Batman: White Knight Presents: Red Hood #1 review

Batman: White Knight Presents: Red Hood is a two issue story that gives background on the White Knight version of Jason Todd and his life between the time he spent as Robin and his return as Red Hood. It also acts as a fill in story for the month break in Beyond the White Knight’s release schedule. So the question is two-fold. Is it good on its own, and does it make a meaningful addition to the White Knight saga?

I generally enjoy the Murphyverse. While it’s far from my favorite interpretation of Batman, it is consistently entertaining and fresh. The idea of Jason Todd being the first robin, despite being a mistake initially, is pretty great in my opinion. It completely recontextualizes the entire world and for me is one of the defining features of this continuity. I am also always interested to read more Jason Todd stories. Despite how much has been written about him in the last fifteen years he has always lacked a direction and had limited growth. In other words, he is rarely used to his full potential and I am up for a new writer to take a crack at him.

Is this a successful comic though? I’d have to say yes. There is a lot to like here. First off, it’s only two issues. I love that. During Curse of the White Knight, the Von Freeze one shot played a similar role and it’s probably my favorite comic to come out of Murphy’s world. I’m a sucker for a well told one-to-two issue story. I do still have to say, in the case of Red Hood, I worry that they have compressed the story a little too much. Three issues might have been perfect. Despite my love for the shorter stories, it’s also important to know how much space you need to serve your narrative. Here, I just wish there was a little bit more room for the mundane. This issue is quite the flurry of action.

So, let’s address this new Robin (Gan) that Jason is training. I like her quite a bit! She could almost be this universe’s Stephanie Brown (one of my favorite characters). She has that same plucky energy and slight edge of incompetence (or maybe you could call it DIY energy?) that makes Steph so endearing.

I don’t really have much to complain about with the writing. This isn’t an incredible comic that is deep or emotionally affecting but it does know what it wants and gets the job done. It remains fun and energetic all the way through and sometimes that’s all you need. The opening flashback may have gone on too long, but in the grand scheme of things that’s a minor bother.

My main complaint is the art. As far as rendering goes it’s pretty nice. It isn’t on the level of Murphy, Matteo Scalera, or Klaus Janson’s past work in this world, but certainly pretty enough to look at.  The real problem here is the sequential storytelling (perhaps the most important part of an artist’s job) is not great. There were far too many moments where I had to back track and try to figure out what happened. This is the worst example:

This is supposed to be Gan hitting Jason with a bike. The only reason I know that is because on the next page he says “…did you just hit me with a ten-speed?” as she sits atop it. I wouldn’t be surprised if that line was added once the art was in to try and clarify the interaction.

Look how his dialogue comes from off panel…

But back to the previous page, Jason’s reaction is not consistent with what is happening. The shots are far too close up to see context. It also comes out of nowhere. How do we get from him talking to the robber to being hit with the bike? This lack of clarity is a consistent problem here. I also find a lot of the panel compositions to be messy.

All these angles and tight shots result in a jumbled mess. This is an artist who has the drawing part down but needs to work on their storytelling.

One last thing…

Did you realize Dave Stewart colored this comic? I did multiple double takes at that. Stewart is an incredible colorist but his work here is very poor. Everything is very flat and dull looking. The shadows are very simple and overemphasized. It detracts from the art. Better coloring could seriously help some of the clarity issues. I realize I’m being harsh but it’s because I know what he is truly capable of and his work is shockingly the weakest link in this issue. All I can think is that he was trying to adapt his style to the line work and was unsuccessful. You can’t win ’em all.

Recommended if…

  • You’re looking for a fun, carefree comic
  • An expansion of the Murphyverse is of interest
  • Jason Todd is your man

Overall

This is good. As spinoffs go the White Knight universe has a great track record and I don’t see this as the one that changes that. The art problems are the main piece holding the comic back but it’s not enough to be a deal breaker. For fans of White Knight, this is definitely worth your time. Even if you aren’t, I think it stands alone well enough to be an enjoyable read.

Score: 7.5/10


Disclaimer: DC Comics provided a copy of this issue for the purpose of this review.