series used to have or will Hoodies need a mind wipe when all is said and done?

In this issue, S'aru the Proctor gives Roy and Kori some insights into Jason's life.

Now This Is More Like It

This issue was much better, yet it did not address one my main complaints about the last issue. One of the things that annoyed me most about the previous issue is it failed to add any humor or fun action sequences into the mix, and really, this issue is the same way. However, this issue feels fresh and gripping because all the action is happening on an emotional level. S'aru might not be trading blows with the Outlaws in the physical sense, but he is definitely taking swings at them emotionally.

S'aru takes the Outlaws into Red Hood's memories and allows them to see first hand the pain that poor old Jason has endured. Some of the scenes were simple rehashes of previously established events, but other moments, like the first meeting between Arsenal and Jason, shed new light on the Outlaws' relationships and Jason's psyche. S'aru's main target is Roy who desperately wants to restore Jason's mind and is willing to use force to force S'aru, but the Proctor also has some medicine for Starfire, and he sews some serious strife into the team.

Gopez

Julius Gopez (former cover artist for Devil's Due's Dragons of Spring Dawning and penciler of The Ravagers and current artist for Red Hood and the Outlaws) is the artist that joined the book last issue with James Tynion IV, and I was less than trilled with his work last time. Thankfully, it has also improved this issue. Whereas last issue, everybody looked like their faces were carved out of wood, this issue actually featured people who looked more or less like people. There are still some funky and unnatural expressions most frequently to be found on Roy's face, but the art in general and the faces in particular looked pretty good. I also enjoyed, though this trick was only done once, a panel where the memories floated around the Outlaws in bubbles, and Kori stuck her hand through one of the bubbles and into a memory. That was a cool effect.

The art really seemed to have an entirely different tone this issue. Whereas last issue felt like it was going for gritty and realistic, this issue felt a bit more exaggerated. The colors were also much more vivid, so colorist Nei Ruffino (former colorist for Birds of Prey and Zenescope's Grimm's Fairy Tales and current colorist for Red Hood and the Outlaws and cover artist for Supergirl) deserves some love, but considering that most of last issue took place in the snow, there might be a reasonable explanation for the better use of colors this time.

Familiar Faces with Unfamiliar Motives

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We see a slew of semi-familiar faces this issue, and many of their appearances raise questions. In one memory, Jason is shown working with a group of brutal mercenaries the leader of which was named Ben. This was probably the first appearance of the promised Bronze Tiger who is black and named Ben just like this character, but from my understanding of the character, Bronze Tiger was not a man who murdered for money. Also, Bronze Tiger looked much more trim previously than this version of the character, and of course there is the little issue that the DCNU Bronze Tiger, who was revealed by DC a week or so ago, was an actual humanoid Tiger, so a lot of questions are up in the air on this one.

Also, a woman who was probably Cheshire was seen with this group, and a guy who looked like pre-Flashpoint Green Arrow was also visible, but he was using a sword, so it probably has no connection.

Ducra, Essence and S'aru are all in play as well, and it is very difficult to determine what their angle is in all these events. Finally, a fairly major guest star makes an appearance at the very end, so get ready for some crossover action in Red Hood and the Outlaws Annual.

Bat Droppings

1. This whole issue actually poses a rather interesting moral dilemma. If a friend chose to mind wipe him or herself and you had the ability to restore their memories, would you do it or allow them to go without their memories?

2. Starfire fans have great cause to rejoice. I actually considered the general scenario that Tynion laid out in this issue. Too bad I never voiced it on record so I could appear to be a genius. Now if Tynion will just get Kori some clothes, she can be a respectable character again.

3. Is it just me, or is it nice to actually see some trick arrows every one in awhile?

Conclusion 9/10

I was truly worried about Tynion's run on RHATO, but my fears have been greatly alleviated. I do hope that some more fun comes into this series because it is still pretty heavy for a book which has been mostly light, but as long as Tynion keeps writing solid stories with good characters, I'm game. Anybody interested in the issue should check it out.

Hey You!

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Review: Red Hood and the Outlaws #19

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Communion

I'm really nervous about this issue. Despite my hatred for his work on Teen Titans, I really enjoyed Scott Lobdell's (former writer of Uncanny X-Men and current writer for Teen Titans, Superboy and Superman) work on Red Hood and the Outlaws, and he gave the book a unique tone between comedy, blood thirsty action, and sentimentality that will probably prove difficult to recapture, but it's out with the old and in with the new as James Tynion IV (current writer of Talon, Red Hood and the Outlaws, Batman and Detective Comics) takes over writing duties and Julius Gopez (former cover artist for Devil's Due's Dragons of Spring Dawning and penciler of The Ravagers and current artist for Red Hood and the Outlaws) on the art. If it were just any old writer taking over, I probably would not be so concerned about the issue, but I really love Tynion's work on Talon, Batman and Detective Comics, and I really do not want to see one of my favorite writers lay an egg. Also, Tynion follows BatWatch, and I really do not want to have to say I think his issue sucked. However, I always try to call a spade a spade, and the preview for this issue was rather meh worthy with at least one bad line of dialogue and art which just was not working for me, so again I say, I'm a bit nervous.

Does this issue force me to talk smack about a writer I thought I could trust, or does James Tynion prove me to be a fool for doubting his mad skills?

In this issue, Arsenal and Starfire go looking for Jason at the Acres of All.

The Missing Chapter

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Almost this entire issue was hampered and nearly ruined by the fact that we are missing crucial information. It feels like we are coming in after having missed an issue or two, and in fact, that is exactly the case since this issue clearly depends on events from Batman and... #20 which has not yet been released. I do not mind playing catch up when I have missed a few issues, but to make me scramble to understand the story when I'm current reading about a quarter for the DCNU including every Bat Family title kin of burns much like when I am scheduled for a Doctor's appointment at nine-fifteen, and they make me sit around until nine-fifty to see the doctor. My reaction is the same in both cases. Shouldn't you have had this worked out before I arrived?

To be fair, the piecing the past together as you go approach can sometimes be fun. Heck, it's the entire premise of the immensely popular The Hangover series, but the approach did not strike me as fun in this issue. For one thing, I was not expecting to have to play catchup. For another, there were basically no clues as to what was really happening in the entire first half of the issue which made it little more than a series of pointless scenes. I didn't have much grasp on what was happening other than that the Outlaws were looking for Jason, and though I've now put some of the pieces together, I still don't have much of a clue about the big picture at work.

(Spoilers) Clearly, something happened to Jason during Batman and Red Hood, but I have no idea what. I mean, it appears to be something that upset Jason. On the other hand, I guess Joker's mask attack could have been the straw that broke the camel's back, but with the consolation between Jason and Bruce in the last issue of RHATO, I would expect to see Jason with less baggage if anything. Again, I'm left scratching my head as to the purpose of this issue and what is actually happening.

The Big Reveal! (Spoilers)

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I noticed a lot of traffic searching BatWatch today for a RHATO post, so I'm assuming Jason's mind wipe must be raising the fur on a lot of fans' necks. I would suggest you not worry about it too much. It's always possible that I am completely, totally, 100% wrong, but I can't see Tynion keeping Jason wiped for anything approaching a permanent basis. Tynion did say that this current brief arc will lead to repercussions in the next big arc, so I can see that perhaps Jason will be mentally incomplete for some time, but right now, he is basically little more than a lethal doll, (see Dollhouse) and since he is the main character of RHATO, I simply can't see them keeping him in this state for long. I would not be at all surprised if he has his memories restored by the end of the next issue, but there is also a real possibility that Tynion will be toying with Jason's brain for the rest of the year, and that's not necessarily a bad thing.

Jason has never been a big character for reflection. He's an act now and think later kind of guy, yet he has a lot of baggage, and he has finally become so fed up with trying that he's ready to give up.

This is something I have seen play out in my own life time and time again. Everybody gets to that point of feeling like their life is just screwed up beyond salvaging, and at that point, you have to make a decision. At that point, you either grow as a person or you get stuck in a self-destructive cycle.

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Jason has been stuck in a self-destructive cycle. He is not willing to move past his pains and forgive his injuries. He thinks his pain is killing him when it is truly the source of his greatest strength. There is a lot to unpack thematically on this point, and I'm hoping this is where Tynion is planning to set up camp for the next several months. By messing with Jason's brain, Tynion is basically saying, “You don't like your life? Well, let's see how much you like your life when I take away everything that makes you, you.” Not only is this a rich ground for exploration, it also is an important one that actually has some relevance in the real world.

Bat Droppings

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1. Julius Gopez's art does indeed annoy me. Just looking at the first page alone, we have a weird aura around characters as they are descending to the plane which looks very strange. People seem to be floating down gently to the plane without any difficulty. The villain looks stereotypically villainous, and Jason's face somehow looks like that of an evil wooden doll. The body language in almost every scene looks off.

2. The line about Jason's butler was hilarious.

3. I'm not sure this is really reasonable, but I somehow feel ripped off that I didn't get to see Jason tear into the hijackers. I would have much rather have seen more of this and less of the boring walking through the snow.

4. Starfire' costume looks more ridiculous each time I see it. How is it even supposed to stay attached to her frame? Is it a suction cup? Is it glue? Is it painted on? Does she have magical clothe sucking powers? Give that girl some clothes, for the love of Pete.

5. Starfire is nearly cuddly with the grandmother, yet she has never before treated a stranger with such kindness. What gives?

6. Why is Essence involved? Why do we have her creating trouble without apparent reason? Why is she narrating to herself when she first reveals herself to readers?

7. Why is Roy freezing to death when Starfire could easily warm him up?

8. To be fair to Gopez, I do really like the facial expression on Roy when he says, “Sez you.” It really speaks to his sadness and desperation.

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9. Roy's dream includes lots of references I either I have never heard or have forgotten. When did Dr. Strange come into play? I've not read issues 10 and 11, so perhaps it was in there? Also, who are the Native Americans. I know in old continuity, Roy was raised by...Brave Bow, I think it was, but who is the younger guy?

10. Roy's actions in the dream sequence clearly amount to fighting his darkness not facing it.

(Spoilers until Conclusion)

11. Things pick up quite a bit once the Outlaws reach the Acres of All, but it still is less than spectacular. What are these creatures the Outlaws are fighting, and why are they roaming this paradise? Why was the reveal of Jason's memory wipe delayed when it was obvious from at least the second time Jason said he did not know the Outlaws?

12. I do like how Jason feels like a completely different character in his innocence. I'll even give Gopez props once again for capturing this with his art.

13. S'aru seems to have seized Jason's memories a bit eagerly. Perhaps he will be found to be out and out villainous next issue.

Conclusion 7/10

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As for James Tynion's debut on this series, this was not all I could have wished. Quite frankly, I resent having to play catchup, and I find it a waste of panel space to spend most of the issue focusing on quasi-spiritual, convoluted undertakings rather than unrolling the plot to give readers a context for the story. On the other hand, I think I know what Tynion wants to do thematically with Red Hood, and I dig the direction he is taking the character as long as this is a learning experience and not a permanent change. In the end, I'll say this is a good purchase for those hardcore RHATO fans, but everybody else might want to wait until the next issue comes out so we can get a better sense of which way this series is going.

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Review: Red Hood and the Outlaws #18

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Last Dance, Last Chance for...Death!

Red Hood and the Outlaws has been pretty consistent at delivering fun stories. Granted, it is not the deepest comic book series on the market, and as some have pointed out, Lobdell's (former writer of Uncanny X-Men and current writer for Red Hood and the Outlaws, Teen Titans, Superboy and Superman strong suit as a writer is not subtlety, but still, I can't think of a single issue of RHATO (minus the Death of the Family crossover issues) that I did not enjoy.

Now, Red Hood faces a major challenge as he has been badly injured by a trap from the Joker. It is unclear how bad the effects will be, but this is still a noteworthy blow against our favorite living, hooded hero. (sorry Green Arrow) Does this issue sear itself into history as a story to remember, or does the whole series lose face from this tale of woe?

In this issue, Jason works through some emotional demons while Bruce deals with some demons of his own.

Red Hood's Requiem

First up, let's examine how this issue addressed the death of Damian and how Robin's death affected Jason and the Outlaws.

The Outlaws

Now that we have exhausted that subject, let's take some time to discuss the Outlaws plot lines in this book. Obviously, Jason will be the main focus of this issue, but no team title is going to ignore their other characters completely for an entire issue, so what happened with Starfire and Arsenal in RHATO #18?

That concludes our discussion of the Outlaws actives in this issue.

Mixed Emotions

As my sarcasm probably made clear, this book suffers from some very dishonest labeling. It has nothing to do with the death of Damian unless you want to interpret Bruce's moping and emotional contemplation as resulting from Damian's death, and that probably does serve a role in Bruce's emotional state, but if you had no clue about Damian's death, this issue would still make complete sense. The lack of the Outlaws is also a pretty major oversight. Personally, I can't stand it when team books, especially ones with such small casts, write off entire characters for whole issues. I'm not asking for a lot; just give me a panel or two showing me what they are doing.

If you remove the dishonest labeling from issue, it's still a mixed bag, and it is the worst kind of mixed bag. It's difficult enough when a mixed bag has some good stuff and some bad stuff, but this has some excellent stuff with some moderately lame stuff, so it's a rough mix.

One of the good parts is that Jason gets in touch with his spiritual mentor, Ducra, via coma. It is not clear if Ducra is just a memory of if she is still alive on a spiritual level, but I like the idea of Jason continuing to have a spiritual guide. The new writer for the series who will start next issue, James Tynion IV, (former writer of Detective Comics and current writer of Batman and Talon) says he will be developing the mystic/fantasy elements of Jason, so this is a good stepping stone for that.

The main positive is that Bruce has some awesome emotional breakthroughs regarding his relationship with Jason. Honestly, this issue deals more with Bruce than with Jason, but I will not elaborate on Bruce's actions because I want these sections of the story to remain unspoiled.

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My big problem with this issue is that a large part of it, nearly half, deals with a ridiculous depiction of Jason's emotional conflict and makes the case that he will go crazy if he does not stop living in the past. My first issue with this setup is that Joker is shown as this big hulking entity trying to kill Jason in his dream state. Maybe it is just me, but after playing through all the Scarecrow missions of Arkham Asylum, I really have no interest in seeing a giant sized villain try to destroy a normal sized hero in a battle which is not actually physical. In the Arkham Asylum games, it was cool at first because it is a neat way to represent a non-physical attack, but after a short while, it began to feel intrusive since you knew everything you were doing was not literally happening. More or less, I felt the same thing here. We know Joker is not really two hundred feet tall and he is not really going to destroy Jason, so why is this long drawn out scene really here? It's impossible to feel any tension because no real damage is possible. You might say, “It's all about emotional conflict,” but that leads me to my second point.

Jason really does not have any issues. Seriously, by Bat Clan standards, Jason is the picture of mental health. Sure, he was killed by Joker, and yes, he would like to kill Joker right back, but who would not in that situation? Ducra says that Jason will end up killing all those that love him because he holds on to the past, but that's a complete load of crap. Bruce holds on to the past and he does not kill people. Jason used to be a psycho, (since it has never really been explained, I asusme his homicidal rages were a temporary effect of the Lazarus pit) but he got over it, and now he is doing good and making friends. An entire half of this issue dealt with the theory that Jason going psycho again because he is unhappy that Joker killed him, and that is just a waste of space. I would much rather seen six pages of the, “You will kill those you love,” nonsense cut out and replaced with some real issue that Jason has such as his bitterness towards the Bat Family. Alternatively, I would not have minded these six pages going anywhere significant. We could see what was happening with the Outlaws with those six pages.

Bat Droppings

1. There is a new art team working in this issue, and they do a good job. Tyler Kirkham (cover artist for Top Cow's Witchblade Takeru Manga and penciler for Green Lantern: New Guardians and current penciler for Red Hood and the Outlaws) does pencils and Arif Prianto (current colorer for Red Hood and the Outlaws, Top Cow's Witchblade and Image's Mind the Gap) handles colors. Something about their art gives the impression of everything being very smooth in an action figure sort of way, but that is not a put down. It looks good, but it reminds me of action figures. The dream sequence and the mental contemplation gives Prianto a good excuse to have some fun with the colors. If you look at the backgrounds in each panel, they are all bright and moody. Also, the colors tend to blend very well with each other in panel and cross panel. It's a very mellow effect. FYI, I know nothing about art, and I could probably explain this much better if I knew what I was talking about.

2. In the dream state, Jason has all these pink glowing things on his chest, and this feels like it should get some explanation. It seems slightly familiar. Was this covered in a past issue I have forgotten?

3. Jason's dream vision of the All-Caste base is a bit too twisted for my taste. Everything is gnarled, and it seems kind of overdone.

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4. The dramatic tension of what will become of Jason's face was ended pretty quickly as Alfred informed Bruce that there would be no permanent damage. This almost makes the entire acid bath seem pointless, but then again, this still works as a rebirth of Jason, so I guess it holds up.

5. Bruce's “reasoning” for keeping Jason away from medical experts is stupid. Leslie Thompkins is part of the family. Why shouldn't they call her? Also, Alfred's desire to call in help is kind of odd since he has already said there will be no permanent damage. Bad writing? Bad writing.

6. Jason's attitude, thankfully, has remained completely undamaged, and I have to say I have always been delighted with the way Lobdell has handled Jason's personality. This is, by the way, Lobdell's last issue on the series which is why I am noting things such as this.

7. Jason wears a Robin costume in this issue closer to that of the one in the case in Batman and Robin #18 which I declared to be The Robin costume of Stephanie Brown than any boy Robin costumes seen thus far. It is not near close enough to make me think it is the same costume, but I thought it was worth mentioning.

8. I really like the way Bruce's memories were layered as the background over the room as he stayed by Jason's bedside. Very nice touch.

9. It's always nice to see Joker's head blow up.

10. We are still lacking an explanation of when Bruce implanted Jason into Leviathan. I do hope someone eventually covers that.

11. Nice final panel.

12. (Spoilers) It is strange that Death of the Family is supposedly supposed to have divided the family emotionally, yet it seems to have done exactly the opposite with everyone except between Bruce and Dick. I'm guessing that this was handled by the individual writers of the series, so we cannot really blame Snyder, but still, it's weird.

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Conclusion 8/10

If this issue had focused on just Bruce, it had dealt with a more legitimate Jason problem, had informed readers what was happening with the other Outlaws, or really done anything other than drag out the mostly pointless All-Caste delusion scene, this would have earned a higher score because the emotional payoff between Jason and Bruce in this issue is huge, but alas, it does not. If you are RHATO fan or a Jason fan, you will definitely want to buy this issue. You might also want to consider it if you are just a big Bat aficionado. However, you definitely do not want it for the Requiem tie in.

Review: Red Hood and the Outlaws #17

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Don't Let the Door Hit You on the Way Out!

Nightwing's follow up issue to Death of the Family was quite satisfying, so now I am curious if Red Hood and the Outlaws will get a similarly great story. I was not particularly impressed with RHATO's crossover with Death of the Family though it had some moments. It will be nice to see this trio of antiheroes reunited since Roy and Jason have been on separate adventures and Kory barely received any face time in the past couple issues. Does RHATO #17 bring the team together for a moving follow up to Death of the Family, or does it play the easy route and just leap back in to the regular flow of things without any sort of emotional resolution?

In this issue, Jason invites the Outlaws to Wayne Manor as he prepares to head out, Damian makes friends in his own unique way, Starfire and Nightwing avoid each other, Arsenal runs his mouth, and Batman acts fatherly.

Okay, Wow

After a bunch of Death of the Family tie ins which were mostly fun but largely irrelevant, it seems the aftermath of these events, at least in the case of Nightwing and RHATO, are actually really awesome. Honestly, I believed Death of the Family could be used to move characters forward, but I didn't really expect it to happen, but holy crap, we have an entire issue which is ninety-five percent character development. Once more allow me to say, “Holy crap!”

I'm not going to accuse many of interaction in this book of being extremely profound, but they are all sincere and moving. Lobdell does a great job of capturing the essence of each of these characters, zooming in on their best parts, and giving them the chance to shine. We get to see Roy be his goofy, good natured self. Damian is a little snot who is all jaded on the outside but just a kid at heart. We get to see a different side of Nightwing though his role in this issue is brief. Alfred is portrayed excellently, and as always, Lobdell does Jason justice. Even Kory seems she might be moving in a positive direction. Earlier in the series, Lobdell wrote her as if she was incapable of remembering her past, yet she clearly remembers Nightwing in this issue which means this is either a minor retcon, or my understanding of Kory's mental abilities has become incorrectly skewed at some point.

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The emotional centerpiece of the issue is a brief conversation between Jason and Bruce, and this scene actually took me by surprise. I suppose I figured we would not get some revelation of the current partnership between Bruce and Jason until after Morrison's Batman, Incorporated concludes, but we actually find out in this issue why Bruce vouched for the Outlaws legitimacy despite their lethal force methods. I and many others suspected that Death of the Family would be used as a springboard for Batman to push people away and disband the team, but it seems things are moving in just the opposite direction at least in Bruce's heart. Bruce actually acts fatherly in this issue and extends the olive branch to Jason. His explanation for why he vouched for Jason's team was so simple that I initially felt that more of an explanation was needed, but after thinking on it for a few seconds, I think the simplicity of Bruce's reasoning is perfect, and it shows some major growth for Bruce. Also, Jason's lack of antagonism towards Bruce, the way he passed by the opportunity to kick mud in Bruce's eye, speaks volumes for him as well.

The Problems

All is not sunshine and roses with this issue. First, where the heck is the Bat Family's security protocols? Roy clearly does not know Bruce is Batman since he did not realize Wayne Manor was not a rented property, yet Jason invited Roy and Kory to the Manor? Perhaps Bruce had cleared the Outlaws for knowledge of the family secret, but this plot point really needs some clarification. In fact, the number of people that know Batman's identity is ridiculous. Somebody, either friend or foe, would spill such a juicy secret, but that is a discussion for another day.

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You can also make a case that Jason was going a bit far in reaching out to Damian. Personally, I can see Jason feeling some commiseration with Damian and a desire to help him, but I'm not sure I buy that Jason has the emotional maturity or integrity to reach out across that divide. I can almost see it, but it felt a little off to me. More odd is the panel where Jason thought, “Funny. The only time we were ever able to really be ourselves...? Is when we were other people entirely,” which refers to their time as Wingman and Redbird in Batman, Incorporated. The problem with this is that they worked together as Wingman and Redbird for all of about five minutes in that scene at which point they pretty much just kicked in skulls together and bantered, so I have a hard time seeing that as their “true selves.” That is pretty much their standard selves actually.

Oh, there was also the screwup at the beginning of the issue. Jason is shown talking to the Outlaws over hologram wearing his hood, yet when we see him on the other end of the communication, he is not wearing a hood, and he very clearly does not don it until later in the story.

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The Surprise

(Spoiler) Just when you thought your heroes' faces were safe, Joker strikes! The end of the issue, for those of you who have not read it, takes a surprising turn as Joker leaves a hologram projector, speaker system, and some sort of gas in Jason's mask. It's a bit difficult to tell by this issue, but it does seem that Jason's face was damaged, and this would be reinforced by the solicitations for April's RHATO which features a faceless Jason. Still, he most definitely had skin left on his face at the end of this issue, and it did not even look that bad, but burns take some time to fully develop, and we all know that comic art can only be trusted so far. (see the hood mistake above) In case anybody missed it, I did do a post about Jason's facial reconstruction options Here which might be of interest.

(Spoiler) I'm not sure how I feel about this. It definitely surprised me despite the fact we saw Joker toying with the mask in issue #16, and I thought it was a nice little twist. I'll wait to see how things develop before I make a judgment call on whether or not this is a good move. It does occur to me though that Jason might no longer deserve his slot on the list of The Fifty Sexiest Men of Comics.

Conclusion 9/10

An issue of RHATO with fun, heart-felt character interactions which shows development among key members of the Bat Family and holds a major twist at the end of the issue? Sign me up! All RHATO fans should buy this issue, and I'd suggest Death of the Family fans pick it up as well.

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Review: Red Hood and the Outlaws #16

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Family Matters!

I'm really interested in this week's Red Hood and the Outlaws not so much because I want to see how the Joker arch concludes but because I've seen some very low scores on this issue from people who usually give RHATO high scores. I was not crazy about the last issue, but I did respect how Jason did not relent against the Joker, and I thought the labyrinth Joker set up for Red Hood was pretty menacing. Furthermore, Lobdell said months ago that Jason was going to hand Joker quite the beating in his cross over, and who doesn't want to see that? Is Red Hood and the Outlaws #16 getting an unfair reputation, or is this story a colossal misstep for a generally entertaining series?

In this issue, The Outlaws and the Teen Titans team up to stop a group of homeless people infected with Joker gas.

The Reason People Are Ticked

Well, I'm pretty sure I can guess why most people are disappointed. For the record, I never read other reviews before writing my own because I do not want to be copying the thoughts of others; however, lots of sites display a rating for comics right on the home page, so it is difficult not to catch that sort of information in passing. Anyway, I do not know why people view this as a bad issue, but I can make an educated guess. I'm going to reveal something that is technically a spoiler in the next paragraph, but I suggest that you go ahead and read the spoiler even if you have not read the issue because I think it will increase your enjoyment if you decide to read it for yourself.

(Spoiler) Jason is nowhere to be found in this issue. I take that back, he does appear on the cover, but beyond that, you shall see neither hide nor hair of Jason Todd. (though his red hood does make a mysterious appearance) Furthermore, Joker does not appear in this issue in any significant way. He keeps the Outlaws and Teen Titans busy with the Joker-bums, but other than the last page, the Clown Prince of Crime is absent. I can see how this annoys people, and I have to admit I feel the burn a bit myself. Red Hood vs. Joker was plainly advertised; we should get what was promised.

Perhaps the Teen Titans issue will focus solely on a Red Hood team up with Red Robin. That would somewhat soothe this burn.

Apart from All That

So ignoring the...questionable call Lobdell made with this issue, how does the rest of the story fair? Sadly, there are still some noteworthy problems. This issue, which already feels a bit off by ignoring a crucial element of the story, spends two pages introducing two separate potential new villains. The first of these villains is astoundingly underpowered to take on the Outlaws and the second has already been committed to several other near future appearances, so he must have a very full docket over the next several months.

The plot devices for moving forward the story are also suspect at best. Pulling a play from Batman's playbook, Arsenal has a computerized “analysis arrow” which takes a blood sample from its victim and then relays the info to an Arrow computer and marks the location on the HUD map. After that, it is a simple matter for the Titans and Starfire to follow their leader and reach the way point, hold X to grab the chemicals, and then escort the flag back to base. All of that to say, its a bit convenient as exposition goes.

(Spoiler) I'm also a little confused why a character whose only power is to build walls needs to be told that building a wall would be helpful. I mean, seriously, if Bunker has just blocked up the building entrance in the first place, the conflict would have never happened. Everybody on the Teen Titans seems to either be completely incompetent or a compete dick.

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DC Presents...Arsenal

Arsenal might be getting his own tale soon in DC Presents, but this serves as a nice warm up for him since Roy was the main player in this issue. Consequently, your enjoyment of this issue will probably hinge on how you feel about the character. Personally, I like his flippant charm and self-deprecating humor, but at the same time, his monologue and dialogue took what was expected to be a serious issue and turned it into a fish-out-of-water comedy. There are lots of lines which are funny, but for me, they all landed kind of weak because of the insincerity of the humor. These teams are facing a serious situation, the Titans are scared, and both teams are facing the real possibility that their leaders and friends are dead, yet they keep making jokes. I don't mind the Outlaws ,who are more experienced, making jokes when they think they will live to tell the tale, but for characters who believe they are on the brink of tragedy, humor does not make sense.

Still, there are some funny lines. Lobdell makes an inside joke about Arsenal's old codename, Speedy. Roy also mocks the Teen Titans names which is fully deserved with most of them. Kid Flash: “The name is Kid Flash.” Arsenal: “Oh. I was hoping you were kidding about that.” My feelings exactly, Roy. Solstice's plea for the Teen Titans to listen to Arsenal also tickled me. “Anyone who has lived this long fighting with just a bow and arrow...must have something going on.” Very true.

The story takes time to delve back into Roy's detoxing days with Killer Croc. As interesting as I find this back story, it has absolutely no relevance with the rest of the issue and felt extremely out of place.

Conclusion 6/10

I actually have a few more things I could mention, but I'm tired of belaboring on it, and I've hit all the most salient points. At the end of the day, this story is okay...maybe even good as an Arsenal or team up story, but I don't think anybody who bought this story expected to have a complete absence of the leading character. I can see how the creative team might have thought it would be better to tell the team story here and tell the duo story in Teen Titans, but we don't even know if that is what Teen Titans will deliver. Regardless, it feels like false advertising for this issue, and it impossible not to feel at least a little disappointed. I wouldn't recommend picking up this issue unless you've already shelled out the dough for the previous Teen Titans or RHATO Death of the Family issues.

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Review: Red Hood and the Outlaws #15

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It Only Hurts when You Laugh

Due to my computer crashing, I may or may not be able to attach pictures to this week's reviews. I'll get them up as soon as I can, but I will need to take time to wipe and rebuild my computer soon which might cause a brief interruption on BatWatch. Your patience is appreciated.

There have been many crossovers in the Death of the Family story arc, but I’m not sure any of them have filled me with as much hope as this issue. I would really love to see Jason spill Joker’s brains across the ground, and though I know that will not happen, Lobdell has said that Jason will deliver quite a beating, and I guess that will have to suffice. As best as I can tell, Red Hood and Joker have not met since Under the Red Hood, and that means it is way past time for Jason to deliver on his promise to end Joker’s life. Does this issue make good on a tale of manipulation and vengeance, or is this a broken story written with blood and a crowbar?

In this issue, Joker gets the drop on Red Hood, Kori and Roy enjoy the beach life, Harvey bullock does some detective work, and Red Hood manages to turn the tables on Joker.

The Question

Again, my mind is drawn to the all important question: does Joker know the Bat Family’s identities? In considering this, I have almost forgotten the zero issue of Red Hood and the Outlaws which featured a backup story wherein Joker revealed that he was behind Jason Todd becoming Red Hood. At the time, I took this as a sort of delusional fantasy of Joker which was not meant as actual cannon. After all, how could Joker possibly manipulate the Dark Knight into taking this boy as his ward and protégé, but that possibility looks a lot more feasible now that it appears Joker knows the identity of Batman.

I’ve got to give props to Lobdell for the way he handled the hints that Joker left for Jason. Joker gave three clues that indicated that the Clown Prince of Crime knows Jason’s secrets, and two of the three can be explained away fairly easily, but the third one seems to indicate almost inconvertibly that Joker knows. However, as Jason says himself in this issue, why not show his hand if he really has the Bat Clan beat.

(Spoiler) People will probably be tempted to say that Joker’s clues prove he must know Jason’s identity, but when you think about it, Joker really does not give much context to two of these clues. Joker leaveing a bullet fragment? It is clear Jason had a rough upbringing, and there was a very good chance that a bullet may have played a big role in that. The same thing goes with the medical box. On the other hand, the bit about a woman overdosing is pretty specific, and that is quite a gamble on Joker’s part if it was just a guess.  

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Joker the Cat

I thought the pacing of this issue was much better than many of the other Joker tie ins. In my mind, the best Joker stories are some version of cat and mouse, but it seems many of the tie ins have Joker playing the part of the mouse constantly running away rather than the cat playing with his food. I felt that we saw a lot more of Joker the cat in this issue, and I loved it. Joker beats Jason several different ways in the first half of this issue, but Jason, at one point, turns the tables on him. When Joker regains the upper hand, he puts Jason in a maze and causes him to run down memory lane. This manipulation shows that Joker has a story he wants to tell, a trail Jason needs to follow, a speech he needs to give, and a point he needs to make. It’s not about beating Jason physically but about beating him emotionally, and Joker is patient in getting Jason in the right frame of mind for this victory.

Bat Droppings

I thought the balance between the Red Hood and the Outlaws was perfect.

The fights here, though brief, were good.

The last three pages are great and really get you psyched up for the next issue.

There was only one problem with this issue, and that is that there is nothing great about it. Everything is well done, but there was no wow moment that really made we stand up and take notice. I toyed with giving it a higher rating, but I don’t think it quite earned it.

Conclusion 8/10

If you are a big fan of RHATO or Death of the Family, then this is a safe purchase. It is a good issue and promises even better things to come. 

Review: Red Hood and the Outlaws #14

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Up, Up and Away...My Beautiful, My Beautiful Balloon!

I’ve come to really enjoy Red Hood and the Outlaws. Though it deals in death, it actually has a more lighthearted tone than most of the Bat books, and I like the reprieve from doom and gloom. Last issue, the Outlaws were acting a little too campy with their one liners by making jokes in a situation where they expected to die. I also disliked last issue's easy resolution to the strife between Starfire and Blackfire, but still, it was an okay issue. Does this issue find the right balance between campiness and grit, or is it a mess of creative concepts that do not work well together?

In this issue, Superman pays the Outlaws a visit, and though doomed to lose, Jason and his gang do their best to bring the Man of Steel down.

Good Fun for the Whole Family

Well, there is a sex scene, so maybe it is not good fun for the whole family, but it is a solid story which manages to be quite entertaining.

Superman was handled well, and you can easily see how he is both the ultimate hero to most citizens of Earth and an annoying, scary, jackass to the Outlaws. Kudos to Lobdell for managing to capture that dichotomy.

I very much enjoyed the way the Outlaws handled the threat of Superman. At first they tried to escape, but when that failed, they still fought valiantly because their only hope of escape was to, “P*** him off and hope for an opening.” Though the fate of the battle was sealed from the beginning, it was still fun to watch.

Ship.png

Hints of Things to Come

Lobdell is setting up plenty of future conflicts for the series to explore. Anybody who has been keeping track of the Bat books knows that next issue is going to be Red Hood and the Outlaws' tie in to the “Death of a Family” story arc, but we get some glimpses of what might be in store beyond that. We have a little bit of character development with Isabel in this issue which indicates that she might be a recurring character, a future conflict involving Superman, Helspont and Starfire is most certainly brewing, and the news that Batman vouched for the Outlaws legitimacy is extremely intriguing and definitely bears future development. All of this is in addition to the fact that the Outlaws now have an intergalactic spaceship hanging around in orbit. It appears that lots of doors are opening for the Outlaws; it will be interesting to see where they go after their conflict with the Joker.

Death of an Outlaw

Anybody planning on picking up Red Hood and the Outlaws next month just for the Death of a Family tie in should pick up this issue as well. I will not give anything away, but it clearly ties in to next months issue.

Bat Droppings

I’m glad to see that the team is shedding the Tamaran armor. Those outfits looked pretty stupid.

Though this issue was good fun, there was nothing that pushed it over the edge from good to great.

What is up with the wacky issue titles in this series?

Conclusion 8/10

RHATO #14 makes a good showing this month. Both fans of the series and those planning on collecting all the tie ins to Death of a Family should definitely pick it up.

Red Hood and the Outlaws #13

The Moon's Up, and the Sun's Down -- and a Thousand Starry Eyes Have Caught Me Dying!

Transient

In case anybody was wondering, the stupid title for this comic is a parody of a song from Fame. Three cheers for Google for answering life's most meaningless questions.

Thus far, I have enjoyed Red Hood and the Outlaws. I would not accuse issue twelve of greatness, but I though Lobdell crafted a very interesting origin tale for Jason Todd in the zero issue. (I am assuming that the bit about Joker making Jason Robin was a "What if?" scenario) In my review of RHATO #12, I predicted that Blackfire would once more go evil as in her pre-DCNU version, but the Outlaws would be prepare for the betrayal. Do I prove to be a prophet, or am I preaching heresy?

In this issue, the Outlaws have a final stand against the Blight and Depalo recalls his history with Starfire.

Confusion

While the previous issues have given me a rather pleasant feeling, this one left me feeling more confused than anything else. First of all, there appears to have been a major editorial mistake. Depalo recalls his time serving with Starfire, but rather than call her Koriand’r, he called her Komand’r which is Blackfire’s given name not Starfire’s. This served to make the flashback sequence very confusing to me as I tried desperately to understand this previous interaction between Depalo and Blackfire before I eventually concluded that it must have just been a spelling mistake. I suppose that is easy to do, but why do editors exist if not to catch that sort of thing?

I also found the entire battle sequence to be a bit of a mess. There are certainly elements of the battle which are entertaining (a kiss from Starfire being chief among them), but the whole thing lacked a sense of scale. It appears that the heroes are battling a contingent of about a hundred soldiers of the Blight. Is that all of the enemy force on the planet, or are these sorts of battles going on all across the planet? Where are the heroes fighting in relation to one another? These are small issues, but they served to make me feel off balance.

More problems popped up later. Starfire lets loose with her full power and causes a wave of energy, but the panel that shows the blast does not give any reference to establish the size of the blast. Did her energy blast consume ten feet or ten miles? There is no way to tell. Blackfire gets stabbed through the stomach in a wound that appears fatal, yet she appears later with no reference to the wound. The whole issue feels a bit off in pacing giving no time to explain the wounds yet giving two pages for a meaningless “Death of a Family” tease.

Transient

The Heck?

(Spoiler)

I complained in my Nightwing #13 review that the cover for that issue is a lie, but it is rather minor compared to this issue. Blackfire never betrays the Outlaws and in fact seems nearly sickeningly sweet towards her sister. It is no new thing for a cover to inaccurately reflect the truth of the comic, but it should be at least symbolically true. For instance, if Blackfire had not tried to kill Starfire but instead exiled her, at least there would be some justification to Komand’r’s stance on the cover, but there is really no justification for the cover in this issue.

Let’s Set Up Campy

In my first couple of issues of RHATO, I was surprised to find the light-spirited tone of this series despite the fact that RHATO is actually much darker than most superhero tales. In the previous issues, the tone seemed to reflect the attitude of our heroes who get through pain by joking, but in this issue, the tone went beyond light-hearted and was instead bordering on campy. Arsenal’s narration is very tongue-in-cheek which was a bit out of place in the epic battle. The Blight was stereotypically evil to the point of almost being a parody of itself. Jason makes a snappy comment or two which may make sense in the prelude to a battle you believe you will lose, but seems out of place in the actual midst of such action. Kori and Kom’s attitude at the end of the issue also seemed a bit too convenient.

Conclusion 7/10

I am probably being a bit generous to this issue based on my enjoyment of the previous issues, but I found this to be a bit off. It is not horrible, but this issue delivered a lower quality product then what the series deserves. If you have enjoyed this series so far, then go ahead and pick this issue up, but I would not recommend it for any non-veteran readers.

Review: Red Hood and the Outlaws

Everyone Has To Start Somewhere

I’m a big fan of all the Robins, but I have been vastly disappointed in Scott Lodbell’s work with my favorite Robin, Tim Drake, in Teen Titans. For this reason, I was surprised to find that he is doing very solid work with Jason Todd in Red Hood and the Outlaws. Before this, I’ve only read issue #12, but I thought it was very entertaining. Granted, the costumes needed improvement, and I felt a few panels were unnecessary, but overall I was very pleased with the issue. Now, we have a chance to see the new past of Jason Todd. Does Lodbell continue to do the second Robin justice with this series, or does he make a mess of the past of this much beloved yet oft loathed character?

In this issue, we discover the hard road which made up Jason’s early life.

Fan Converter?

It is no secret that many people have hated Jason Todd over the years, but if you can read this issue and still hate him…what the heck is wrong with you? Lodbell does an excellent job of letting Jason narrate his own story, and Jason’s voice is what really makes this whole issue pop. Jason describes his life with such a cynical attitude laced with dark humor that you cannot decide if you want to laugh, cry, or beat the people responsible for his upbringing. I am delighted that Lodbell has managed to create a version of Jason Todd which is simultaneously extremely violent, relentless, and jagged yet relatable.

More Trouble Courtesy of the Five Year Timeline

This time, nobody tripped over the five year limit for Batman protégés. In other words, there are no outright continuity errors. However, there are several plot points which seem strained when viewed in light of the limited timeframe. First, Batman immediately gives Jason the job of Robin as soon as Dick leaves. Second, Jason takes the news of Bruce’s identity too well, and the entire aspect of the story between Jason being homeless and Jason being Robin feels rushed. Third, Jason mentions that he trained for six months which just backs up what I have said for a long time. If it takes six months to train each Robin, we are actually only looking at three and a half years for there to be three different Robins in the field. Once again, the five year limit makes a mess of continuity.

The Man Who Created Red Hood

This issue has a surprise backup feature starring Joker. In this, Joker claims responsibility for making Jason Todd become Robin. The idea is intriguing and fun, but it seems a bit farfetched, and more importantly, it requires that the Joker be aware of Bruce Wayne’s alternate identity…something which is clearly not the case.

I believe this is meant to be an Elseworlds style story and not an actual piece of cannon. At the bottom of the first page, the editor makes a point that this happened long before the first issue of Batman #1. I believe the editor is trying to hint that this story is pre-DCNU, and the story really makes no sense in the old DCU either.

In my mind, I take this as a story (minus the identity of Jason Todd) that Joker has made up to amuse himself.

Conclusion    10/10

This is an excellent issue that all comic lovers should read.

Red Hood and the Outlaws #12

We Are Family - Come on Everybody and Die!

I've been sitting on the sidelines of the DCNU for the most part spending my time reading mostly back issues of DC comics, but I was glad to hear that the Red Hood was finally getting his own series. Jason definitely has the potential to be a fascinating character, but his pre-DCNU appearances have been all over the map at times portraying him as simply a hero willing to use lethal force, and at times making him out to be a sociopath wacko eager to kill heroes and villains alike if they have the misfortune of crossing his path. Giving Jason his own book gives him the chance to be under the direction of one writer, and hopefully Jason will finally gain a coherent character. My excitement grew when I learned that Red Hood would be partnering with two other former heroes who have decided lethal force is the way to go. With all this in mind, I picked up my first issue of Red Hood and the Outlaws hoping for the best.

I've start in the middle of a story arc, and little was done to explain how are protagonists made it to this point. Apparently, the Outlaws are in space. There is a war raging between Starfire's people, the Tamarans, and some other alien race. Starfire, as princess of the Tamarans, leads the resistance while her sister, Komand'r, is working with the enemy. At the same time, Arsenal plays the part of a fool while hatching a master plan, and Red Hood flirts with space women.

The Happy Killers

The tone of the book surprised me. Since this is a book about vigilantes who are willing to kill, I expected a serious and dark tone, but contrary to my expectations, everything is actually pretty upbeat and positive despite the fact that all the heroes currently believe they are about to be exterminated. Though this is odd, it did not bother me. Perhaps levity is required to make up for protagonists who kill quite freely. In many ways, the book seemed to transmit a feeling of companionship. The Outlaws are not teammates or family or even necessarily friends, but they are brothers in arms united for a common purpose. Live, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we go out in a blaze of glory. In the end, it all works quite well.

Are These the Same Characters We Know and Love?

Though Jason was a bit schizophrenic pre-Flashpoint, Roy and Kory both had well established personalities in the old DC universe. When watching the reboot of the characters interact, I do not feel like I am watching the same characters from the old universe, but they do seem like very similar characters. Basically, it is the old personalities reimagined for the new age, and though I am sure that these reimaginings upset many longtime fans of Starfire and Arsenal, I have to admit that I actually found the altered personalities to be sound choices. Starfire is a less peppy and idealistic than she was in the old universe, but she still has those elements of her personality. Arsenal, on the other hand, has gone from being a mostly serous character with a willingness to joke to being a character who plays the part of a goofball to hide the depths of his intelligence. I would not say that these interpretations are better than the pre-Flashpoint versions, but I do think they work well for the team. Jason Todd, for his part, is much more subdued than his pre-Flashpoint doppelganger and seems to finally have something on his mind other than vengeance.

The Nature of Komand'r

It is worth mentioning here that there appears to be a change between the pre- and post- Flashpoint versions of Komand'r. In the old DC universe, Komand'r was most definitely a villain who went by the name Blackfire. She betrayed, tortured, and desired to kill Kori out of jealousy for her status as the favored princess, but in this issue, it is revealed that Komand'r was coerced into helping the evil alien race, and she was only playing a part in their machinations until she had a chance to be free. Is this an actual change, or will Komand'r once again reveal herself to be evil. If I had to make a guess, I would say she will again betray Kory once the alien threat is eliminated. Kory's acceptance of Komand'r's "I was not really evil" excuse seemed too quickly given, even for someone as compassionate as Starfire, and think the Outlaws are prepared for Komand'r betrayal.

All God's Children Got Problems

I did not think this was a perfect issue. Though it was quite fun, I did feel that some panels were filler and added nothing to the story. Also, though Green II's artwork is pretty good in general, I felt his designs for all the space costumes looked really bad.

Conclusion 8/10

I really hate what Lodbell has done with the Teen Titans, so though I hoped for much when reading this issue, I expected little. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find that Lodbell has done a very good job with this series. I look forward to seeing what comes next for the Outlaws.