Red Hood: Outlaw #36
Red Hood: Outlaw #36 is the finale of the Prince of Gotham story arc that sees Jason returning to Gotham after taking a walkabout through America’s Heartland, with a brief jaunt down to Mexico, picking up some new sidekicks along the way (Dog being the best sidekick Jason has ever had #FightMe), and stealing the Iceberg Lounge out from under the Penguin as further revenge for what Cobblepot did to Jason’s father. I have enjoyed this story for the most part but I’m also not terribly sad to see it end. It’s been better than the previous arc but still not quite as good as the Bizarro and Artemis era of this title and this issue, in particular, does some things to undercut previous plot turns and that doesn’t sit well with me at all.
A year ago, back in Red Hood and the Outlaws #24, Jason very publicly shot Penguin in the face while the Penguin was defeated, helpless, and on his knees. To me, that had the potential to be a defining moment in comics history for Jason Todd. In Under the Red Hood, the story where Jason comes back to Gotham to confront Batman for not avenging his death at the hands of the Joker. Jason’s whole point in that story is that a father should avenge a fallen son and in shooting Penguin, Jason is avenging his father. It all plays into a great parallel between the two story arcs and deepens Jason’s character as the Robin that’s willing to pull the trigger and kill. I’ll grant you that Damian is also willing to kill (being raised by the League of Assassins will have that effect) but a big part of his story has been him moving away from that and atoning for his past, whereas Jason seems a bit more “arrested development” than that.
In this issue, it’s revealed that the Penguin lived and only suffered a lost eye because Jason shot him with a blank round instead of a real bullet because he only wanted to take Penguin “off the table” for a while so he could carry out his plan of ruining Penguin in other ways. To me Jason has always been the rage-fuelled Robin, the one who is ok with more violence and killing than the others and the one that is more apt to let his anger take hold (think Raphael of the TMNT) and having a great moment of actually attempting to kill a major Batman villain revealed to be something completely different completely undercuts Jason’s actions and reeks of a writer wanting to walk back a story. I’d much rather believe that Penguin survived getting shot in the eye than have to buy Jason not intending to kill him.
This undercutting of the character could be undone, though with what Lex Luthor presents to Jason at the end of the issue as part of his ongoing offer that ties into the “Year of the Villain” event going on in the DC Universe.
The reveal (or retcon?) of Jason’s plans with the Penguin aside, there were some things that I did enjoy in this issue. There’s a great confrontation between Jason and Bunker (as seen on the cover) and a few great character moments between Jason and Suzie Su which I won’t spoil here. Plus there’s something of a twist at the end that could prove interesting down the line.
Moving on to the artwork, Pete Woods’ art has never been my favorite but I also don’t hate it. It’s usually a bit angular for my tastes, even having a hint of a manga style in places, and that trend continues here. I can handle 95% of the issue just fine but there are several times that Jason’s face seems off, almost like it’s overdrawn. It seems like Woods has decided that Jason needs to have incredibly perceptible cheekbones and it makes him come across as an older character than he should be. Maybe that’s Woods’ attempt to make Jason world-weary but I don’t care for it. I do, however, really dig Jason’s character design when he’s out of his Red Hood suit and just in all black business attire with a red dress shirt underneath. It’s the kind of design that I could look at out of context and still be able to identify the character and I love it. I still hate the redesigned “Hoodie and Crowbar” suit but that’s a bigger problem than just this issue.
All in all, this issue had some things that I enjoyed but it also had a turn that I think massively undercuts a previously great moment and is a detriment to Jason’s character. I’m excited about the future though as the Year of the Villain tease seems like it could take Jason to some interesting places in both story and character.
Red Hood: Outlaw #36
A minor recton serves to undercut a previously great moment and drowns out what could be other great moments in this issue.