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The Red Hood is on the rampage, but something has come up. Jason’s pursuit of the Underlife has taken him into America’s heartland, but his past won’t let him be. Can he follow the path before him while evading the demons behind? Find out in Red Hood and the Outlaws #27SPOILERS AHEAD.

Seriously, there are spoilers.

One last chance, because the spoilers are not just for this book, but also for Heroes in Crisis #1, and you may not have read that yet.

Still here? Okay, here goes:

Roy Harper is dead. If you’ve already read Heroes in Crisis (it came out last week), then you know that. If you’ve been on the internet for the past few months, you likely saw speculation. If you read the most recent Red Hood annual, then the writing was pretty much on the wall. But now that it’s actually happened, it feels pretty heavy—especially on the pages of Red Hood and the Outlaws.

But I’m getting a little bit ahead of myself on RHATO #27. After a brief setup for the bad news, this issue opens in a diner, somewhere in ‘Merica. Jason’s still following dirty money and dirty goods to the Underlife, which pretty much means he’s going to small towns and beating the crap out of people who speak with a drawl. Don’t get me wrong—the fisticuffs are still very entertaining (and sometimes cringe-inducing)—but that portion of the story doesn’t give us too much more than we got in the last issue.

The good thing is that the yokel-spanking isn’t the main focus here. The heart of RHATO #27 is a conversation with Bruce, who has tracked Jason to this particular diner and bails him out of a tight spot at the end of the fight. After some tense back-and-forth about the events that drove the Red Hood out of Gotham, Bruce delivers the bad news about Roy.

Fathers and sons

This run of Red Hood and the Outlaws has been an emotional one. Lobdell has made me care about characters who I either never cared about (Jason, Bizarro, Roy) or never heard of (Artemis) prior to reading this book. It’s not surprising, then, that last month’s rough-housing gives way to some tender moments between Batman and his wayward son. I was moved by Bruce’s gesture in tracking Jason down—not to bring him in, but to be the one to deliver the horrible news of Roy’s passing. We Batfans know that the Dark Knight cares, though his rocky exterior may hide it sometimes; and, when we get these sorts of moments—moments where the facade cracks a bit and we see his heart—it’s a beautiful thing to behold.

I know plenty of folks are going to take issue with Bruce letting Jason go in the end, but I’m giving Lobdell a pass, and here’s why:

  • Given this particular circumstance—the death of Jason’s best friend—I could see Bruce giving him some space for a little while. Chasing Jason around the middle of the country pulls him away from Gotham, anyway.
  • It isn’t up to Lobdell. If Jason is back to his old brutal ways, DC’s higher-ups either signed off on it or mandated it in the first place. And the decision to let Batman go on a cross-country manhunt to take Jason off the board is likewise not one that Lobdell would be privileged to make.
  • (Most importantly) I’m able to set aside the shadow of the Bat and see where the story takes us.

Functional visuals

A number of our faithful readers have complained about the change in art teams on this title, and I can sympathize to a degree. I loved what Soy and Gandini did, and I just prefer their aesthetic to what Woods is doing. But Woods is still a very capable storyteller, whatever you may think of his visual style; and, other than a few somewhat confusing panels, he does an expert job moving us through both the action and the more tender moments.

Recommended if…

  • You enjoy seeing Jason Todd get nuts.
  • You like a fatherly Bruce Wayne.
  • How about that cover?

Overall

The Underlife plot plays second fiddle this issue, but it makes space for a touching exchange between Jason and Bruce that is well worth the diversion. Woods aptly tells the story visually, and Lobdell does a good job of keeping the larger plot warm with some bookends. It isn’t as compelling a read as the last issue, but it’s still very solid work.

SCORE: 7.5/10

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