Nearly all of the volume 3 New 52 Bat-titles were labeled “Death of the Family” but Red Hood and the Outlaws is one of the only books to really deserve it. This is Death of the Family material through-and-through. Not only are you getting the actual Death of the Family tie-in issues, but this TPB also includes the highly relevant issue #0 and all of the comics that dealt with the aftermath of Joker’s attack on the Bat family. Joker’s return didn’t feel like a disruption of an existing story arc for Red Hood and the Outlaws, it felt like a confrontation that was long overdue. But did it live up to expectations?
Red Hood and the Outlaws, Vol. 3: Death of the Family includes Red Hood and the Outlaws #0, #15-18, Teen Titans #16, and Batman #17. It doesn’t include Teen Titans #15, which showed how Tim Drake ended up in the same predicament as Jason, but I actually think the story might flow better without it.
This book is structured pretty well and almost makes it feel like Death of the Family was really about Jason all along. Beginning with the Zero Month comic (not to be confused with November 2013’s month of Zero Year tie-ins) we go all the way back to Jason’s origin which undergoes quite the makeover. Jason and the Joker already have a heck of a history together, but this new origin story manages to tie them even closer than anyone could have ever imagined. Unfortunately, it’s a change that nobody wanted to imagine and it has taken quite a bit of flack. Still, if you want to be up-to-date about what the New 52 Jason Todd is all about then this comic is must-reading. I won’t say that this issue is good, but it is an important chapter and one that fans will reference anytime Jason’s past comes up again. You can read a more thorough review on this specific issue here: Red Hood and the Outlaws #0 review
After the Joker-infused origin story we enter the realm of tie-ins. The Joker has returned to Gotham after he removed the skin from his face and vanished from the scene several months ago. The Clown Prince of Crime now has his sights set on offing every member of the “bat-family” to therefore make Batman stronger by removing the allies that Joker sees the hero leaning on like a crutch. Tie-ins to big stories like Death of the Family (You should read Batman, Vol. 3 first) are usually a detriment to a title, but now that the history between Joker and Jason is more entwined than ever before we actually get a story that doesn’t feel like a cash-grab. The Joker’s appearance here seems to arise naturally given the context of the book, especially with issue #0 kicking things off. However, this episode also connects with the Teen Titans series (also written by Scott Lobdell) for a tie-in WITHIN a tie in! While it’s fun to see Tim Drake make an appearance in this story (any Gotham related adventure, really), we definitely could’ve done without Arsenal, Starfire, or the Teen Titans showing up. These non-Bat characters have nothing to do in this story, at least nothing of any value. Writer, Scott Lobdell, gives them some banter-laden scenes and a “save the innocent citizens” situation to keep them busy (something else that strains credebility as we ask “How did Joker have time to set all this up?”), but really they could’ve been benched for this tale. Some of their scenes even transition to irrelevant subplots teasing Deathstroke and Hugo Strange, apparently setting up future story arcs that have yet to come to fruition in either title (unless you count Roy sitting in Strange’s office, which is really unsatisfying). Truthfully, you can skip over their pages entirely. You’ll greatly desire to see a reunion between Jason and Tim and you’ll want to see what the Joker has in store for them, but I imagine many readers couldn’t care less about a team up of the Outlaws and the Titans. There are bigger, more exciting elements at play here and trimming those unnecessary characters out would’ve made for a more fulfilling story. You can read my more in-depth thoughts on these issues at the links below:
Once the Teen Titans and Red Hood and the Outlaws tie-ins draw to a close we step into the 17th issue of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s Batman, which was the final chapter of the Death of the Family saga. This transition is seamless plot-wise, though it’s odd to suddenly see Jason take the backseat in the narrative. The most jarring aspect of the transition is, more than anything, an artistic one. It’s a big leap! It’s sort of akin to what happened to Dave at the end of “2001: A Space Odyssey.” The artwork in this comic up until now has been quite bumpy except for a few pages by Brett Booth and to see Capullo’s pencils and FCO’s colors coming at you all of a sudden is pretty eye-opening. Ultimately, it’s nice to see how exactly the saga came to a close, but things were so damn personal between Joker and Jason in this book all the way up until now that it really feels like a shame to not get more of a resolution from their meeting. Then again, it’s not all over yet.
I won’t spoil for you here what happens next but no other character in the Bat-family was hit harder by the events of Death of the Family than Jason Todd. Unfortunately, the aftermath of the Joker’s attack is… well, it’s odd. It definitely gives the impression that DC Comics had a plan in mind for a permanent change for Jason Todd but then changed their mind at the last minute. You’ll see! Issue #18, the final chapter of this book is far and away my favorite issue to come from this series to date and I even awarded it a 10/10 so I think that you’ll find the finale of of this volume to be a satisfying one even if there were a number of missed opportunities and botched attempts at rewriting Jason’s character along the way.
Again, for more insight, look to the full reviews of the issues that encapsulate the aftermath:
While Death of the Family definitely made way for one of Jason’s better arcs, it unfortunately came at a time when the series’ ongoing artist, the much loved Kenneth Rocafort, left the title. Red Hood and the Outlaws, Vol. 3: Death of the Family is a showcase of several different artists who attempted to fill Rocafort’s shoes and for the most part they were found wanting. For instance, Timothy Green drew Red Hood with so little detail that he looks like a smooth, red balloon inflating out from the collar of a jacket. But while there are some really horrible lows, the book does feature a few nice pages from the likes of Ken Lashley, a full issue from Greg Capullo (Batman #17), and end with Tyler Kirkham (who also gave us the very eye-catching cover) and that final issue is really very good. Scott Lobdell couldn’t have given a better goodbye to the character.
Six pages of original pencils by Brett Booth, Ken Lashley, and Ardian Syaf. The unused cover for issue #15 is also collected, but uncolored. It’s rather dull bonus material and you’ll notice that none of Timothy Green’s work was included in it, likely because his pages were arguably the weakest. Unfortunately, Green’s contributions were also the most prevalent throughout the graphic novel.
Value: Sale Price
I think that if you’re a die-hard New 52 Red Hood fan then this is something that’s worth your $16.99 (Six $2.99 comics and one $3.99 comic would come to $21.93 if you paid full price for the floppies), especially since it does such a good job of rounding up all of the important Joker-related issues. However, issues #0 and #18 are the only chapters that I could see myself re-reading in the future.
This is a very thorough collection of all the most relevant Jason Todd and Joker stories that came out of Red Hood and the Outlaws and all together they actually make for a pretty entertaining read. The artwork is sometimes downright awful and Jason Todd’s new origin story will likely make longtime fans grumble, but I think the final issue in this collection (and Scott Lobdell’s goodbye), issue #18, will leave you feeling really satisfied.