Gotham Runs Red!
RHATO #16 was a massive disappointment with a story which completely skipped the plot of Red Hood and Red Robin to focus instead on Roy Harper and the Teen Titans. Presumably, Teen Titans will be focused purely on the Reds which would mitigate some of these annoyed feelings of mine. I've already read a preview for this issue, and I am actually a little excited because in the preview, Tim was presented as analyzing the situation in a fashion reminiscent of his pre-52 personality. Could this be the return of a Tim Drake which is not an unholy abomination, or does Lobdell once more make me hate my favorite character?
In this issue, Joker manipulates Red Robin and Red Hood into playing his game by putting their fathers' lives on the line.
I've been so frustrated with the way that Scott Lobdell has changed Red Robin that at times I do not want to give him credit when he does something well, but in all fairness to Mr. Lobdell, I have to admit this issue was really cool. (caveats and exceptions to be provided later)
As I hoped, Red Robin and Red Hood take center stage in this issue, and we get to see these two characters who have never had much interaction play off each other in a really interesting way. Jason acts pretty typical to what we have come to expect through Red Hood and the Outlaws, but Tim actually shines in this issue for the first time since the DCNU began. From page one, Red Robin is analyzing his surroundings while pretending to be unconscious, and throughout the entire issue, he remains cool, calculating, and intelligent. He still had a little bit of an ego that would have been out of place with his DCU incarnation, but for all those Tim Drake fans who have been longing for a return of the classic version, this will satisfy you better than anything else that has been offered. I just want to know how he can be the man with the plan in this issue, yet he seems so incompetent while leading his own team.
Anyway, Joker's setup for this issue is interesting if not particularly original, and it leads to a battle that many have wanted to see for a long time. If you ever engaged in an argument about who would win in a fight between X and X, this will give you plenty of fuel for that fan boy fire.
The dialogue was strong throughout this issue. Joker's lines felt like they would be quite appropriate if voiced by Mark Hamil. The boys have nice, fresh interactions too. There is a lot that can be unpacked in the relationship between these two characters, and I hope we get to see that play out at some point.
The art looks quite nice as can always be said with Brett's work though there is a costume design for Raven in this issue which makes me cringe a little. Ugh, why can't this series have good costumes? Anyway, I think the character design was outside this series' control, so the creative team cannot be pinged for it.
Caveats and Exceptions
As much as I enjoyed this issue, there were also a lot of objectionable elements.
First, Tim starts off the issue saying that Jason is the closest thing he has ever had to a brother. Ouch! I hope nobody else loved the former brother vibe between Red Robin and Nightwing because apparently that is out the window now. Don't get me wrong, I think the way Tim has tried to include Jason in the family is one of the few admirable things about the character in the DCNU, but I would like to see this new relationship added to the previously existing friendship with Nightwing. I don't want it to overwrite the Tim/Dick relationship.
Second, Tim accepts the idea that Joker found the Reds' parents, “Because he's Joker.” Lame!
Third, the issue takes three pages away from the Reds' story to delve into three separate plot elements which will apparently play a role down the road. None of these pages are bad, but with us getting shafted on the central story last week, I really wanted to just see the Robin's stories. Also, these elements have very little apparent connection to the main story; it basically felt like an in story ad for thing to come. “Next month on Teen Titans...”
(Spoiler) Third, the idea that Red Hood would immediately turn against Tim was a bit too much to swallow. This behavior would be right at home with old DCU Jason, but current Jason seems a bit more stable. Thankfully, it turned out to be a trick, but it still seemed a bit difficult to believe.
(Spoiler) Fourth, Red Robin uses a flash bang out of nowhere. I hate that kind of stuff.
(Spoiler) Fifth, Joker goes “Gud” when he was shot, yet he turns out to be a dummy of some sort. There are possible explanations for this but an explanation should have been provided.
(Spoiler) Sixth, Lobdell promised in interviews that Jason would give Joker a beating...which did not happen. Lame.
The Game Changer
There was a big reveal at the end of the issue which changes the nature of the “What's under the platter” mystery. Read on only if you want it revealed.
(Spoiler) Joker presents Red Robin and Red Hood with two different platters meaning there is not one thing Joker is presenting to all the various members of the Bat Clan. Presumably, there is something unique to each one of them. What that could be, I have no idea, but one this is for sure, Joker has at last two bloody platters.
This issue had some problems, but they were mostly minor. Altogether, I would say this is one of the strongest single issue tie ins for Death of the Family so far; I just wish the rest of the Teen Titans/RHATO crossover was so solid.