I’ve been looking forward to issue #51 of Red Hood for a while now. The appeal of seeing a new creative team take over the title was exciting enough, and now that I’ve read it I cannot wait to see where it goes.
This issue works best in how it sets up the series going forward. There is a lot packed into the book, and while almost except Jason feels very new to me none of it feels boring or exposition heavy. Shawn Martinbrough does a great job of doling out new information, tying it loosely into current continuity, and getting both readers and Jason acquainted with The Hill and its inhabitants.
The story opens with a quick set up to the conflict we’ll see going forward in this arc. We are introduced to The Hill, one of Gotham’s many neighborhoods and told that while there has been an uptick in crime, it fared pretty well in the wake of Joker’s War. Almost immediately after we are also introduced to both our new heroes and villains. The action is nice, the character designs are interesting, and altogether lays a good foundation for what comes later.
Martinbrough moves on to introducing Jason next, and beyond learning about some of his old acquaintances and that he’s in desperate need of a break we don’t find out a lot about why Jason’s back in town or what his plans are, and honestly I don’t mind that being the extent of it. There’s enough details scattered through that tell me Martinbrough has a plan for Jason and I trust the narrative to give those details as I need them. I’m also a fan of Akin’s take on Jason’s design. He draws him young, but not too young, he’s built like a vigilante and looks tired enough it makes sense he’s back in The Hill for a temporary break from everything. He’s weathered, and I think it fits for the current narrative.
A lot of this issue is devoted to getting us familiar with the new characters, specifically the new villains and the neighborhood watch. They’re both a diverse cast of characters, and an interesting one. The “neighborhood watch” vigilantes introduced are people who banded together to protect The Hill during the Joker War, but it looks like they’ve stuck around to deal with a new crew of guys trying to take over. The idea of introducing a neighborhood watch full of ad hoc vigilantes isn’t the newest of ideas, but I like the way it’s presented here. These people had to stand up and protect their part of town during a crazy event, and yes the “pros” can’t always be there. It’ll be interesting to see how they develop as Red Hood eventually gets involved with things.
Tony Akins is on pencils here and does a great job with the character designs. His designs for the watch and the crew they’re up against are really solid. The watch members are all dressed in what you might expect civilians to dig out as protective gear, it’s a lot of sports wear, with helmets, padding, and jerseys. Nothing about them feels overdone or unbelievable, but they equally look organized.
The villains are just as cool, and actually get quite a bit more screen time than anyone else. There’s a number of them, and it’s made clear that this isn’t just one gang or organization, but multiple parties at play who clash as often as they work together, and everyone has their own motivations. Together they make a really interesting mix of what looks like street crime, fashion, and personal grudges. I’m not kidding about fashion either, there’s a whole thing about villain themed shoes, jackets, and all sorts of clothing, the sales of which are being used to help fund these criminals looking to achieve their goals. I’m interested to see how these dynamics change and grow over the arc, especially since by the end things are already coming to a bit of a head.
There is a downside to introducing a book full of new characters, which is the fact that we as readers don’t have a lot of knowledge to base assumptions and relationships off of, and need to wait on all that to be doled out. That’s not always bad, in fact I enjoy how even with all the newness the story doesn’t feel overwhelmed with exposition. However, it does create some questions. This is most evident in Jason’s closet relationship we learn of here, with Dana Harlow. Jason has known Dana for a long time, at least 12 years since that’s how long she’s been looking after his place for. This is where I have to take issue with things. 12 years ago Jason was a kid, a teen at most, and him owning anything at that age, and convincing someone else to look over it for that long is a little improbable to say the least. Even being the son of Bruce Wayne. Especially since he died. I get that this is a lot of set dressing to give Jason a reason to live at The Hill and know these characters, and it is just Martinbrough’s first issue on Red Hood, so I’m hoping we’ll get some more info on their backstory soon enough, but it’s just one of those things that sat at the back of my head the whole time I was reading.
In general though, the issue does a good job balancing these characters and the introduction of the block itself. Akins again does a great job with the physical details here by giving the The Hill a distinct feeling all it’s own. It’s part of Gotham, but also separate, being ‘just a few minutes outside of downtown’. It’s not all skyscrapers, but those are visible every now and then to remind us where we’re located. It also feels lived in with shops, parks, and a constant stream of characters in the background.
Paul Mounts is on colors and keeps the scheme mostly muted, but there’s a few places it brightens up and feels really warm, which makes those scenes pop. This happens specifically while Jason’s catching up with Dana at the park, it’s sunset and the colors here are gorgeous. The sun highlights Dana, strollers and trees are bright, and the whole thing feels like the warm welcome Jason needs.
Even with all the introduction, the plot moves steadily forward so that by the end there’s some real excitement brewing. Red Hood meets one of the members of the watch, and some of the bad guys start moving against each other in a way that can only be described as explosive. It’s a strong ending that leaves you ready for the next installment.
- Fresh start, new team, new characters? Sign me up
- Jason’s back in Gotham!
- You’re ready for a new Red Hood adventure
I’d say Red Hood is off to a strong start. The new creative team does a great job introducing readers to a whole new cast of characters and a new part of Gotham while also managing to keep the action up and the plot moving at a good pace. There’s a lot packed into this one, but it all flows together well, and I’m excited to see where the story moves from here. If you’ve been waiting on something fresh with Jason, I’d say give this one a shot.
DISCLAIMER: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.