Red Hood and Arsenal are back together again. The once fellow Outlaws lost touch for a while, but when an emotionally and physically beaten Jason Todd needed him, Roy Harper was there. So what are they up to? And what happened to Jay-bird’s new buddies, Artemis and Bizarro? Find out in Red Hood and the Outlaws Annual #2.

Unfounded worry

I’m on the record as hating the late-New 52 Red Hood/Arsenal book. I’m interested in revisiting it with fresh eyes after all these years, but I don’t imagine much will change in my mind. And so, as much as I’ve absolutely loved Red Hood and the Outlaws in the post-Rebirth world, I confess that I was a bit worried about how things would go with Roy Harper back in the picture. Lobdell’s New 52 work had plenty of loyal fans, and I didn’t know if perhaps this annual would be a bit of fan service aimed at them. That wouldn’t necessarily be wrong, but it also wouldn’t necessarily be my cup of tea.

My worry wasn’t needed, though. Red Hood/Arsenal fans will likely be thrilled with the banter and the excursion the two go on together, but Lobdell’s Rebirth stylistic evolutions are preserved. The book still reads well, there are legitimately humorous and heartfelt moments, and the only thing I found myself cringing at was Roy’s insistence on reviving the “Jay-bird” nickname for his friend. And that last one is probably meant to make me (and Jason) cringe, anyway.

I actually really enjoyed the artwork, as well. Clayton Henry’s figures are a little beefier than we’re used to seeing them, but they’re consistently-drawn, the storytelling is solid and fun, and Marcelo Maiolo’s colors at times make me think that Henry’s been replaced by Mikel Janín—and make no mistake, that’s a high compliment.

There’s a backup story here, too, and Maiolo shows his versatility in tackling a completely different aesthetic—this time artist Neil Googe, inked by Wade Von Grawbadger. Maiolo adapts perfectly to suit what Googe is doing. There have been multi-artist issues in this run where series regular Veronica Gandini unified disparate styles with her colors; but here, Maiolo deliberately does the opposite. Googe’s pages are meant to be markedly different, and the color suits them perfectly.

I’m going to stay tight-lipped about the plot points of the backup, but suffice it to say it’s very good, and folks who like this series will surely be pleased (I know I was!).

Recommended if…

  • You like the dynamic between Jason Todd and Roy Harper.
  • You prefer a somewhat sympathetic Killer Croc.
  • You…I won’t say it, but just read the book.

Overall

Another fine annual from the only DC book that has been consistently excellent for two years, Red Hood and the Outlaws Annual #2 has its own self-contained, fun, touching story, but it also ties in nicely with the larger narrative. The artwork—all of it—is good storytelling, and regular letterer Taylor Esposito continues his flawless record of icing the cake with clean, readable dialogue and creative SFX.

SCORE: 8/10