Red Hood and the Outlaws Annual #2 – Scott Lobdell, Writer; Clayton Henry, Artist; Neil Googe, Penciller; Wade Von Grawbadger, Inker; Marcelo Maiolo, Colorist
Ray – 7/10
Ray: Red Hood and the Outlaws has always been an odd mixed bag of a book. It has some of the best Jason Todd characterization around, and his friendship with some of his partners feels genuine. However, there keeps on being weird false notes relating to other characters, and plenty of Scott Lobdell’s signature flourishes drag the book down. This issue takes place right after Jason got beaten within an inch of his life by Batman for trying to kill the Penguin, and was rescued by Roy Harper. Well, not exactly just after – the issue reveals that Jason was injured so badly that he couldn’t get out of bed for a month, and he still can’t fully use one arm. Batman was basically trying to cripple his son, in a way he’s never brutally beaten even Joker or Riddler. That’s a deeply disturbing touch that makes Batman look like a horrible person, and it calls everything else in the issue into question. That’s too bad, because buried under that is a pretty strong story about the bond Roy and Jason have built over the years. Roy, along with Jason, may be the character Lobdell writes best. His bond with his sponsor, Killer Croc, in particular is a nice touch that gets revisited here.
The plot, or what passes for it, is pretty think. Jason and Roy decide to head to Beijing to follow up on an old case. That case involves their old nemesis Susie Su, the morbidly obese crimelord who swore revenge on them. Now she’s dying in a hospital bed from liver failure, but the boys are still investigating their connection to a tainted drug shipment. They get ambushed by her sisters – a band of stereotypical ninja “Bad girls” who are the exact opposite of Susie Su in appearance. Action and some mildly crude jokes ensue. But this is all in service of Jason and Roy bonding, talking about their mutual issues, and saying goodbye as Roy heads to rehab at Sanctuary and Jason heads out on the open road. To be clear, this issue couldn’t telegraph Roy’s likely upcoming death in Heroes in Crisis harder if it had him talking about being three days from retirement and showing everyone pictures of his pregnant wife. The short backup, showing Artemis and Bizarro landing in some sort of post-apocalyptic parallel universe where the hall of Justice is overrun by crystals, is intriguing. This issue does have a lot going for it, but it’s held back by obvious foreshadowing and a horrifically abusive version of Batman.
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GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.