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Trains! Helicopters! Deceptively handsome clones! Red Hood and the Outlaws #2 has all of that PLUS an enormous axe that comes to its owner when summoned, even if said owner is, by all accounts, unworthy. Take that, Mjölnir.

Strangers on a train

In this month’s adventure, Jason and Artemis have the fight promised at the end of #1. Black Mask watches from the sidelines, waiting for his new protégé to clear the way so he can swoop in and collect his prize. And that prize? It’s a doozie.

That’s the thousand-foot view, but how do things look up close? They look good! I don’t have much to say about the artwork, except to reiterate that Soy, Gandini, and Esposito are all doing an excellent job. I don’t want to sell them short, because they’re awesome, but I was fairly thorough about the artwork in my review of the first issue and my interview with Taylor. The surprise star this month is none other than Scott Lobdell. Red Hood #2 is pretty tightly-written, at times very funny, and consistently entertaining.

The right fit for Jason

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I was thinking of using this method to summon my wife, but I’m afraid I would get an axe, instead…

I haven’t always been the biggest fan of Jason Todd, because he has so often been portrayed as an unsympathetic, self-absorbed whiner. Pete Tomasi gave him a bump in Arkham Knight: Genesis, due, I think, to attention given to the lingering effects of Jason’s trauma. Lobdell goes in a completely different direction, but I’m convinced it’s a better one.

Most of the Red Hood stories I’ve encountered find the character taking himself far too seriously (last year’s Red Hood/Arsenal was an exception, but it wasn’t a particularly good one). He comes off as a spoiled, entitled brat, and his resentment of Batman always feels unjustified. I don’t need him to crack jokes constantly, or to be a perfect, saintly Bat-kid, but he was Kylo Ren before Kylo Ren, and there was nary a wookie around to shoot him with a bowcaster.

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Anyway, Lobdell’s latest turn casts Jason as a quippy action hero (if you’ll suffer another Star Wars parallel, he’s more Han Solo than Han’s offspring), rather than an angsty man-baby, and I must say, it suits him well. Part of his success is conceptual: Jason’s story is a bit ridiculous, both in and out of universe, so it helps to embrace that side rather than suffocate the narrative with gravity. A bigger part, however, is in the details. I’m on record as having differences of comedic opinion with Lobdell, but the banter between Jason and Artemis in this book is genuinely hilarious, and none of it is the sort of shallow stuff that (I feel) dragged down Hood/Arse and Teen Titans.

Me am not scared for same reason

The announcement, many months ago, that the third member of Jason’s team would be Bizarro, was a concern. The thought of trying to suffer through Jason Todd and the Superman of DC’s Trinity of Annoying Dialogue (rounded out gy Scarface and Etrigan) was not “appealing” in the classical sense of the word. Subsequent interviews have suggested, however, that we would not be getting your typical Bizarro interpretation, and for that, I am grateful. I wouldn’t mind extra goofiness, but that Bizarro is only funny in small doses, and he would quickly overstay his welcome as a permanent member of a three-person team. So what can you expect? Without spoiling too much, I’ll just say that this Bizarro is closer to what we got in Forever Evil, but perhaps scarier. I won’t tell you why, but yeah, significantly scarier.

Nits are for picking

My impressions are overwhelmingly positive, but there are a few things that bugged me. Here they are, in no particular order:

  • While I’m happy to see Black Mask talking more like what I remember of him (“let’s pop the broad and get out of here”), his dialogue here does not really blend well with the ten-dollar words he was dropping on Ma Gunn in #1.
  • The first few pages are the weakest in the book. There’s gobs of monologue, and it doesn’t work nearly as well for me as the shorter, punchier back-and-forth that develops once things get rolling.
  • I realize Mask is probably playing Jason, but I don’t buy—and Jason shouldn’t, either—Sionis declaring him (Jason) heir to his empire.
  • I know basically nothing about Artemis, but if she’s an Amazon, why did she worship Egyptian gods? I wasn’t aware that Amazons worshipped Egyptian godsRead this for some insight.

Still alive

Lots of folks put an expiration date on this series as soon as it was announced, but a few issues in, it’s still going strong. It’s not a storytelling revolution, and it does have some problems, but it is good fun every time, with delicious art from some of my favorite new (or new to me) talents in the industry. Lobdell continues to show restraint and patience, and the book is thriving as a result. I can once again say that I’m eager to pick up Red Hood next month.

Recommended if…

  • You liked the Ultimate Universe Thor but you thought his hammer-axe was garbage.
  • But seriously, that’s a sweet axe.
  • You like a Jason Todd you can laugh at, even when he’s not being bludgeoned with a crowbar.
  • You never tire of fantastic artwork.

Overall

This is the sweet spot for Jason Todd. He gets to do awesome Red Hood stuff, he makes us laugh, he gets the mess knocked out of him, and he still manages to finish with a smirk. As a writer for an ongoing series, Lobdell’s most important job is to make us want to read the next one, and he does that job well here. His cohorts in the art department remain valuable assets, just as Red Hood and the Outlaws remains pleasantly distinct from everything else DC is publishing.

SCORE: 7.5/10