Arguably the least anticipated book heading into Rebirth was Red Hood & The Outlaws. Readers have been burned on a couple of occasions regarding Scott Lobdell's take on Jason and his allies since Flashpoint and, so it's no surprise they would be less than enthusiastic to see amid the myriad of changes brought by Rebirth Lobdell on a Red Hood remains a constant. Surprisingly though, both this and the Rebirth one-shot have been…good! Red Hood & The Outlaws starts out with a pretty cool flashback to Jason’s time at a boarding school that really wasn’t a boarding school, and perhaps one of his first heroic actions in saving Batman from an old lady.
Fast forward to today, saving that same woman from a bombing, and learning the culprit's identity as Roman Sionis, The Black Mask. After learning all he can about Black Mask, in typical Red Hood style, Jason introduces himself, gaining Roman's respect and position as his right hand man. Part of that includes picking up a package for him. Sounds easy, right? Prepare to be surprised.
This book is an overall solid story, and that in no small part is due to the art. Dexter Soy's interpretation of Jason's classic costume is a big improvement on the once emotive helmet. It just seems more sensible. Likewise, Veronica Gandini does a fantastic job on colors, especially in terms of shadow placement. It adds that little extra bit that makes you linger on pages.
The story does feel a bit too convenient though. For example, the boarding school just happened to be empty due to a licensing issue. Jason just happened to pick tonight to investigate his old boarding school. Roman suddenly trusting the Red Hood with important tasks after about one night of knowing him…it all feels like it’s happening to easily. Seeing Jason do more detective work would really help alleviate this feeling, but it’s a comic book so I can understand this to an extent.
I am enjoying this take on Black Mask. The redesign isn’t terrible, but the images of a gimp that his mask conjures will take some getting used to. The civilized characterization though is a good balance to Jason's more action oriented take. He feels to me what a Gotham crime boss would be without people like The Joker, Mr. Freeze, and Poison Ivy running around and what I think should be the standard of a Gotham-based threat.
Also of note is the introduction to one of the new Outlaws. Artemis makes her debut in the series here, and while short, it certainly has me interested in how she’ll get to know Jason as an ally.
In summation, this is a book a lot of people probably weren’t looking at, but even if you’ve read Red Hood/Arsenal and the original Outlaws series, this is a book worth at least checking out. The potential for an amazing series is quite shocking.
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Red Hood & The Outlaws #1 Writer: Scott Lobdell Artist: Dexter Soy Publisher: DC Comics Price: $2.99 Format: Ongoing; Print, Digital