Red Hood and the Outlaws, Vol. 1: Redemption review

Yeah, there are a lot of aliens and magic and yeah, I still think the Batman mythology would be a lot stronger if Jason was still dead, but once I accepted those things I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The villains are never that threatening and there’s never a feeling of there being that much at stake either, but this series is a whole lot of fun, has really stylish artwork, and the characters are surprisingly likable.

Content

This trade paperback collects the first 7 issues of the series and thankfully it actually has a beginning, middle, and an end. It’s kind of sad that a complete story in a New 52 volume is so tough to come by that I have to praise something so basic but that’s the world we currently live in. Here you actually get a couple of storylines that wrap up and the ending teases what’s to come in the next adventure rather than cutting off an arc 2-6 issues short and making you wait a year to see a conclusion. What’s really interesting about the way these issues were bundled together is that issue #6 actually comes first! I’m guessing this is because of the controversy that surrounded issue #1. In that installment, Starfire poses in a bikini and offers sex to any guy who talks to her. The sixth chapter on the other hand is very respectful of Starfire’s character and putting this story of her first meeting with Jason at the beginning of the book softens the blow of issue #1′s much hated over-sexualized male-fantasy.

I feel that Scott Lobdell did a far, far better job with this series than Teen Titans. I actually care about these characters. Jason, Starfire, and Arsenal are all very complex and I wanted to learn more about them. They make wisecracks frequently, but they never got annoying because they fit the characters and the overall tone of the story being told. Every one of these characters has baggage that stems from a traumatic childhood and each one has a perfectly good reason to be a villain yet they’re all trying to do what’s right and find their place in the world. They aren’t looking for trouble but trouble always has a way of finding them (usually because of something they did in the past).

Two ex-sidekicks and a formerly imprisoned princess, it makes for some layered characterization and fun interactions but they are never thrust into a situation that brings out the best in them. The story isn’t that memorable. I read these issues when they first came out as monthly floppies not quite a year ago and when I opened this TPB up I found myself at a loss. I couldn’t remember hardly any of this stuff. Nothing stuck. It’s highly entertaining and I had a good time reading it for a second time, but I can guarantee that it won’t solidify itself in my mind. That might not necessarily be a bad thing. I know it’s good, it’s just that I  didn’t take it to heart. It’s a vacation! Good, solid escapism that you can sit back and relax with. It’s not a work that you meditate over or write a thesis paper about. It’s a vibrantly colored comic about superhero rejects whooping the shit out of monsters and aliens while having a few laughs along the way (yeah, there are moments with heart but they are few and far between). We need comics like this just as much as we need heavy stuff like Maus, they’re just at the opposite end of the spectrum from one another.

The story is about Jason trying to get vengeance on The Untitled, an ancient mystical race that’s been at war with something called the All Caste, who were the folks that trained him after he was revived by Talia Al Ghul apparently. He meets up with Arsenal and Starfire and together they go on a globe trotting adventure that attracts attention from the mob, a giant green dragon, and other villainous figures that I won’t spoil for you. It’s all pretty out-there but the inclusion of Starfire helps suspend your disbelief and I think that’s the best thing she adds to the team. If it was Black Canary (or Starling, who would fit right in with these guys) then I don’t think this series would pull off the monster/alien/magic thing as easily. You learn all kinds of crazy things about Jason’s resurrection as well as the sort of exciting adventures he’s had going solo (he even saved a village once). Lobdell really tries to give Jason more of a post-resurrection history.

The book’s greatest strength, however, is the artwork. Man-o-man, is this a sharp looking book. It’s so damn vibrantly colored and even the page layouts are playful. The panels look like photographs falling to the floor. Every character looks great, there’s rich detail in every background, it’s just…it’s a real shame that Rocafort left this series to go

Notes:

  • Really, really cool artwork
  • Action packed and funny
  • Lots of magic and aliens and monsters
  • All three characters are likeable and interesting
  • Red Hood probably should’ve looked less like Deadpool
  • You’ll get over the Starfire controversy. The degrading stuff is toned down early on
  • Features one of my favorite Bat-moments of the past year
  • Besides that moment, it’s a COMPLETELY unmemorable story. I read these 7 issues before and felt like I was reading it for the first time all over again
  • It’s a steal at the Amazon price

Supplemental Material

A measely 2 pages worth of Kenneth Rocafort’s sketches. I love this guy’s art so I was pretty disappointed by how little bonus material there was. No notations or anything either, just 6 colored sketches of a handful of the book’s characters. It’s pretty weak bonus, but par for the course when it comes to these New 52 first volumes.

Value

$14.99 cover price ain’t bad, but you’d be crazy not to give this book a chance for the $9.06 Amazon deal. That’s too good of a deal to pass up for 7 issues.

Overall

It’s got awesome artwork, plenty of action, interesting characters, and it’s got a great sense of humor. It’s also on sale for a really low price at Amazon so it’s worth taking a chance on this series. The overall plot might not be that interesting or particularly memorable but you stick with the story because Red Hood and the gang are fun to watch. It’s great escapism.

SCORE: 7.5/10

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