His family is splintered, but Jason Todd is determined not to let that stop him. On the trail of a new crime organization, the Red Hood steps out on his own, while part of his adopted family find themselves in a peculiar situation. Part 1 of the new storyline, Outlaw, begins here in Red Hood and the Outlaws #26, from DC Comics.
Writer: Scott Lobdell
Art: Pete Woods
Cover: Pete Woods
Letters: Troy Peteri
Editor: Rob Levin
Publisher: DC Comics
Release Date: September 12, 2018
Cover Price: $3.99
Previously in Red Hood and the Outlaws: The team was in shambles. Artemis and Bizarro were aboard the Outlaws’ headquarters high above Gotham City as it exploded/disappeared, their fate unknown. Jason Todd is confronted by his old mentor Batman and it is made quite clear that he is no longer welcome in Gotham City. After their conversation, Jason goes to recoup and recover with his best friend Roy Harper, but Roy has problems of his own. While the two investigate the new criminal group with ties to something called The Underlife, they are put on the trail by an old enemy. But on advice from his sponsor, Roy checks into rehab, leaving Jason to begin the investigation into The Underlife alone.
ALONE, AGAIN, WITHOUT…
They say you meet the most interesting people when you are travelling by bus and somewhere in America, Jason Todd is getting ready to meet some really interesting people. Alone, except for the talkative driver, Jason spots a body on the road at night. It’s an FBI special agent, Melissa Mitchell, and she is wounded and bleeding. Her partner has been killed at the hands of a fugitive crime boss, and she herself is on the run. Before Jason can find out more, the bus is blocked by a gang of motorcyclist. They want the agent, and they are willing to burn out the bus unless she surrenders. But Jason has no intention of handing over a possible lead to his quarry, much less a defenseless one. In a brutal fashion which would be the envy of Takashi Miike he takes out all but one of the assailants. That one he leaves alive, for a purpose.
Even after donning a new mask and costume, Special Agent Mitchell recognizes him by his voice and draws down on him, demanding he surrender. But Jason knows that she is in no shape to take him in, and she has given him a link to the drug ring with connections to the mysterious Underlife. What Jason finds next leads him to a corrupt sheriff, a fugitive crime lord, more graphic violence, and new questions regarding the nature of The Underlife.
And the ending, well, the ending takes you to a whole different place…
TRIED SO HARD…
Red Hood and The Outlaws is one of those books which seems to have been originally meant to be one thing, and then turned into another thing, and keeps changing periodically as a new footing is found. The most recent run with team members Artemis and Bizarro may have been the most jarring, but it was also probably the most accepted. Now, after the events of the Red Hood and the Outlaws Annual 2 and the previous issue, we get another change in the status quo. It is the opinion of this reviewer, that this one feels right.
Once again, we have writer Scott Lobdell (Uncanny X-Men, Iron Man) is at the helm, but the direction of his writing seems to be taking a different turn. He has taken Jason out of the city, away from a team, and placed him on his own. At this point, he doesn’t know what happened to his teammates and his best friend has checked into rehab to deal with his own demons. Lobdell even has cut off returning to the Bat Family, as if that was a real option, and put Jason out completely on his own. The cover art for the book even stresses this, as it is scarred up to accentuate the “Red Hood” and “Outlaw” lines, taking “and the” out of the equation. Being a solo act suits him. This book shows us a Jason who isn’t afraid to get down and dirty violent as if he ever was, but this shows an even rawer, more vicious nature. When he dispatched his opponents here, it is not with gadgets or guns, but with chains, bats, knives, crowbars, and flame. His odd sense of humor is not gone, as he takes out one enemy in a sequence which made me laugh out loud. In short, I am enjoying this Jason Todd as the Red Hood much more than I ever enjoyed the ex-Robin as the Red Hood.
In regards to the look, his costume has changed along with some other features. The new face mask and casual battle attire are more unique than the skin-tight body armor and motorcycle-ish style full face mask. It is a good look and artist Pete Woods (Robin, Deadpool) has given him a more distinctive silhouette. This and Woods skills make the design, which may be a little nineties in its fashion sense, work. Woods also doesn’t hold back on the graphic nature of the violence. It flows from panel to panel like well-choreographed movie sequence, and it makes you feel the impact.
BOTTOM LINE: CAN WE JUST KEEP THIS GOING, PLEASE?
I enjoyed this issue. Previously, with Artemis and Bizzaro, the book felt like it was trying to be a gritty version of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman, doing stuff the publisher wasn’t willing to let their Big Three do. It felt somewhat forced and I never really got the feeling that Jason was going to get comfortable. Here, Jason Todd feels like he is in his element. I really wish they would consider actually changing the title to Red Hood: Outlaw, or even just Outlaw, and let Jason just be Jason, if even he knows who that is.
RED HOOD AND THE OUTLAWS #26 is a welcome new direction for a character who has been everything for a villain, to a Batman lite, to a Nightwing wannabe. The change of costume and direction seems fresher than anything to this point, but I am afraid everything may go back to the status quo before we really get settled into this new arc. But, it does start off great and would be a wonderful starting point for new readers.