The prodigal prince of Gotham returns! Jason Todd has been living it up and making friends in the American heartland, and now he’s come back home to share all of the goodness he picked up along the way. Batman better get ready for hugs, respect, and unconditional obedience in Red Hood: Outlaw #32SPOILERS MAY OR MAY NOT FOLLOW. READ AT YOUR OWN RISK.

Back to the beginning

For a few months now, I’ve been longing for the good old days of Red Hood and the Outlaws. I feel like the quality has been dipping, and that was a huge disappointment after two years of excellent work. Well, this month, Jason goes back to Gotham, and Scott Lobdell goes back to basics.

As with Red Hood and the Outlaws #1, this issue sometimes feels a bit thick and mushy on dialogue, but the overall story is strong, and the dialogue is never bad enough to weigh that story down. As with that long-ago debut issue, Jason is back to his Red Hood roots, playing dangerous games with a Gotham gangster. Jason with Bizarro and Artemis was a wonderful formula, and I hope we get to see Lobdell return to it at some point; but Red Hood represents the dark and dirty side of vigilante justice, and—for me, at least—he is most compelling when he’s butting heads with characters like Black Mask and Penguin, because the moral distance between crimefighter and crime lord is much shorter than it is when Batman’s doing the busting up.

Of course, Batman himself factors in here, as well. After Jason’s aggressive maneuver against Penguin—the inciting incident that drove him out of Gotham for his little road trip—Bruce is, understandably, not happy to see his former ward popping up as the owner of the Iceberg Lounge. Jason isn’t about to be bossed around, but rather than respond to the Dark Knight with a forceful defense, he goes for the lowest blow possible: the threat of revealing Bruce’s true identity. Now, I’m not enough of a hard-core Toddler to say whether or not he’s ever taken such a swing at Bruce’s smoke pellets in the past, but regardless, it’s just the sort of jerk move he should go for. And, at least for the moment, it actually works: Bruce withdraws, presumably to brood and come up with a plan.

Lest we think he’s completely abandoned all prior threads, Lobdell reminds us in the end that the Iceberg Lounge is not an incidental target. Jason blames Penguin for the death of his father—even if not directly. He blames him hard enough that he shot him in the head, and we come to find here in Red Hood #32 that months on the road did not soften his anger.

If I have a complaint (beyond the occasionally misfiring dialogue), it’s that Batman’s entry into the situation feels a bit late. Surely, he keeps tabs on Cobblepot’s operations. Surely, he would have noted the entry into Gotham of criminals like the Sisters Su. Even if Jason managed to take over Ozzy’s operations in a matter of days, it seems to me that Bats would have gotten wind of it. At any rate, that’s not a huge bother, and even if it’s a plot hole, it’s an easy enough hole to overlook.

Stephen Segovia’s visual storytelling is very good, as it is most of the time. Aesthetically, I like his stuff much more here than I did when he showed up in Justice League recently. I attribute much of that to Rex Lokus’s colors, which play the lighting effects quite a bit more subtly than what we saw in JL. I Also think Segovia’s work tends to be stronger on his initial outing in an arc, when he has (presumably) had a little bit of extra time to finish his pages. This was certainly true in Justice League and, before that, his brief stint on Detective Comics (during James Robinson’s post-Tynion fill-in story).

All-told, this is a leap in the right direction, and I’m grateful for it. Red Hood is compelling again, and I’m already waiting for the next one.

Recommended if…

  • You don’t always like Jason Todd, but when you do, he’s in Gotham.
  • Sorry, that’s the best I’ve got.
  • But seriously, get the book.

Overall

Red Hood: Outlaw #32 feels like a fresh start for this series. It doesn’t abandon what Lobdell has built these past few years; but, in leaving the distractions of the past few months behind, it allows the central drama—both in this run and in Jason Todd’s character overall—to come back into the forefront. Segovia is an able partner, particularly with Lokus’s quality color work, and this book once again feels like a bargain in quality when compared to other options on the rack.

SCORE: 8.5/10


DISCLAIMER: Batman News received an advance copy of this comic for the purpose of review.