The Penguin’s out, but that’s not Red Hood’s only problem. Willis Todd’s Prince of Gotham has enemies galore, and not all of them end up driving his car or guarding his casino. Some of them…KILL. Or, at least, they try. In Red Hood: Outlaw #35.

My favorite part was the first page

I’m still struck when I think back to Red Hood and the Outlaws #23. In case you’ve forgotten, that was the issue where we found out what happened to Willis Todd, Jason’s father. It’s what set Jason off on the Penguin, which is ultimately why we are where we are in the story today.

The first page of Red Hood: Outlaw #35 harkens back to that very special issue, but then…then things just go back, largely, to status quo. Wingman asks Jason the questions all of us have been asking, but the answer is not very satisfying. Jason and Susie Su have a moment of mild tension that diffuses without much of anything. Yes, we also get a battle between Jason and Essence (of the All-Caste), but even that fits in with the general format we’ve seen most of the time in recent months.

It still feels like we’re treading water. I’m sure that plays right into the folks running guessing games about Event Leviathan, but for someone who’s enjoyed the Red Hood book a lot since Rebirth, and still at least enjoyed it “some” when not “a lot,” this sort of aimless wandering through ‘Merica and Gotham makes me long for the good ole days with Bizarro and Artemis.

While the dialogue is mostly just fine, there are a few cringeworthy lines. And when Jason defeats Essence, the magical science he describes doesn’t actually check out. Her weapon—the Blood Blade—is enchanted such that if she uses it to “draw the blood of the innocent,” she will be trapped in it forever. So Jason lets her stab him, and then she gets trapped. His explanation? She made the mistake of thinking him evil, when he is in fact neither evil nor good.

But here’s the problem: you can be merely “practical as hell,” and yet still not be innocent. The Red Hood doesn’t have to be a bad guy to have dirty hands. And the effectiveness of the enchantment should not depend on Jason’s own flawed self-evaluation.

One big battle

The best thing this one has going for it is the artwork. Woods’s storytelling is very good in general, but he’s especially fun when it comes to fight scenes—which is where I think his aesthetic works best, as well.

The showdown with Essence is nice and long, and while the dialogue leaves me cold at times throughout, Woods and Lokus give plenty of value to make up for it. Part of it is just plain fun action, but there are really cool flourishes, as well, like the dragon avatar that springs forth from Essence’s Blood Blade.

The layouts serve this scene really well, too. I tend to prefer more conventional panels, but the tilting and skewing here heighten the physical drama and—at least in my experience—helps the scene flow from panel to panel with a bit of urgency—the panels themselves at times seem in-motion, and my eye is compelled to follow their arc.

Bring an umbrella

Once the fight is done, it’s time for Jason to go back to the lounge and learn of Bunker’s massive failure. There isn’t much that actually happens, but to Lobdell’s credit, ending with the Penguin makes me much more eager to read the next one than if I had just stopped after the battle with Essence. Hopefully this means we’ll get out of the rut in the next issue, too—we’ll have to wait and see.

Recommended if…

  • You’re a Toddler till the end
  • You dig exciting fight scenes—Woods brings the goods
  • You’ve been waiting for the Penguin to make the transition back from victim to murderous bastard

Overall

Like most of this title’s issues of late, Red Hood: Outlaw #35 feels like treading water. There’s a visually exciting battle, and a promising final page, but if things don’t start picking up soon, I might lose faith.

SCORE: 6/10


DISCLAIMER: Batman News received an advance copy of this book for review