New 52 – Red Hood and the Outlaws #15 review

I’m pretty disappointed with this one. Let’s face it, the death of Jason Todd was one of the Joker’s greatest feats of villainy. So was the crippling of Barbara Gordon and the murder of Sarah Essen. With the New 52 all of that has been wiped away. Sarah Essen may not have existed and No Man’s Land most likely didn’t happen. Barbara is walking again but the trauma from her run-in with the Joker made her Death of the Family tie-in the most meaningful. And Jason was killed by the Joker. KILLED. If any of these tie-ins should have great emotional weight it’s Red Hood’s story. And as disappointed as I am with what I got in this issue it feels kind of unfair to judge it too quickly because with this book connecting with Teen Titans (that’s right, a double-crossover-event) it feels too soon to call it. You’ll have to read Teen Titans #15 two weeks from now to fill in all the blanks.

Still, I didn’t really enjoy this issue and although I’ve only read the first TPB of Teen Titans…it’s kind of tough to get excited for the future.

The first thing that disappointed me was the nigh inescapable setup from the last issue. Jason is framed for a murder, he’s wearing only a towel, and an entire swat team just burst through the door. That’s a mighty high level of tension, but instead of using his surroundings or being clever enough to think of a way out of the situation we just get a couple pages of an almost-naked Jason Todd beating up all the GCPD. This whole Death of the Family event is really making the GCPD look worse than the Storm Troopers from the original Star Wars trilogy.

And from then on you can probably guess what happens. It’s the same formula as many of the other tie-ins. Our hero gets drugged, wakes up in a torture chamber, gets roughed up a bit, escapes

The way he escaped really broke the tension again too. Even worse than the towel scene at the beginning. He’s numb from the neck down due to a paralyzing toxin until Joker tells him that it’s the result of a paralyzing toxin and Jason thinks “Oh yeah, I was trained by monks to be immune to paralyzing toxin–KARATE KICK!” and it’s over. He’s out of it
, gets a few hits in on the Joker but it proves in effective, etc. etc.

The difference is that after Joker gets smacked around a bit he doesn’t escape, the story continues with him taunting Jason Todd and we flirt with the ideas brought up in Red Hood & the Outlaws #0. That was the controversial issue that showed Jason’s origin being an overly elaborate plan by the Joker. Many fans argued that this was nothing more than the Joker being an unreliable narrator but the facts start to pile up in this issue and it’s becoming increasingly apparent that Joker did indeed engineer the recruitment of the 2nd Robin.

I was also very disappointed in the artwork. Kenneth Rocafort was the main attraction for this series all last year and Timothy Green II doesn’t measure up to that same level of quality. One panel depicting Jason inside a van had him looking like a girl and when he was the Red Hood it looked more like a red balloon sticking out the collar of a shirt rather than a glass helmet on the head of man. Harvey Bullock’s double chin was way too extreme for my liking, especially when he’s not been portrayed as being anywhere near as obese in the other New 52 books. It was good to see Harvey in this though and for Lobdell to touch upon the relationship Harvey and Jason had back when Jason was a Robin.

And on a page in which Red Hood falls into yet another chamber I had trouble making out exactly what was going on. There wasn’t a good sense of space. It’s never clear where they are or how big the room is that he’s falling into or what those beams were he was hitting.
I would’ve also preferred the coloring to be darker. Dirtier. Batman, Nightwing, and Batman & Robin are the only books so far to turn away from pure colors and give this creepy story the nasty look that the tone of the story demands.

Perhaps the most annoying thing though was the occasional and rather pointless cuts to Arsenal and Starfire working on the space ship. It broke any tension that was created by Jason’s capture and when we we see them arrive in Gotham and run into a few other superheroes it’s just like “Well, this is only going to get more lame from here on out.”

We only needed Jason for this. If you want to throw in Tim Drake that’s fine too I suppose, but this event should be personal to each character and their relationship with the Joker or with the Batfamily as a whole. Seeing any of these characters face the Joker alone is rare and when a character has as much history with the villain as Jason Todd does you don’t need to bring in the C-List alien and magic people from the rest of the DC Universe to make cameos.

This event is really trying my patience what with Joker being everywhere at once. It’s too much. I feel like it would’ve been great if at least one of these characters hadn’t faced the Joker directly. How insulting would it have been to them if Joker just showed up on a video saying that they weren’t worth his time? That’s something that Tim or Nightwing would’ve shrugged off, but Damian? Jason? Barbara? That would’ve been infuriating for them and we would’ve wanted to see our hero really take it to the Joker and prove him wrong! Just a thought.

Red Hood & the Outlaws #15 needed an opening scene that actually had tension and an obstacle that wasn’t so easily overcome and thrown away,  focus on Jason and the Joker alone with no Outlaws or Teen Titans popping in at random times, and better artwork that fit the tone of a story as important as this should be. It’s not a terrible read, but it’s one that I think many of us Batman fans expected a lot more from and to me it didn’t deliver. I first gave it a 4.5 but then I was like “Maybe I’m being too hard on it. I did give Catwoman #14 like a 6/10 or something and that definitely wasn’t worth a re-read. I was probably just eager to give such an awful book a halfway decent score for once.” And perhaps this issue wasn’t really that bad and I’m simply getting tired. Fed-up with the Joker. He’s everywhere, in every comic, doing almost exactly the same thing. I put this issue beside the likes of the rest of the tie-ins and it just doesn’t hold up which is a damn shame because it was one of the most highly anticipated. Nightwing, Batman & Robin, and Batgirl have all been great. Everything else seems pretty disposable but since my judgement might be clouded I’ll just give it a…

SCORE: 6/10