Last month we saw the story of Jason Todd and Roy Harper get rebooted following the death of the underwhelming Red Hood and the Outlaws. I was pleasantly surprised when the story went in the direction I was hoping for last month, with Jason and Roy taking jobs for the government in a way similar to Team 7 or Suicide Squad, except with more laughs and fewer bombs placed in heads. Working alongside some shady government organization always offers easy targets for short arcs to get the ball rolling on a new series. It isn’t the most revolutionary tactic, but it’s tried and true in exposing both the heroes and the audience to a wide array of villains and one-shot teammates. Who wouldn’t love to see Jason and Roy team up with someone like Dick Grayson to take down DC’s most dangerous villains? I’d be down. Anyway, Jason and Roy’s first mission takes them to Paris.
Most of the rest of the book involves a series of action sequences that reach the fourth-wall but don’t quite break it. I’m not sure if Lobdell is going for a Deadpool feel with Red Hood/Arsenal by basically turning the issue into a video game and then commenting on that choice through the characters. No matter how many winks you send the audience’s way, if you don’t do it on a consistent basis or center the entirety of your book around it then eventually the reading audience will turn on it. Jason and Roy basically romp through Paris, beating up random, faceless goons with – to quote a famous clown – the subtlety of a napalm grenade. These are two complex characters with tortured personalities and dark pasts, and under Lobdell’s pen we’ve only seen brief glimpses of those complexities. Those few times we are given looks into the characterization of the duo, it comes off as cheap and throwaway, a thinly-veiled attempt at trauma. Then again, I don’t know why I’m expecting multi-layered characters from the man who almost single-handedly destroyed decades of cache that Starfire had built up.
I’m not sure what it is about the artwork, but it really distracted me from the story. Denis Medri and Paolo Pantalena are again on art detail, with coloring done by Tanya Horie. Howard Porter and Hi-Fi, who have delivered exceptional work on last year’s Justice League 3000 and the current Justice League 3001 worked on the cover, and it’s easy to see why. Medri and Pantalena’s style is like a more angular and exaggerated form of Porter’s. This causes one main problem, especially on the close-ups of Jason’s and Roy’s face; they look like unholy, metrosexual demons with eyebrows that are so on-point I could probably peel a pineapple on them. Look at this:
That’s terrifying! Even with the terrifying eyebrows, I’m loving the whole overhaul of Jason’s Red Hood armor. It’s definitely his best look in the New 52, and now that the eye-holes have been covered up, I daresay this is the best he’s ever looked in his post-Robin days. Actually, let’s include those Robin days, too.
Spoilers for Arkham Knight follow.
Perhaps it’s due to the dozens of hours I’ve been putting into Arkham Knight these past two weeks, but the very different feel that this book has going when compared to more “classical” Jason Todd stories has started to grow on me. For anyone with rudimentary Batman lore knowledge, it was something of a giveaway that Jason would be the titular Knight, and the game’s focus on an alternate-version Death in the Family and Under the Red Hood served the game well. When Jason is dark and angry, he’s at his best. If I ever want some serious vigilantism akin to a twisted shadow of Batman, I’ll be sure to pick up something like Battle for the Cowl or Batman #424. This is going to be my dosage of a reluctant yet enabling friend trying to earn a living as a mercenary. But I’ll just throw this here…
- The Mime Attack featured on the cover is mercifully brief. Like two pages brief.
- How did they beat Laurent? How did Laurent’s power work? I have painfully little knowledge of S.H.A.D.E. so I have no idea who this character is. Did Jason kill him when he shot him? And who was that woman at the end? If anyone knows, do tell me.
- I don’t care if you’re going for laughs or not, that pay-off was garbage. A secure thumb drive has a cartoon on it? That better have some sort of malignant virus or something in it, because I hate when shows/movies/comics/books do that. “Oh we need to do something dangerous to get this thing! The thing was far less important than we imagined! People will love this! How funny!!!!11!!1!”
Favorite Quote: “They should have left Jason dead.” – My buddy Kevin
- You’re into bro-mances.
- You want a lighter Jason Todd story.
- Fun yet action-packed appeals to you.
Not Recommended If…
- You like fan-service.
- You want a dark Red Hood adventure.
Overall: While I’ve come to accept that this is not your father’s Jason Todd narrative, Red Hood/Arsenal has set itself up as a bro-y journey designed for fans of bro-y one-liners and bro-y beat-em-ups. Think Marcus and Dom from Gears of War except with more showers and mimes. It’s enough to keep me entertained about what’s coming next, but the premise is nothing to be crazy about. At least Lobdell has accepted that he can’t write serious, heavy premises.