Red Hood and the Outlaws #25 - Review. Crashed Into You
Red Hood and the Outlaws #25
Words: Scott Lobdell
Art: Dexter Soy, Trevor Hairsine & Ryan Winn, Phil Hester & Ande Parks
Colors: Veronica Gandini, Rain Beredo
Letters: Taylor Esposito
Added Spoiler warning: My reviews always contain some elements of the issue at hand's story, aand are meant for those who have already read the issue, or are checking out the review and synopsis before jumping onto a book next month. But in this review I also mention things that are happening in the core Batman book, so fair warning.
I know what this issue had to do. It's a pragmatic thing; move the last arc through its transition and settle things up for the new status quo. I get it. And I get that talent resources are not infinite in today's day and age. And even if they were, there are financial constraints that have to be adhered to. I get it. Unfortunately, this particular issue of Red Hood and the Outlaws suffers as a result. The plot is clunky and janky and ill-woven together. It's not so much that it makes me want to get off the book; truth in advertising, it remains in my recurring monthly pulls because I am excited to see the new drum beat drop. But with the main (or inbound new) artist off crafting the new costume, a team of artists pass the issue round, which can work, but in this case results in some seams between the scene changes that are all too apparent. There are a LOT of important things that happen this issue. Artemis. Bizarro. Batman and Jason. And yet those moments feel like they are treated as throwaways and not given the loving care that they deserve in order to render the appropriate gravitas.
It's an "Extra-Sized Anniversary Issue" as the creative team seeks to tie up loose ends, and, as I mentioned, set to reveal the new status quo. In the wake of Jason's public execution of Oswald Cobblepot, Bruce is determined to bring Red Hood in. There's just one problem. The Outlaws' floating sky-based lab is coming down, and looks to destroy a large part of the city. Jason is a murderer, but he's not up for seeing a bunch of innocents get snuffed. And so Jason has to fix the descending sky-base and rescue thousands of innocents, while fighting his mentor and teacher, while also trying to settle he and Bats Freudian matters.
I struggled with the art and the storytelling in this issue, and it's really a shame. The opening pages are pretty gorgeous. Jason's a weird Robin to draw, because he is physically bigger than either Dick or Tim. I also never realized that his mask was crimson red whereas I think both Dick and Tim wore black masks.The initial scene with Batman and Robin, drenched in rain as Jason saves his life, is a sobering reminder of who Jason was before his tragic fall and rebirth. Then a beautiful 2/3'rds portrait page of Jason jumping off of a gargoyle, praying that the invisible base is where he thinks it is. The art style really walks away from what I want, though, when the scene shifts to the floating Outlaws HQ. I know that Artemis and Bizarro should be larger than normal humans, but I feel like when they are on-screen, the proportions kept shifting around in how they appeared relative to other heroes in the comic. I had even larger problems though with the Batman / Red Hood fight. It's brutal. A bit too much, in my opinion. Maybe it makes sense in the context of this rage that Bruce is in following being jilted at the alter by Selina; a rage similar to what has been shown in his takedown of Mr Freeze in the Batman core book. But none of that is mentioned here, and if you are not reading those books, the brutality of the fight should definitely feel out of place; this seemingly near beating to death of his former protege. Then when Bizarro arrives, and is clearly talking to Batman for a short bit, we don't see Batman for 8 pages. The soliloquy of this version of the Outlaws saying their goodbyes gets lost in the bookending of the brutal fight with Batman. It feels lost and I really had to go back and re-read those pages to get the emotional depth of what had just occurred. And the final takedown of Bats seems awkward after just showing himself off as basically undefeatable in the fight with Todd.
Through all of this, there are things that I liked. I loved Arsenal's return! And, once I went back and really grasped what Bizarro and Artemis had done, I got genuinely emotional about what has kind of become a rendition of the 1980s Outsiders (see the backup story at the end of the issue) in the Modern Age of comics. In truth, this whole issue should have had huge emotional impact, but I think that signal got lost in a bit of the book's imagery.
Overall, Red Hood and the Outlaws #25 did not work for me as well as the issues that got us here. I have high hopes (and expectations) for the next arc, and the new era of the Outlaws. Are we getting the Outlaws as just Jason and Roy? Or will Starfire be back? Overall, the plot of this whole arc has been great, including the elements in this issue. It's a matter of a great plan with some unsteadiness of execution here at the end. Regardless, I'm not abandoning the book or the creative team. Let's just pick up from here and move on to greater things!