Red Hood and The Outlaws #17 is the best issue of Teen Titans that I’ve ever read.
Yes, this is a filler issue, but it was a fairly enjoyable filler issue. If you’re coming into this hoping for Jason Todd’s emotional confrontation with the Joker then you’re probably going to hate this comic completely. Seriously, Jason Todd shows up in one. Single. Panel. Not a page, a panel. And in that panel he doesn’t speak, hell, he’s not even conscious! He’s on the ground, back turned to the audience. Same goes for Tim Drake. So if you want to see what becomes of Jason and Tim, which I imagine is the case with around 90% of you, you’ll be pretty disappointed and you’ll be better off skipping this and waiting until Teen Titans #16.
This isn’t Red Hood and The Outlaws. It’s not even “The Outlaws” because Starfire doesn’t play much of a role at all. Instead, it’s “Arsenal and the Teen Titans”. And I have to say, I think that it’s a dynamic that works. Maybe this will turn out for the best and we end up with an “Outlaws & Titans” series and a “Red Robin & Red Hood” book, maybe it could be called something like “Reds” or “The Red” or simply “Red”. I’d be all for that. The more I think about it, the more I like it, honestly. Seeing Arsenal take the reins and try out being a leader for the first time was entertaining and his character had great chemistry with all of the Titans. They brought out the best in him and he brought out the best in them. In short: Arsenal leading the Titans here was more fun than I’ve ever had reading this team. Not that they were really facing much of a challenge.
Remember how the homeless were Jokerized (I’d rather see the toxin be an instant and horrific death, for more of my thoughts on Joker’s gas see the Nightwing #16 review) at the end of the last issue? Or maybe that was how Teen Titans ended, you get my point. Anyway, the struggle to cure the Jokerized mob is entirely what this comic is about. Joker set up this situation so it would keep the Teen Titans busy while he does whatever he’s doing to the Bat-kids. He’s even gone so far as to hand them everything they need to diffuse the situation. It’s not very compelling at all as a drama but what is good is the amusing dialogue and the interactions between the team members and Arsenal. But really was this the right time to do all of this?
It’s clear from this issue that a team-up between the Outlaws and the Titans can be great fun, but we didn’t need it now. It’s the Teen Titans story we deserved…but not the one we need right– you get what I’m saying. What we need right now is a great Joker and Jason moment. Jason has as much or arguably more history with the Joker than Barbara Gordon does so it’s ludicrous to make this character share space with Tim Drake in the upcoming Teen Titans comic. Well, maybe ludicrous is going too far. At the very least, consolidating the attacks on these two heroes relieves a little tension from the prevalent “How does Joker have the time to take down all the bat family?” problem that this crossover has faced. But really, Jason should’ve had his own one on one confrontation with Joker. Jason’s past is too closely tied to the Joker and shouldn’t be watered down at all. If you want to consolidate Robins and have Tim Drake share screen time with another hero? Fine. But you don’t waste Jason. Nightwing was the first of the Batfamily to weaken the “Bat King” so he’s too important to share a confrontation with the Joker. Barbara, as I said before, has a major bone to pick with Joker so she should have her own Joker episode as well. So that leaves Damian and that would’ve been perfect not only because Damian and Joker have almost no history together, much like Tim, but because Tim and Damian interactions area always the best! Those two never get along!
All that being said, it’s still not a terrible issue. If you can remove your expectations of it being a personal story about Jason then you’ll likely feel that the price of admission is worth it, especially if you like team books. It is, however, rather poorly constructed and the artwork is a real shame. Timothy Green’s pencils are really inconsistent. Faces, particularly those of the female characters, are always changing and hardly any of the panels have a backdrop. I’m a stickler for backgrounds. Setting a scene in front of a blank background is smart in some cases when adding emphasis to a character’s actions, but when it happens constantly it comes off as lazy, hurts my suspension of disbelief, and makes the characters look like they are walking around limbo instead of Gotham. And what I said about the structure of the book, that’s got a lot to do with these random cut-aways to things that have no bearing on what’s happening in Death of the Family or the fight to save the homeless. There’s one single page that, out of nowhere, takes us to my hometown of St. Louis to show Hugo Strange at a book signing. I thought Hugo was on the run? Weren’t the police looking for him in the early Detective Comics issues when he was ordering his son around? Another single page cut-away was to Deathstroke, who, although my familiarity with the character is limited, sounded way too young to me. He introduces himself “I’m an assassin. The best. That means I get paid- lots of money- to kill people.” There’s something kind of adolescent about his speech that’s more befitting the TEEN Titans than a grown man with such a dark past. These brief scenes show up out of nowhere and are never referenced again, reinforcing the fact that this whole issue is indeed filler.
Calling this comic Death of the Family: Red Hood and the Outlaws #16 is false advertising. Do you like the the Teen Titans? If so then you’ll want to pick this up. If you don’t care anything about team books and want an emotional Jason Todd story, avoid this one, wait for Teen Titans #16 to come out, and cross your fingers. This is amusing filler for fans of the Teen Titans and Arsenal but nothing more than that.