It’s been a very rough few months for Jason Todd and his strange trio of misfit outlaws.  Between alien narcotic rings, Venom addiction, and being set on fire by one’s girlfriend, things are far from the ideal.  Since Scott Lobdell returned to map out the narrative of Red Hood in his second stint with the book, things have at least switched from the insanely ridiculous to the almost-kinda-sorta realistic.

Things start out in Arkham Asylum, which throws the entire continuity of this series into question.  For anyone not reading Batman Eternal or Arkham Manor, the good ole asylum was destroyed months ago by The Spectre in Batman Eternal #29.  Not only is the asylum still standing in the latest issue of Red Hood, but also has complete functionality, placing this issue somewhere that quite frankly is irrelevant for those keeping up with other concurrent titles.  Now, we’ve seen this coming since October or so when the solicitations came out.

Knowing this doesn’t dishearten me any less about how poorly constructed this title is.  There is no real threat, no danger for our heroes to oppose.  Having one character go through a trial like drug addiction can make for a compelling story if done properly.  Arsenal’s original backstory – being found out as a junkie by Green Arrow and Green Lantern – was compelling and powerful because it was one person whose decisions impacted those around him.  Now imagine if Nightwing, Red Robin, Batgirl, and Robin all developed a drug addiction at the same time.  Forcing an entire ensemble to do so cheapens the impact.  It was an awful direction for the book to go in, and as a plot point it’s wholly uninteresting.

In Arkham we’re reintroduced to a few things that haven’t been in use since the very first arc of Red Hood.  The most prominent being the villain, the half-dragon half-alien Crux, who was last seen getting beat down after hunting down Starfire.  Obsessed with aliens over their role in killing his parents, a young scientist Simon Amal turned his body into a monstrosity to track down said aliens.  Crux is sitting down with his psychiatrist when we get a second look at a throwback from a previous arc. 

Spoiler
  It’s Jason’s body double trick from Red Hood #1.  Rather than a prosthetic suit, it would seem that he is using something similar to the holographic mask Dick wore in Batman #1.  Either way, it’s pretty cool. 

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Once Jason and Crux start throwing down, we get a pretty lengthy fight between the two that moves from inside the asylum to outside it.  Though we are to assume that Jason is on his Venom binge, he gets handled pretty easily and wakes up to the curious sight of an entirely human Simon Amal…wearing Jason’s clothes?  It was perplexing for a moment until I remembered that Amal is normally a huge dragon thing.  He also gives a flimsy and semi-implausible reason for why Jason should agree to team up with him. 

Spoiler
  He says that one day he just woke up in Arkham Asylum and was “cured.”  Then he just started waltzing around Arkham at night trying to help people, which he can do because he’s now a shape-shifter.  Let’s just say anyone who reads this book will be keeping an eye on him.

After a lengthy discussion on what to do with their newfound passenger, Jason, Roy, and Amal all head off to find Starfire.  This majority of this issue is little more than a recruitment trip, with the “conflict” being resolved before it even has a chance to grow.  The book does introduce a major problem for the team to overcome in the final pages of the issue.  If anyone has read last month’s Annual, then you know the upcoming foe that our heroes will face.  If not, check out the Spoiler tags below.

While the narrative suffers heavily from the stagnant story, artist RB Silva provides almost all of the positives that can be taken away from this issue.   I love how he shapes Jason’s mask, which has been one of the more inconsistent and annoying details of the book.  The strong color scheme that has been in use in recent issues is enjoyable to experience.  This iteration of Crux also looks more threatening and impressive than previously, allowing Silva to craft a more imposing combatant for Jason to battle.

Spoiler

  • Starfire has chained herself up in the forest with some kind of super chains, something she has apparently done before. Blackfire shows up to put her down.
  • There is also a small section where a group of detectives come across the burnt remains of the drug den that Starfire was last seen in. A woman with “two very big swords” comes by and tells the detectives that the case is closed.

Favorite Quote: “I’m one electric pulse and .0007 seconds away from being your worst nightmare.” – Crux

Recommended If…

  • You have a thing for recruitment stories.
  • You’re a Red Hood fanatic and really want to collect all the issues.
  • You enjoy RB Silva’s work.

Overall: This book lacks any direction, and it has been that way since the very first issue.  I can’t stress enough the sheer number of weird turns and themes this series has taken on with very little success.  The only thing keeping me in this title right now is my Red Hood fandom and the dollops of humor that one can find in each issue.

SCORE: 3/10