If you haven’t checked out the Hoopla app, I encourage you to do so. Hoopla is a service library systems can subscribe to as a way to offer digital content to their patrons. Hoopla happens to have a magnificent library of DC Comics titles, and I plan to use to explore some of the DC Rebirth titles I may have overlooked when the relaunch occurred. This will be the first of a series of post, length undetermined.
Red Hood & The Outlaws Vol. 1: Dark Trinity
Written by Scott Lobdell
Art by Dexter Moy and Veronica Gandini
Red Hood aka Jason Todd aka the Robin who got killed by The Joker is back in Gotham going undercover as a criminal to infiltrate the criminal empire of Black Mask. He’s given a warning from Batman about making sure he keeps things non-lethal, a warning Jason begrudgingly follows but is tempted to break after he sees the sadistic evil Black Mask is capable of. During a mission where Jason is to prove himself to Mask, he runs afoul of Artemis, an Amazon from an offshoot of Wonder Woman’s people. They form a tenuous alliance to stop Black Mask, but all that changes when they discover what weapon he is after: Bizarro!
I approached this collection with lots of trepidation because of two words: Scott Lobdell. As a kid, I consumed X-Men and their related comics like most fans of those characters. And because I was reading them in the 1990s a vast majority were written by Scott Lobdell. At the time, my tastes were pretty unrefined, but as an adult revisiting them, they are truly awful. When Lobdell was brought on board with the New 52 in 2011, I was really disappointed, and his comics proved me right. The first run of Red Hood, Superboy, and Teen Titans are all colossally bad and poorly written. When he got his hands on Superman, I dropped the book entirely. His biggest problem is that his writing style doesn’t feel like it has evolved much past those days back in the 90s.
What hooked me on this new iteration of Red Hood & The Outlaws was the premise of the dark trinity. It’s pretty well known DC has three flagship characters: Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman. I find those three to be pretty boring most of the time. Every once in awhile a creator comes along who is doing something interesting with them. However, I do have a big soft spot for the lesser tier characters, the ones who don’t get too much a chance outside of being supporting characters. I also love examinations of the DC Trinity through the lens of other characters, particularly analogs of them. So this dark trinity of Red Hood, Artemis, and Bizarro seemed a lot more interesting than the original Outlaws lineup of Red Hood, Arsenal, and Starfire.
The collection is not terrible, but it does have some problems. The first goes beyond just this trade and is the decompressed nature of storytelling in a lot of modern comics. This collection takes six issues to tell a story that could have been done in a tight three. We barely scratch the surface of Bizarro, the character I was most interested to see play out in this volume. On the flip side, Artemis is probably the most interesting she has ever been since her introduction in Wonder Woman in the 1990s. I have been highly annoyed with Jason Todd since he was resurrected about 15 years ago, not so much that they brought him back, but that he was portrayed as such a bland, predictable character: a la the Rebel Robin. There is still some of that in this take on the Red Hood, but not so much. Lobdell makes the right choice in playing up Hood’s struggle to not kill Black Mask who is doing so much horrible shit.
Dexter Moy and Veronica Gandini’s art is fine, sort of what you would expect from a second tier title at DC. There is a sense of movement and action throughout, and I liked the details. It feels a bit unrefined though, and when compared to the artwork in the flagship titles like Batman, Wonder Woman, and Superman it definitely pales.
I wouldn’t say you should rush out and buy this volume right away. If you have Hoopla or the book is at your local library it is worth a read. I will say that I plan on reading the second volume because I expect we will finally get to see the dynamics between these three characters play out and it should be pretty impressive.