Red Hood/Arsenal vol. 1: Open for Business review

Red Hood Arsenal Vol 1

What’s the worst that could happen if Red Hood and Arsenal took their heroing skills and used them to pay the bills? What’s the worst that could happen if DC published a book that attempts to answer that question? What’s the worst that could happen if I wrote a review that answers the first two questions and unintentionally answers this third question? Read on, brave soul, for my review of Red Hood/Arsenal vol. 1. You may not like the answers, but they are here, and they are…answers.

What’s included?

  • “Together for the First Time: Again!”, from DC Sneak Peek: Red Hood/Arsenal #1, originally published in 2015; written by Scott Lobdell, with art by Denis Medri, colors by The Hories, and letters by Dave Sharpe.
  • “Desert First, Then Dinner!”, from Red Hood/Arsenal #1, originally published in 2015; written by Scott Lobdell, with art by Denis Medri, colors by Tanya Horie, and letters by Dave Sharpe. Read the original review
  • “The M Word!”, from Red Hood/Arsenal #2, originally published in 2015; written by Scott Lobdell, with art by Paolo Pantalena, colors by Tanya Horie and Blond, and letters by Dave Sharpe. Read the original review
  • “Tales from the Underbelly!”, from Red Hood/Arsenal #3, originally published in 2015; written by Scott Lobdell, with art by Denis Medri, colors by Tanya Horie, and letters by Dave Sharpe. Read the original review
  • “Gotham Born Part One”, from Red Hood/Arsenal #4, originally published in 2015; written by Scott Lobdell, with art by Denis Medri, colors by Blond, and letters by Dave Sharpe. Read the original review
  • “Gotham Born Part Two”, from Red Hood/Arsenal #5, originally published in 2015; written by Scott Lobdell, with art by Denis Medri, colors by Blond, and letters by Dave Sharpe. Read the original review
  • “Punchline!”, from Red Hood/Arsenal #6, originally published in 2015; written by Scott Lobdell, with art by Denis Medri, colors by Blond, and letters by Dave Sharpe. Read the original review

Who is this for?

The jerk answer to that question is “not me,” and while I’m sure I would get a laugh from most of our readers, I want to try to give this book as much of a fair shake as I can. So who’s it for? I think it’s for people looking for some light entertainment with a few laughs, but that interpretation doesn’t always hold up. I’ll dig into that in a moment, but first, a brief synopsis and a word of hope before things get more specific and, necessarily, more negative.

Red Hood/Arsenal vol. 1, gives us the origin of Jason Todd and Roy Harper’s (latest) partnership. After doing some work for a government agent, they take one of Roy’s bright (not bright) ideas and run with it: good guy mercenary work. The collection shows the initial mission, a few subsequent missions, and ends with their team growing by one member. They run into Commissioner Robobatbunny, too.

You don’t have to be the World’s Greatest Detective to discern my distaste for this book, because I haven’t been trying too hard to hide it. I think I’m being fair, and I’m doing my best to consider who Lobdell was targeting as an audience, but even after applying all possible handicaps, I don’t think this is very good stuff. On the bright side, though, Lobdell just put out what I think are two of his best books to date: Red Hood and the Outlaws: Rebirth #1, and Red Hood and the Outlaws #1. If you want to read a Jason Todd story, those are really good places to start.

It just isn’t that funny

Scott Lobdell is usually good for ideas. Unfortunately, he often flounders in the execution of those ideas. The heroes-for-hire concept in Red Hood/Arsenal seems loaded with potential comedy, and that’s the angle Lobdell pursues; but the jokes, gags, and interactions aren’t actually funny. To be fair, there are isolated moments, like when someone calls Roy “‘Mr. Arse”, or when a character in peril shouts “sumuva bee”. But most of the humor falls flat, especially when it’s dependent on Roy’s personality and/or manner of speaking.

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I find the tone confusing, too. A good deal of the book goes for a goofy, madcap style, but there’s enough introspective moralizing and occasional poignancy to suggest that Lobdell is actually trying to say something. But because of the sheer dopiness of the rest of the material, anything he might try to say is hard to take seriously. And the artwork only makes it worse.

Most of the pencils and inks in Red Hood/Arsenal #1 are handled by Denis Medri. This series is his only credit at DC. He has a few co-credits at Marvel, but as far as I can tell, he seems like a newcomer. Perhaps his work over at the House of Ideas would change my mind, but after seeing him in this volume, I am not impressed. I don’t care for his aesthetic; but even if you take my preferences out of the equation, the lack of detail and energy in his work drags the whole book down.

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That pattern on his shirt sticks out like a sore thumb.

The colors don’t help, as they often appear as though they were applied by algorithm rather than by hand, and Medri himself seems to use some obvious digital shortcuts on a few occasions. I’m not against digital enhancements, but I expect to see them blended well with the rest of the artwork. The way they’re used here just looks lazy. And really, that’s the best word for this entire volume: lazy. None of this reads or looks like anybody was trying very hard. They may well have been, and I don’t mean to insult someone who spent a long time working on it, but the end product does not have the polished quality one would (and should) expect from professionals.

Bonus material

If you flip to the back, you’ll find three variant covers, as well as some designs and sketches from Denis Medri.

Value: Dirt Cheap

If you have to have this, try to wait until you can get it cheap.

Overall

I cannot in good conscience recommend this book. The writing and artwork are some of the lowest quality material that I’ve seen from DC. If you like Red Hood, skip this and head straight for Rebirth, which—at least while I’m writing this—has been good to Jason Todd. Red Hood/Arsenal is irritating when it tries to be funny, dopey when it tries to be clever, and overbearing when it tries to tell us something. With all of the other things you could be reading, I can’t think of a good reason for you to spend your time reading this.

SCORE: 2/10

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