I was very excited to see Hugo Strange on the cover. I love that villain. I was particularly thrilled with how he was utilized in the Arkham City video game until the ending

Spoiler
Having him turn out to be a pawn of Ra’s Al Ghul was an unnecessary twist. The game was a brilliant opportunity to make Hugo a household name and suddenly he was reduced to a lackey. In fact, bringing in the Al Ghul gang over-complicated the plot and I think the game would have been far, far better without any League of Assassins interference.
but that’s an entirely different discussion for another day. Today we’re talking about the New 52 incarnation of the character. How big is his role in issue #21 of Red Hood and the Outlaws? Has the overall quality of the book improved after 2 or so weak issues in a row? Are we done with the mind-wiped Jason storyline yet?

First of all: you absolutely, positively need to read the Red Hood and the Outlaws Annual before jumping into this. I did a review of it and found that the Annual was okay. Definitely the best issue Tynion has done on the series so far, but not worth the $5 cover price. You will, however, need to know what happened there to fully grasp what’s happening here.

Now, as for issue #21, we’re still focusing mainly on Roy. He’s upset because Kori actually remembers more than she let on and Jason remembers nothing at all. We start off with Roy visiting Hugo Strange, who has apparently been his psychiatrist for years. It would appear that we’re definitely going to act as though Tony Daniel’s Detective Comics take on Strange never happened. In that series we saw that Strange had a son who he was using toward a bigger, more villainous goal (if you’ve read Prey, then you can see how unbelievable the idea of Hugo having kids is) and Catwoman was well aware of Hugo’s villain status as well. Here it feels as though Hugo Strange is a renowned doctor (he had a book signing in St. Louis only a few issues ago) who has never been accused of a crime. Issue #21 was a wasted opportunity for this character. The idea of seeing the outlaws take on a villainous Strange sounds far more captivating than the barrage of mysticism they now face.

We cut between Roy confessing his inner thoughts and feelings to Strange, Kori eavesdropping, and Jason riding a stolen motorcycle down a road somewhere in the pacific northwest (New 52 Jason and Bruce are apparently very good at holding onto planes). All is well until suddenly a whole bucket of characters are dumped into the story and I felt pretty overwhelmed, honestly. While the cover shows us a menacing Hugo Strange, he’s nothing more than a doctor who scurries off early on in the book. Instead we are treated to the likes of Lady Shiva (yes, she still has that awful ponytail/predator design), Bronze Tiger, Cheshire, Essence, the hooded Untitled tribe, the League of Assassins, and a bunch of other people. Everyone crowds together and pushes their way through the door to introduce themselves and set up the plot for our newest story arc.

It’s actually a pretty interesting premise (at least on Jason’s side of things), but having a dozen characters jump out of nowhere to deliver exposition is an incredibly clumsy way to kick things off.

Spoiler
Ra’s Al Ghul is definitely becoming a greater presence now that Batman Inc. is finally wrapping up. He doesn’t show himself here, but he was seen in this month’s Detective Comics #21 and he will be getting his own Villain’s Month issue in September. I can’t help but feel that this storyline about Jason being chosen to lead the League of Shadows would be far more interesting if he still had his memories intact but surely a dunk in the Lazarus Pit will restore his mind back to the way it was. Although it really seemed as though the memories had been stripped from him forever, this issue shows that Jason does still has some lingering information in his head. He was capable of translating the name of a foreign place, driving a motorcycle, and he was able to fight the League of Assassins for a brief moment– sort of a Jason Bourne style amnesia I guess. If everything associated with the darkness really was taken from him, I can’t imagine he would be able to do most of these things.  
Besides the surprising ending, which I liked, issue #21 is a lot of talk about ancient organizations being at war with each other and I’d honestly rather not see the League of Assassins get dragged down into the confusing All-Caste vs. Untitled nonsense. I really wish that Tynion had pushed this series toward something new instead of digging deeper into one of the strangest aspects of Lobdell’s run.

As for the artwork, well I’ll just show you this image and you can be the judge.

RedHoodBadArt

Overall

It was about at the point when Jason Todd teleported with a giant tiger-man (the new design of Bronze Tiger) that I realized this is definitely not the kind of comic I gravitate to. I never cared for the fantastical All-Caste stuff from Lobdell’s run and that’s all that Tynion seems to be dwelling on. If you enjoy these more outlandish storylines and can look past the art then you should definitely scout around for other reviews as I might not be the most help on this. It’s simply not my cup of tea. However, the final page definitely piqued my interest.

SCORE: 4.5/10