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Red Hood And The Outlaws Vol. #1: Redemption Graphic Novel Review

6 min read

Red Hood And The Outlaws - Redemption
Red Hood And The Outlaws – Redemption
Finally, someone to shoot.

Creative Team:
Writer: Scott Lobdell
Artist: Kenneth Rocafort

What They Say:
No sooner has Batman’s former sidekick, Jason Todd, put his past as the Red Hood behind him than he finds himself cornered by a pair of modern day outlaws: Green Arrow’s rejected sidekick Arsenal, the damaged soldier of fortune, and the alien Starfire, a former prisoner of intergalactic war who won’t be chained again. As a loner, Jason has absolutely no interest in this motley crew of outlaws. So what’s he going to do when they choose the Red Hood as their leader?

The Review:
One of the more controversial books when it was launched, Red Hood and the Outlaws is an interesting launch title for the New 52. Bringing together an odd group of characters with the primary “team” being Jason Todd as the Red hood, Roy Harper as Arsenal and Koriand’r as Starfire certainly is something that should work since it’s sort of a semi-Titans spinoff in a way. But what made the book noteworthy beyond the odd combination of characters is that many felt it was far too sexist, problematic and misogynist because of the portrayal of Kori. There are certainly roots to the character that dates back to her early appearances that allows it to work, and being a book that removes a few decades worth of material means the character we once knew isn’t the same, but it was a significant change for many people. And those problems certainly are there as she comes across as a young woman who likes sex, doesn’t really remember much of anything in general and wears little. It’s not the Kori that many of us knew for years.

That said, I still found the book to be a surprising amount of fun. Jason Todd has a complicated life storyline in the pre-Flashpoint universe and is one of those more controversial characters since he was killed off many years ago through a poll in the Batman books as readers simply did not like him as the successor to Dick Grayson. With his mysterious revival, his life got complicated after that as Talia rescued him, knowing there was grand potential for him that her father saw, and she set him up with the All Caste, a hidden land where he spent a year training with ancient beings in the art of fighting to become the skilled warrior that he is, among other things. His life since then has left him roaming a bit as a mercenary with a chip on his shoulder towards Batman and others of that family, but he’s also starting to get past it. But he also has other connections that allows him to be a part of other peoples lives.

Which is what the first couple of issues are about as he’s initially rescued by Kori, who treats and nurses him back to health in her private and hidden retreat. There’s some amusing sexual dalliances between the two, but there’s a distinct lack of feelings between them for anything more, especially from Jason due to her relationship with Grayson. Jason’s coming back to health allows him to help out Roy Harper, aka Arsenal, who himself went a bit rogue by doing the soldier of fortune gig in Qurac in order to help some people only get caught up in the fallout afterward as the government changed. These three end up in an odd little grouping where they’re certainly not a team in the sense that Jason considers that it would be, but they all have familiarity with each other and can manage to work smoothly in a way that it takes other teams years to figure out.

But it’s not what Jason wants since he’s a solo act, but he can’t exactly seem to shake the other two, not that he tries hard. As the first two issues deal with rescue and recovery with Kori something of a central point, medically and sexually, events shift when Jason learns that his mentor, Ducra, and the rest of the All Caste have been killed by one of The Untitled. We don’t get much of an introduction to who they are here other than the fact that they’re an equally ancient race with only a few in number now and have largely spent the last century roaming individually and founding their own lives in quiet places. With Essence appearing and filling Jason in on things, he wants to get his vengeance on and go after it, though he has to go to where the All Caste are first to see the scene and then work from there with the clues that he can find.

While it’s a bit of a road trip in a way as we see the deal with the All Caste and the first of The Untitled that Jason comes across, a lot of the book is about the kind of interactions that the group has. There’s a fair bit of action along the way, and some decent flashbacks provided to all of their younger days, but mostly it’s the present day dialogue that’s just fun. It’s not exactly laced with pop culture references but it has the feel of characters that live in a world where there’s more going on that just fighting supervillains. The odd sexual tension that arises due to both of the guys sleeping with Kori is rather fun to watch since it doesn’t devolve into slugging each other over her and Kori’s perspective is just perfect as she wonders why she’s so interested in these two court jesters, considering her own position on her homeworld.

But what really gets me is that there’s just a certain kind of sense of fun and epicness about it, a story that feels like it has some real meaning to it in a way even if it is very simple at its core. I know nothing about the All Caste or The Untitled from the pre-Flashpoint world but we see some fascinating locales here and a sense of forward progression that gives it a very cinematic feeling about it. There’s even a touch of anime/manga design and flow about the way the chapters/issues work and some of the character artwork. While I’m sure it might rankle some comics fans, the design of what we get here has a very anime TV series feeling about it. The general direction of it with the artwork, the dynamic nature of the movement and the action itself really sells it well in a way that keeps it from feeling like a too talkative work while still providing more than enough context.

In Summary:
Red Hood and the Outlaws certainly earned its reputation early on in its run with the way it portrayed some of its characters and enough of it is also quite earned. Yet as the book progresses and we see more of what’s going on, I had a real sense of fun with the whole thing. It was pretty infectious as it progressed and I liked the cast that it used, the larger storyline going on and the way that it was a part of the DC Universe while not interacting with it all that much in a direct way. Trying to reconnect it to the pre-Flashpoint stuff can be problematic, but I’ve been disconnected enough from these characters by a few years so it didn’t impact me much. And that left me to just enjoy the series for what it is and the mild aspects of the core of the characters that I knew, which plays well into events here. It’s not a knockout fantastic book but good gravy was it a fun and engaging read overall.

Grade: B

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