Have you ever read something that feels like it should have been three or four issues long, but was shoved into a single book? That’s what reading this issue of Red Hood feels like. As the final issue in Scott Lobdell’s run it should be a send off for the book, and in some instances it does try to be. However it’s bogged down by the fact that it tries to be two stories in one: a send off, and the compressed story of Jason Todd rehabilitating Duela Dent.
The story takes up the number of pages allotted to this super sized issue, and yet it still feels rushed. It follows Jason as he attempts to ‘save’ Duela Dent from going down the same dark road he did. Intermixed with –and sometimes tied in to– this story are scenes designed to wrap up some remaining loose ends in the run. Since the issue tries to do both of these things, it doesn’t really have the time to flesh out either.
Duela’s story focuses mostly on Jason helping her recover and find her way in the world. The story opens on her rescue. We aren’t really told how Jason finds out she didn’t die in issue #48 or how he found her just that he did. The ‘rescue’ scene is also left me lost. The Outlaws dive into a portal in a mountain that is somehow above Gotham? And inside they beat up some bad guys and find her in a hospital bed. I have no idea who had her, why, how that ties in with Punchline or anything. In fact, the entire scene makes me feel like I missed at least one issue that should have focused on what happened. This is the first, of a number of scenes designed to show Duela’s progress, and while the others are much clearer this is a rough way to start out the book.
I don’t mind the idea of Jason rehabilitating someone, but I’m not a fan of the choice of who. Duela has not featured in this run beyond her appearance in the Joker War crossover. So those who have only read Rebirth’s Red Hood won’t have any real backstory regarding her, or see any reason for Jason to really care. Suddenly making her the center of the final issue in the run doesn’t feel like the right choice to me. Lobdell is obviously trying to show Jason’s growth through him helping her, but the analogy has a hard time landing when this character has had no impact on the run at all, even if the story tells us she’s important and Jason is the only person she has. In order to be more successful, this should have been an arc at least. To show finding her, the rescue, and the rehabilitation, and connect readers with their relationship. Instead all of that is compressed into thirty something pages, and it just doesn’t work for me.
There are some genuinely nice moments where he pushes her to be stronger, uses his own story to make a point, and allows her to make her own decisions with what he’s given her. She’s even helped out by Pup Pup’s inspirational words here and there. I liked these, but again, my lack of connection with her kind of takes away from that feeling a little bit.
It’s the way Lobdell chooses to tie up loose ends that really frustrate me. Many are choppy partial scenes that feel untethered, missing a beginning, or included just to call back to an idea. I don’t mind the call backs so much, since this is Lobdell’s send off issue, but the other problems really take away from the title.
The first is the way Generation Outlaw is handled. It’s very rushed, and it feels like Lobdell just forgot to finish off their story, and remembered in time for this issue. Jason, for some reason, doesn’t know that Ma Gunn has hired Monsier Mallah and The Brain as teachers for Generation Outlaw. He missed this detail even though he has spent the night at the house with them in it, training the kids. So he’s surprised the next morning to find Mallah yelling at them. He defends them, announces he won’t give up his responsibility to the kids, and then immediately…gives up his responsibility to the kids. It’s baffling, and it’s such a sharp turn I feel like I got whiplash reading it. I had a lot of hope for Generation Outlaw, and I’m honestly really sad to see it so squandered this way.
The other thing that really bothers me is the lack of consistency regarding Jason’s relationships. In the last arc we saw him tell Isabelle that he loved her, and yet here he’s very obviously started a relationship with Artemis. Did Lobdell just forget that Jason was in a relationship already? Or was he counting on us to? It’s irritating and makes the relationship with Artemis feel rushed as well. Yes, Lobdell has indicated that they’re into each other, but the way it’s handled here again points to this being something that should have taken place over a few more issues instead of being dropped in our laps. I know the story doesn’t have those issues left, but I’d rather not see it happen than see it compressed and rushed.
Pantalena does a great job with character’s expressions through the issue. Duela is in a Joker mask most of the story, and even with the majority of her face hidden behind that he’s able to show a vast range of emotions through her eyes and mouth. When just expression’s won’t cut it, like during her “epiphany” scene he does a great job of showing things through the rest of the art in the panel, like shattered glass reflecting memories and the scene around her.
By the time this issue ends, Jason has taken care of all his loose ends, and has once again found himself on his own ready for his next great adventure. While I’m not sure how successful the overall issue was, I do think it did create a sense of completion in Jason’s story through Lobdell’s eyes, and left things open enough for others to revisit if they wanted to, or for Jason to move onto other places.
- This is it! The end of one era, and the start of another
- You wanted to see Jason help someone else get their life on track
- Pup Pup shows up, and where there’s a Pup Pup there’s a way
As a send off for this run I was hoping for a little more, not explosions or action, but something that felt really wrapped up. The story does try to do that, and the ending certainly gives one that feeling, but in general it didn’t land for me. Duela’s story reads like a series of Major Scenes that should have been part of arcs, while the loose ends it wraps up feel truncated and lacking real grounding. Together they make a story that reads more like a series of choppy scenes spliced together instead of the victory lap it wants to be.
DISCLAIMER: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.