Red Hood: Outlaw #43 review

The Outlaws are back together, the super-villain school is in the hands of Ma Gunn, and Jason and Artemis have at least talked about the kiss they shared. All this leaves the Outlaws freed up for some adventure, and what better way to get that started than with zombies, swords, and magic? 

If you’ve been looking for an issue to jump back into Red Hood now that Artemis and Bizzaro are back, this is the place to start. Is it a great issue that’s going to knock your socks off? No. But it is a rather interesting start to a new arc, and has managed to capture some of how the Outlaws felt before most of the team was swept away and across dimensions. 

Something I’ve always enjoyed about Red Hood it’s the relationships between Jason, Artemis, and Bizzaro. They work well together with each one bringing their own skills and type of humor into the mix, and you can tell they like and care about the well being of each other. They might be an unlikely group, but they’re a fantastic team all the same, so I’m delighted to see those relationships still strong in this issue. There are differences, like Artemis and Bizzaro being closer after their time away, but that doesn’t keep them from falling easily back into old banter. You can also tell how happy Jason is to have them back, he notes how lonely he was without them, and easily praises each character –even if in his own internal monologue– in an affectionate way. 

As for the story itself, there is a lot going on this issue, so much so it would be easy for it to fall into feeling busy, but generally it doesn’t. Lobdell works to answer a few questions from the previous issue and get the arc’s details and key players set up over the course of the issue and balances them all well. The main narrative focuses on Jason, Artemis, and Bizzaro as they’re investigating an anonymous tip about dangerous and possibly cursed materials being shipped on a train. They tangle with a couple girls protecting the cargo, find out that yes magic is at play, and run into their tipster: General Glory. All in all, it’s a fairly interesting set up to take the Outlaws off on another adventure. 

The thing about this turn of the plot I’m most hesitant about is the return of Jason’s affinity for magic and the All-Blades. It looks like this arc is going to focus on the Untitled, the All Caste, and the All-Blades. If I’m going to be honest I’m not the biggest fan of Jason dealing with magic and the mystical aspects of the All Caste. I love magic and fantasy, and I’m thoroughly enjoying titles like Justice League Dark, but magic and Jason have never seemed to fit for me, no matter how often they’ve come together. Especially this idea of Jason being ‘the only special person who can wield the All-Blades, even though he’s human and shouldn’t be able to’. It’s just a stretch, and it fights against my internal idea of Jason and the other Batfamily members as being normal. They’re tacticians and incredible fighters, but more than anything they’re regular people, who don’t have powers and still choose to help. Still, I am interested in the idea of the Unknown turning people into what amounts to zombies, so we’ll see where the story goes from here. 

Between the focus on the Outlaws, Lobdell also answers a few questions I still had from the last issue. He checks back in with Suzy Su to explain the break in that happened at the Iceberg Lounge in a satisfying way. He also touches on what exactly is being done with the students Jason took under his wing. Something I wasn’t expecting to run into when I started reviewing Red Hood was how often my knowledge of DC comics characters would be tested. This issue has really challenged my memory of characters, from General Glory to the onslaught of villains Ma Gunn interviews for an open teaching position at the school. Unlike General Glory these characters are more familiar. Ma interviews just about everyone from Talon to Giganta to Monsieur Mallah and the Brain. It’s a fun little sequence, and more than that I appreciate the fact that the kids haven’t just been abandoned altogether for a new story. 

There is one more character Lobdell re-introduces in this issue, and their reintroduction ties both into why the Iceberg Lounge was attacked and the bigger plot that Lobdell seems to be building to this arc. 

Spoiler

Essence escapes the sword Jason trapped her in, by possessing Isabel. I had totally forgotten that Jason had stored the sword at the Iceberg Lounge when reading last month’s issue, though I’m sure most of you picked up on this long before I did. With her on the cover, and the last page of the book, I’m certain Essence will be important to the plot of this arc, so I don’t see her inclusion as something that might further clutter the plot.

What I am bothered by is the fact that I feel like I need to remember just about every detail of things that have happened over the course of this series. I know I’ve complained before about Lobdell’s tendency to be self-referential and make all kinds of callbacks, and this is just another one of those places it bothers me. Normally I’m happy to have some continuity continue through a title, and it’s nice to use characters that have been previously introduced, and even to return to old plots. But there is a point where I feel stories can –and should– end, and some things don’t have to be revisited every 5-10 issues. There are times I enjoy a nice surprise return, and times it just frustrates me. What I’m getting at here, is that there needs to be more balance between once off plots and elements that will return often, and I think Red Hood falls into the pit of returning to too many things too often.

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Christopher Williams covers pencils this issue, with Scott Hanna on inks and they do a good job featuring the assortment of characters in this issue. Williams draws a truly terrifying Untitled as it has possessed two girls, that eventually becomes disgusting goop and Hanna does an amazing job of inking in all the detailed lines on the monster as it terrorizes Jason and the gang.

The explosion and post-explosion scene of the monster is also quite funny with both the characters expressions and Troy Peteri’s big bold SPLOTCH sound effect. 

There is one inconsistency that really bothered me while reading, and that’s Jason’s mask. There are moments his lenses are red, then some where it’s faded out a bit, and others where the mask seems to be completely lacking lenses of any kind. I know that masks and lenses have been used a number of ways in the past, from having lenses being retractable, to changing color, and do all kinds of other fun things, but with no explanation for the inconsistency I was instead left confused and searching for a reason. 

This arc sets up a number of things that have me both intrigued and not quite dreading what is to come. I wasn’t the biggest fan of Jason’s last brush with magic, or how it was resolved, and to see that coming up again in this arc gives me trepidation. Still, I’m also interested to see where Lobdell takes the Untitled and how he has the Outlaws deal with the threat. More than anything, I’m happy to have the Outlaws back working as a team together, and hopefully some of my favorite aspects of this run’s earlier arcs come back into play. 

Recommended If

  • Jason dealing with All Caste magic and the Untitled is your cup of tea
  • The Outlaws fully back in action is something you’ve been waiting on
  • You don’t mind a number of plots going on at once

Overall

This arc starts out on some solid notes, and sets up quite the mystery for Jason and the Outlaws to tackle in future issues. Lobdell juggles a few plots here, including still taking some time to focus on the kids Jason took in during the last arc. While the issue feels like it’s playing things a little safe with the reintroduction of old plots and characters, it’s still enjoyable and funny, especially with the return of Artemis and Bizzaro.

Rating: 6/10


DISCLAIMER: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.