This month’s issue of Red Hood continues the Outlaws their fight against the Untitled as they’ve secretly infected hundreds of people in Qurac and are now attacking the city. To complicate matters, Essence has possessed the body of Jason’s on and off girlfriend Isabel and doesn’t seem to be on anyone’s side!
I’m going to be blunt, I did not enjoy this issue. It’s too busy and trying to do too much in one issue that also feels like it went by in a snap. When I reached the end I sat there staring at the page thinking ‘wait, that’s it?’ And not in the way you do when you want more of something, but in a disappointed “why did I waste my time on this” way. Which is really frustrating to me, because I honestly want to enjoy reading this book. I like Jason Todd, and I love the original dynamic he, Artemis, and Bizzaro had at the start of this series, and I miss that. I miss this book feeling like it was going somewhere, instead of either treading water or diving back into concepts from the New 52 run that did not work.
The book mostly deals with Jason, Bizzaro, and Artemis fighting the Unknown and Essence. The majority of this is fighting. There’s some flashbacks included, conversations, and a surprise appearance as well. In addition, Lobdell devotes a few pages to checking in with Ma Gunn and Generation Outlaw, which while nice, also felt like it didn’t fit with the tone of the story. And that’s one of my big problems with this particular story, it feels very fractured. While I enjoy checking in with Generation Outlaw, I don’t feel like they added to the plot and the tone of what’s going on everywhere else. And while Artemis’s portion starts out tied with the Untitled plot it takes a swift dive into something else close to the end. It’s like I’m reading a book that has three vastly different stories stitched together.
Let’s actually talk about Artemis’s section. It continues her fight with Essence that started last issue. Essence here is actually kind of interesting. The two women are fairly matched as they fight, so she uses a few tricks to gain the upper hand, like reminding Artemis of her past mistakes, and dropping the surprise that she’s possessed Isabel. My problem with her is really that she insists on not believing anything Artemis is saying, and is intent on thinking Jason’s at fault for everything going on. It’s been a while since I read the last arc with Essence in it, but I remember being similarly frustrated. If she’s so on the side of good, or at least the side of trying to save the world, then why does she seem to keep blaming Jason for everything? This particular frustration might come from the fact that I never finished reading the New 52 Red Hood and the Outlaws series, but at the same time the issue opens up with a flashback that points to Jason putting himself in harms way to save her so I’ll hold out on my judgement against her until the arc is a little more fleshed out.
As for Artemis herself, I felt like she took a bit of a backseat to Essence here. She’s fine, but none of this is much we’ve seen before, and honestly I’m a little surprised she doesn’t comment about the danger Isabel might or might not be in once she knows that the woman is sharing her body with Essence. That said, the most surprising part about this section is that Artemis’s missing weapon Mistress is brought back up again.
If adding the missing Mistress plot element wasn’t enough, instead of showing up as a weapon Mistress shows up as a person! This is just a little too much for me. Why do we need to suddenly re-introduce the plot point of what happened to Mistress, especially with having her show up as a physical being? It’s just–I don’t even know how to proccess this in the face of everything else going on in this arc. I’d really thought this was going to be a story all on its own. With Artemis and Bizzaro having been gone for such a long time, I think it’s only fitting that they each get dedicated arcs soon, instead of having important character moments shoehorned into an arc that’s most definitely about Jason.
If adding the missing Mistress plot element wasn’t enough, instead of showing up as a weapon Mistress shows up as a person!
This is just a little too much for me. Why do we need to suddenly re-introduce the plot point of what happened to Mistress, especially with having her show up as a physical being? It’s just–I don’t even know how to proccess this in the face of everything else going on in this arc. I’d really thought this was going to be a story all on its own. With Artemis and Bizzaro having been gone for such a long time, I think it’s only fitting that they each get dedicated arcs soon, instead of having important character moments shoehorned into an arc that’s most definitely about Jason.
This is an element I really didn’t care for, both in it’s execution and in the fact that it further fractures the plot. Now we have Jason doing his thing, Artemis dealing with two different things, and an increased focus on Generation Outlaw? This is starting to resemble one of those milkshakes that someone piled a slice of cake on top of– too complicated and a mess to deal with.
So, what about Jason? He and his connection to the All Caste and Untitled are what’s driving this arc, but to where exactly? We’re three issues into this story and I’m still not sure what the point of any of this is. Sure the Untitled are bad, but what’s their goal? Why are they doing what they’re doing? What are the obelisks for? Why are they even a thing? I’m still wondering all of these things. Even when the leader of the Untitled appears, he and the others stand around and wait for something to happen instead of giving us some idea of what’s going on. I’m not kidding, he lashes out and then everything just stops. I never thought I’d be asking for a villain monologue, but I’d love to have one of those about now, just for some grounding.
The whole plot feels action heavy and story light, which makes it hard to get invested. Maybe it would have worked better if the Outlaws were in Gotham or focused on characters we’re familiar with, but moving them across the world and pairing them with General Glory does little to endear me to what’s going on. It’s all new, with not enough time to really get to know anyone. We only spent an issue with the General and in the city before the attack started, so I don’t know these characters, I don’t know this city, and in turn I don’t care about them. Lobdell attempted to create a connection through Jason and the people’s desire for a better future, but again it feels superficial. There’s not a lot of time devoted to it, and in this issue Jason only gives that a passing thought this issue before things turn to chaos.
I don’t even feel connected to the characters I do know and love. Especially Jason. I don’t really care for All Caste story line, but I think this one is really pointing out a bigger problem I have with his character, and that’s the fact that Lobdell doesn’t seem to know what he wants Jason to be. In this title alone Jason’s been a: hero, outlaw, casino owner, teacher, and chosen one. He’s always jumping from one thing to another and there doesn’t seem to be a goal with any of it. It feels like a series of cool ideas strung together with little thought in what kind of character that makes (or what kind of reading experience it creates). This kind of writing means Jason never has time to develop into anything more than a wisecrack. And when I’m presented with a story where he’s supposed to feel bad about not fulfilling his “destiny” I don’t believe it. How am I supposed to when his time with the All Caste is something that’s only brought up periodically? If this is a character decision that Lobdell wants to make for Jason then it needs to be something woven through the narrative. Make it into a conflict. Have Jason try to outrun it, or reconcile himself to it, or even just have Artemis suggest he use the All Blades when he runs out of bullets. Something to keep it in the mind of the reader. It’s just frustrating to see a character I enjoy spin in circles like this.
The one bright shining star to this issue is Pantalena’s work on the art. He really gets to go all out on the fight scenes here and I do really enjoy how he draws the Untitled. They are creepy, scary, and downright terrifying with all their strange appendages and ghastly teeth. While there is a lot of chaos going on in the fights, he does a great job of keeping you focused on the right characters through good centering, use of panels to lead the eye, and enough white space around whoever we should be paying attention to. A great example of this is when the General reveals he’s been attacked, we follow the page from Bizzaro’s ice breath, down to a smaller panel, and then are pointed directly at the General for the reveal. It’s a great story just in the art alone.
As for the ending, it’s topped off with the obelisks that Jason and the others were searching for actually showing up. Though, I can’t say I feel like their appearance gave me any real answers. Instead the story kicks into a higher gear and ups both the action and craziness by having them basically destroy the center of the city and open up a huge portal. It’s loud, it’s big, and I want to be excited for what’s coming next, but I’m not. I’m instead ready for this arc to wrap up and the story to move on to other things.
- You like extended fight scenes
- You enjoy the All Caste story line
- Magic, monsters, and mayhem is your cup of tea
This month Red Hood: Outlaw was a miss for me. I don’t mind an issue that’s all action when it’s done well, but here it only seemed to frustrate me and point out other flaws in the story. The book has too much going on and also doesn’t seem to move forward very far at all even with plenty of opportunities to do so. Usually I can find joy in the characters, but I didn’t even find that here. There’s a point where being loud and bombastic actually gets boring, and this issue of Red Hood felt that way.
DISCLAIMER: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.