This month Red Hood: Outlaw steps away from it’s main story to cross over with what’s going on in Batman during the Joker War. It features Jason alone as he joins the fight to take the city back from Joker.
I’m always surprised when books totally change what they’ve been doing to fit into an event, it can be a bit jarring and interrupt the flow of the story if a title is in the middle of an arc. That said, in this case, I don’t think it’s a bad thing because honestly it’d be really hard to have this title crossover with Batman in any other way based on the current arc. I also think it does it in a creative way, showing a sliver of the Chamber of All’s events faded out in sepia and torn, indicating we’ve stepped away from the main story and into this one. It’s a nice visual cue that the title is temporarily stepping away from what it was doing to tell this side story.
Jason is the only Outlaw in this issue, and the narrative focuses on his attempt to help deal with the mess that Gotham has turned into now that Joker is running things. The first half of the issue focuses on Jason taking out a large group of clowns. To do this, he lures them into Ma Gunn’s old School for Wayward Boys. His plan is to get as many there as possible, then use the self destruct on the building to take as many out as possible. Interspersed through this is a flashback to Jason’s childhood that recount his early days getting to know Bruce.
I like the flashback for a couple reasons. The first is that I always enjoy seeing their early relationship explored, especially when it’s painted in a positive light. It also works to illustrate Jason’s complicated relationship with his mentor. I really love the way the art team decided to do this flashback. Booth’s Bruce Wayne is charismatic and bright, and his young Jason is full of youth and life. The images are in black and white, with red as the only other color, used to emphasize a few details here and there. I’m the first to admit I do love this technique in general, because it helps draw the eye across the page, or highlight interesting things to note, like Jason’s shirt that hilariously says Batman Sux. The flashback is a fun scene, and hands down my favorite moment in this issue.
Beyond the flashback, Booth’s art works well to detail all the action in this issue. IHe draws a cool Jason, comfortable in his surroundings as he battles both a hoard of Joker goons. Through it, Prianto’s colors are vibrant and well balanced, and match each setting well, changing as Jason moves from city to a building lit by fire, and then the dimmer moon lit attic. Generally the whole look of the book is clean and quite a bit of fun to read through.
The second half still takes place in the school, but features Jason attempting to rescue the Duela Dent, aka the Joker’s Daughter. She’s being held in the attic by Punchline and a brainwashed Dick Grayson. I’ll go on record as saying I’m not a fan of Punchline, so far I’ve seen nothing from her that makes me want to like the character. So I really appreciated Jason’s general response to her, as she’s trying to introduce herself, and monologue and Jason cut’s her off to both announce he doesn’t care and dive straight into the fight. Me too, Jason, me too.
It’s really Dick that Jason ends up fighting in this portion of the book, though he’s unaware of it for the entirety of the fight. Dick wears a mask up until the very end, but it’s not hard to tell who he is from the start, especially if you’ve been reading any of the other Joker War tie in books. It’s also broadcast loud and clear on the cover. I don’t think it’s meant to be a surprise to readers, but a device used to obscure him from Jason in order to make sure events line up with the end of Nightwing # 73. It could also be seen as a subtle jab at him by Joker, since it’s his voice coming from the mask to jeer and taunt Jason during the fight. It’s really not my favorite aspect of the book, since I’m not a fan of Punchline or Joker and very little of what’s said feels new.
It’s this section where some of the story falls apart for me. The whole face off against Dick and Punchline relies on Jason being in the right place, so they can lure him, fight him, and trick him based on the building exploding. Joker’s goons even seem to be in on the plan, telling him they’ll “move in when he [Jason] has stopped”. Only, no one lured Jason to the school, and even if they all left for the building the moment Jason stopped there, I just don’t really see Punchline having time to somehow get Duela upstairs without running into Jason. Even imagining that they didn’t notice each other, Punchline also knows about the building’s self-destruct option which is a key part of her endgame in keeping him from rescuing Duela. How does she know about this, especially not knowing where Jason was going? On a first read everything seems to track, but if you go back over it, some of these pieces just don’t line up for me.
The ending sets Jason up for his appearance in the next issue of Nightwing. Duela’s involvement points at the next and final arc solicited for the series, which I do find to be a really nice way of pulling her into the story. I was wondering if she would show up out of the blue, and using the Joker War to introduce her was a good move. As a tie in that also helps explain how Jason will show up in Nightwing, I think this issue was successful.
- You’re collecting the Joker War books
- It’s got a nice Bruce and Jason flashback
- Sometimes you just want some solid action
For a book designed to line up with the Joker War event, this was a fun read. Punchline’s plan could have used a little work, and the conversation between Joker and Jason really didn’t do much for me, but generally I enjoyed reading this. Additionally, Lobdell takes the opportunity to give readers another look at Jason and Bruce’s relationship while also lining up some plot elements for later in the series. All in all, if you’ve been reading the Joker War books, this isn’t a bad one to pick up.
DISCLAIMER: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.