Leon, Josh, and Robej, consistent readers of the site, asked about this book last week and suggested I pick it up and write a review. So I did. You may notice that I usually don’t review Red Hood & the Outlaws unless it’s a Jason-heavy episode and it turns out that this was an un-official Death of the Family tie-in.
Is it worth picking up? Yeah. I know a lot of Batfans are going to rush out and buy the official die-cut crossover issue that comes out next month but you’ll definitely want to read this comic first. Now, it’s definitely far, far away from being the strongest issue of this series I’ve read, but I have to recommend it because it’s such a necessary read for those wanting to see what Jason does in the Death of the Family and I don’t know why you wouldn’t. “Death of the Family” is a play on words of the classic story “Death IN the Family” after all so any Batman fan worth his salt should be curious about how Joker and Jason will interact (especially if you read Read Hood & the Outlaws #0).
I had wrongly assumed that this issue would simply end in a final cliffhanger page where we see faceless Joker and that’s it. Nothing more. So I didn’t bother picking it up at first. Well it turns out that the final 1/4 of the comic is devoted to Joker’s attack on Jason! The situation that Joker has put Jason in is one of the most interesting I’ve seen so far. Batgirl #14 is still the best tie-in so far, but even in the insane mess she’s found herself in she still has a chance to take control of the situation. When you’re done reading Red Hood & the Outlaws #14, Jason is good and thoroughly f***ed.
As for grading the comic as a whole, well that’s a different matter. Have you read any Red Hood & the Outlaws before? If not, then you might be pretty confused by the space ship and the supporting cast. Fans who are at least slightly familiar with the premise will be fine. I’ve only read issues #0-9 but I was able to catch up quickly thanks to the fair amount of exposition provided in dialogue bubbles and narrative boxes. Unfortunately this comic insists you be familiar with the Superman Annual #1 as well. It’s the entire reason Superman makes a cameo in this comic, it takes up over half the page count, and I really couldn’t care less. I’ve only read the first issue of the New 52 Superman and it was absolutely terrible. Easily the worst New 52 #1 that I bought. And ever since then I’ve heard nothing but bad things about that series. Worst of all, the Superman plot goes nowhere at all. It’s dropped 3/4 of the way through to be replaced by the Death of the Family stuff and the two stories don’t complement each other very well.
Most of the comic has the typical lighthearted, fun, action adventure feel you expect from this series. It’s one big ridiculous fight between Red Hood & the Outlaws vs. Superman, which is fun as long as you don’t give too much though to it. Nearly all of the opening narration is Jason talking about how unstoppable Superman is yet he still pulls out his pistols to confront the Man of Steel. It takes the team several pages to finally give up and just ask Superman what he wants. There’s no point for them to even fight the guy. They don’t know what this visit is about and each of them has to know that they don’t stand a chance. Jason does explain that the best chance that anyone has against Superman is to create a distraction. “piss him off and hope for an opening” but an opening to do…what, exactly? It’s Superman. It doesn’t make any sense. So if you can ignore all that and just have fun then you’ll enjoy it (watch for a reference to “For the Man Who Has Everything”). Otherwise it’s a very long and pointless scene.
Of course, the whole thing could’ve been a lot more entertaining if it wasn’t for the artwork and that was my biggest gripe with this issue. I opened it and immediately remembered that Kenneth Rocafort left the book to join Lobdell as the new creative team for Superman. Even though I enjoyed the first TPB of Red Hood & the Outlaws and recommend that everybody give it a chance, it was Rocafort’s artwork that was the main attraction. With him gone the book has been dealt a major blow. I really dislike the way the new artist draws faces. They’re either too round or they are somewhat toad-like. Panels range from being just okay to being absolutely atrocious. Arsenal in particular looks bad, but that’s a combination of wonky artwork and the Tamaran armor everyone is wearing from the previous space mission.
The Death of the Family stuff at the end is interesting and it does take on the darker tone which was greatly needed. I hoped that Lobdell would approach the crossover with more seriousness and it appears that he will.
Overall, it’s a bit of a mixed bag. Batman fans most likely won’t give a crap about the first 3/4 of this comic as it makes Red Hood and his friends look like idiots but Superman fans should be more than pleased. I also didn’t like the artwork at all. I found it to be downright ugly in some parts, but if you can look past that then you should have some fun and even a few laughs leading up to a conclusion that’s must-reading for next month’s Death of the Family crossover.