Last month Martinbrough set in motion his two part arc featuring Jason’s return to Gotham as he settled back into his place in The Hill and reconnected with old friends. Under the homecoming, darker things were brewing as warring factions of gangsters, vigilantes, and even some of Gotham’s rogues were set to go head to head, ending things on a literal bang.
This issue opens right in the heat of things, with Red Hood rescuing Strike from the wreckage of the Godmore sneaker store after it’s been blown up. The story then transitions quickly into focusing on Thomas –now known as Tommy Maxx– as we find out just why he’s betrayed his partner and seemingly declared war on everyone in the Hill.
Where the last issue took it’s time setting things up and really introducing readers to all the new players, this one rushes in head first to pack in as much story as possible. It’s not bad, but I feel like this story could have used a couple more issues to let things breathe, characters build, and really give Martinbrough time to work the narrative so we felt at home with it. There’s a lot of new characters, and as we saw at the end of issue #51 and now in here, lots of different motivations at play. Everyone has a reason to betray their partner, and no one is telling the truth.
What’s more is that the story moves at a pretty fast pace. That’s good and bad for different reasons. Good because this is only two issues, so it needs to move quickly, and on the negative side of things, the pace doesn’t leave a lot of time for breathing room. As it stands, Tommy’s reasons for joining Killer Croc and attacking his ex-partner are laid out just for things to move on to revealing Strike’s identity, and then her own connection to Denise, and eventually moves back into the action that takes up most of the last half of the book.
Even the action feel a bit rushed. It should move fast, but there are a few moments where it feels like the narrative jumps ahead and skips some plot elements. Take for instance the car chase that happens. Red Hood somehow not only figures out that the Watch is chasing Tommy, but also where they’re at in the middle of a car chase. Nowhere in the narrative have we really been given information on him officially teaming up with them. Yes, he saved Strike at the start, but when did they decide to become temporary partners to share knowledge? At the same time, this scene features a tanker has been blown, bad guys being captured, it’s the whole kitchen plus the sink. Everything’s happening at the same time, without enough groundwork laid. It works against building suspense and tension, and instead makes things feel a little clunky.
I get that Martinbrough only had two issues to work with, but boy do I wish he had more, there’s quite a few fun ideas presented in the text and I wouldn’t be sad to see him put out a few more issues just to explore the world he’s created. Plus, all of this needs more time to breathe. Each element is explained and works together well, but I know the story could have more nuance and flavor if it had just an issue or two more to develop. As it stands, we as readers have to roll with a lot of things and while I don’t mind it, I’m just a little disappointed we don’t get more, it’s really nice to see Red Hood focus back in on Gotham’s streets.
That said, the book does a lot of good things. The dynamics between characters are what really have me hooked. Last issue was really focused on the villains, while this time we get to look deeper at Strike, Dana and her sister Denise, and their father. There’s a lot going on here I like. Dana is passionate about justice and taking care of The Hill, even if that means that sometimes people end up hurt, while Denise is equally passionate that vigilantism is dangerous, especially since it cost her dad his leg. Both characters have valid viewpoints, and it’s hard to fault either for feeling the way they do. You can feel the awkward tension especially well in that scene as Jason’s caught in the crossfire between the two women, as little more than an old friend passing through.
Something else I thought was really effective was the way the artists use characters expressions, body language, and paneling here to add depth and insight to what’s going on. There’s two artists on this issue, Tony Akins returns and is joined by Moritat. Paul Mounts colors bring them together well, though their styles are certainly distinct enough to stand out when they switch pages. While I’ve talked a lot about how I wish we had more time to develop the story, it wouldn’t be nearly as effective as it is without both artists work on the characters. Some good examples of this are when Tommy takes off his mask to glare at Denise on the screen, or when Dana is talking about family and the panel shown is a super close shot of her lips. You can feel the tension and the anger in these moments, and read the deeper meaning there
That said there are some moments that feel a little rushed even with two artists. There’s a moment where the diner is shown where the perspective feels off like the restaurant is sunk into the ground. Then, after a car chase where it’s unclear why Jason thinks Strike is going to torture one of the goons they’ve caught, she’s just standing there, not even looking in his direction.
As for Jason, he really does feel like a character viewing all this from the outside. Even when Red Hood intervenes, he’s almost peripheral to the narrative taking place in The Hill. An outsider stepped in for a few moments to make a ripple, but little more than that. And honestly? I don’t mind. I think this story works really well as a look into a part of Gotham that we get to see Red Hood interacting with. It’s nothing groundbreaking for Jason, but it is something that’s been absent in Batman comics for a while, which is a more street level and down to earth view of things. For readers, Jason is the entry point to this world, the familiar in a sea of new and as a short arc it succeeds in introducing us to this story, these characters, and this adventure.
The story does end back on Jason, even as far as it strayed from him, because this is after all a Red Hood title. There are things I like about the ending, and things I’m a little lost on. I know this arc was kind of sold as Jason just passing through the Hill, but it also featured him returning to a flat he supposedly owns, and he’s even seen painting it as if he’s planning to stay. So it’s a little odd of him to say he’s not sticking around. Still, I think it ends on a nice note, and as I’ve said before the arc as a whole works for me.
- A different look at Gotham is always a refreshing sight
- It can be nice to read a two part story every now and then
- You need something a little more grounded and down to Earth right now
While I feel like there were some aspects of this issue that were rushed and made me wish for more time, generally I like the tone of the book and the overall arc we get. It gives a great look at a new part of Gotham, into Gothamites impacted by both external problems and internal struggles, and how Red Hood himself plays into that. I think it’s successful in telling the story it came to tell, which is of The Hill and it’s inhabitants. If you want something a little more focused on Gotham’s people rather than some of the bigger picture problems a lot of books have been tackling lately, look no further.
DISCLAIMER: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.