REVIEW: Red Hood & The Outlaws #2

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Or – “Second Verse…  Is It The Same As The First?”

Two former sidekicks…

One alien princess…

One stormy controversy regarding gender depictions…

Will Red Hood & The Outlaws quiet those offended by number one?

RED HOOD & THE OUTLAWS #2
Writer: Scott Lobdell
Artist: Kenneth Rocafort
Cover Artist(s): Rocafort & Blond
Colorist: Blond
Letterer: Carlos M. Mangual
Editor: Bobbie Chase
Publisher: DC Comics
Cover Price: $2.99

Previously, on Red Hood & The Outlaws:  In the revitalized DCU, Batman has still had several Robins, one of which is the lad called Jason Todd.  As before, something happened (although I’ll wager it wasn’t being beaten to death with a crowbar by the Joker, who had been named Iranian Ambassador to the United Nations) that caused him to give up the role, and led him down a dark path to his new identity as The Red Hood.  Roy Harper, former sidekick of Green Arrow, has likewise trod a dark path, but I fervently hope that the events of “Rise of Arsenal” have been retconned away because “Eww.”  As for Princess Koriand’r of Tamaran, we’re not sure what her deal is, but she claims to have little or no memory of what has come before (though it DOES seem to include a stint with the Titans, if the dialogue in issue #1 is what it seemed to be.)  Three heroes treated poorly by fate and mentors, working under the radar in a wilder and less predictable DCU, the are The Outlaws…

OKAY, SO I MAY BE WRONG ON THAT JOKER THING…

The first page is a flashback, some Chandlerian narration by Jason Todd, telling us of what took him from Batman sidekick to ninja with a crimson helm, and it explicitly references his death at the hands of the Joker.  But, in this new timestream, Talia Al Ghul gathered his corpse, put him in the Lazarus Pit, and delivered him to the secret warrior caste that we saw last issue, nestled in a secret mountain lair.  I suddenly remember why I had a soft spot for Scott Lobdell’s writing back in the 90′s (I think he was on X-Force?) as the leader of the caste, an ancient woman named Ducra, takes Jason down in a split-second, literally.  “I can still train you to fight when you’re unconscious,” she scolds him, “All you have to do is stop being such a yutz.”  Heh.  I didn’t read the Red Hood mini that came out earlier this year, so I can’t say how much of this resembles it, but it’s interesting to see Talia in both stories as Jason’s enabler.  Back in the non-flashback, Jason and Roy have some interesting banter, and Roy actually tries to be an adult and address his actions with Jason’s “girl”, Starfire, but Jason has no interest in discussion, going so far as to deny that the three of them are or are ever GOING to be a team.

…BUT WHAT’S GOING ON UNDER THE HOOD?

Jason is a much more sympathetic central voice this time around, and with a little more explanation, the loss of his friends in “The Hundred Acres Of All” (located in the wood behind Christopher Robin’s house) gains some resonance.  The boys land in Hong Kong, and are greeted by a limousine hired by Starfire, who is fully clothed and living up to her royal stature.  (So, if Roy is the dark-haired gun for hire, and Kori the princess of a lost world, and Roy the enthusiastic farmboy with the antiquated weapons of the past, does this mean that Roy and Kori are siblings?  And who gets to play Boba Fett?)  Roy again tries to clear the air, to no avail, before our power trio leaps out of a helicopter into a gorge in the Himalayas.  The art is, as last issue, stylish as all hell, and Jason’s gadgetry includes a really super-cool glidery thing that allows him to sort of fly as Rocafort puts together a neat wide-screen action sequence.  Jason’s tragedy deepens as the issue ends, and Lobdell gets in some lovely character work between The Red Hood and his lost teacher, ending with a pensive and upset Jason coming to grips with reality.  “Let’s go kick some @$$… TEAM.”  It’s a good strong ending in a very X-Men vein, and is clearly the next step in Jason’s turn from jerkass to leader…

THE VERDICT:  BETTER THAN #1, GREAT LOOKING ART.

This issue gets a lot more done than last (which, to be honest, was probably intentional, what with last issue being not just a #1 but a relaunch #1 designed to shock and awe) and the central conceit of each character is a lot more enjoyable.  Last issue’s standoffish schmucky Red Hood gets some emotion, the hyperactive Arsenal gets some depth, and Starfire’s distant, almost clinical interaction with her fellows is expanded upon, and built into a haughtiness that fits with her royal roots.  The fact that she is shown to be capable of more than eye-candy and sidekick boffing helps greatly.  I am a bit troubled at the portrayal of Talia in this issue, lacking her own usual Greta Garbo holier-than-thou gravitas, but the portrayal of Ducra and other secondary characters is just enough fun to keep me from worrying too much.  Red Hood & The Outlaws #2 does a lot to assuage MY irritations from last time ’round, and is a nice ‘team-builder’ issue, earning a well-done 3.5 out of 5 stars overall.  I suspect that many people aren’t going to give this one a second chance, given the furor in September, but I am well on the way to forgiving this title it’s weaknesses based on what I’ve seen here…

Rating: ★★★½☆

Faithful Spoilerite Question Of The Day:  The death of Jason Todd happened “about a year and a half ago”, in continuity.  Do we have any idea how long Mr. Grayson was Robin, or how much overlap there might have been?  (I haven’t read any of the #2 bat-books.)