redhood_18

The final issue of Scott Lobdell’s Red Hood and the Outlaws is without a doubt his best.

First let me get to the bad news. This comic has diddly squat to do with Damian. It may say “REQUIEM” on the cover, but this is 100% Death of the Family aftermath. Even Arsenal and Starfire aren’t mentioned beyond a single panel and in that they have no lines and it’s only a vision. Issue #18 is the most Jason Todd-centric issue the series has ever had and it is going to go down as one of the best Jason Todd issues of anything there has ever been. That’s really not saying a lot since there haven’t been all that many really stellar Jason Todd stories beyond the likes of Death in the Family and Under the Red Hood, but if a reading list is ever assembled in the next few years then I can guarantee that his particular comic, issue #18, will make the cut. Other bad new: Leslie Thompkins was mentioned but Bruce apparently doesn’t consider her family! That grinds my gears, but not enough to make me angry at this comic. And lastly, there’s a flashback to Batman #17 in which Batman has a platter at his end of the table when he didn’t actually have one in that story. It’s a really minor mistake. I mean, Joker acted like he had one for him at the end of issue #16 but in #17 there wasn’t one. No big whoop. And…. other than that I don’t really have any complaints to make about this book!

The good news: This was a powerful comic that anyone can pick up and enjoy. All you need to know is that Joker booby-trapped Jason’s helmet at the end of the last issue and the pain was so severe that it put Jason into a coma.

The story is made up of two things: the dreamlike experiences of Jason’s comatose state and scenes from the real world of Alfred and Bruce that Jason can overhear. It’s a pretty emotional issue that’s about Jason Todd coming to terms with everything in his life and Bruce finally forgiving Jason for all he’s done.

When I say Jason coming to terms with everything in his life, I mean everything. The story opens up with a monologue about how he hates sleep and takes us through his childhood upbringing. We hear about what it was like living in the Todd household and then Wayne Manor but as soon as you turn the page and see that we’re in a twisted dreamscape things take a turn for the Dickensian. What we have here, ladies and gentlemen, is A Very Jason Todd Christmas Carol minus the Christmas and it works really well.  

Spoiler
Joker is the ghost of Jason’s past. After all, when you think of the past of Jason Todd you’ll instantly recollect the brutal crowbar scene. He’s a character defined by his death. Then for the present we have Ducra, the leader of the All-Caste who trained Jason Todd to become what he is post-Joker. The Red Hood is what he is today because of Ducra. And last we have the Ghost of Red Hood Future, Batman Incorporated Batman. I write it like that because the Batman Inc. Dark Knight is the most progressive depiction of the character that’s been seen to date in the ongoing comics and in this scene we see a Jason who is depicted as Wingman, not Red Hood. Wingman is what Grant Morrison ultimately wanted Jason to become. Red Hood was a villainous persona, after all. Wingman was a way for him to finally settle in to a heroic role and gain Batman’s acceptance but then the New 52 happened and Jason became a good guy Red Hood and Batman Inc. became an odd comic that didn’t feel like it took place in the same universe anymore. Past, Present, and Future.

Now, some of you might see that this is all a bunch of dream sequence stuff an shrug it off, but don’t. This isn’t the ol’ BS of having a thrilling adventure with earth shattering consequences and then on the final page we see someone snap upright in bed and say “It was all a dream!” — What happens in this issue actually matters. The Bruce stuff is all real world turmoil between him, Alfred, and the injured soldier before him and the Jason plot is him working out some major issues by confronting his subconscious’ interpretation of the three most important figures of his life! It’s really good and it’s a really important moment for the character.

And as for the artwork? Where the heck have these guys been? I wasn’t a fan of the artwork in these last few issues of Red Hood and the Outlaws at all, but wow! This was a great looking comic! Not only was the cover by Mico Suayan  gorgeous, but fill-in artist Tyler Kirkham along with colorist Arif Prianto created the best looking issue this series has seen since Rocafort left the title. Not only do the trippy dream sequences look great, but they captured the  somber tone of Wayne Manor brilliantly as well. I loved the way Bruce, spending hours at Jason’s bedside was depicted as a silhouette before a faded flashback as the background. The faces are all expressive, the nightmares are all terrifying, and…just, really, the atmosphere of this book is perfect. I really liked this one a lot. And the final image really sticks with you.

Saying Red Hood and the Outlaws #18 is a Damian Requiem book is false advertising, but I’m not even mad. This was the best issue of this series I’ve read, one of the most memorable Jason Todd episodes I’ve ever read, it’s easily accessible to all Batman fans, and it’s beautifully illustrated. It’s the must-buy Bat-title of the week. Scott Lobdell really exited this series in style.

SCORE: 10/10