Thursday, 21 February 2013

Review: Red Hood & The Outlaws #17

Writer: Scott Lobdell
Artists: Ardian Syaf, Robson Rocha & Ken Lashley
Publisher: DC Comics

Coming hot on the heels of last week's "Death of the Family" conclusion, this issue serves as a rare moment of reflection for the Bat Family. While the Joker's twisted endgame left no physical scars, psychological ones are another thing entirely. With their bonds broken and their ties cut, do the Family stand any chance of piecing things back together? It's not looking good.

Despite the majority of the issue taking on an overwhelmingly somber tone, it begins with Jason touching base with Arsenal and Starfire, letting his team know he's okay and that they should meet him at Wayne Manor. The "Outlaws" are so flippant and energetic in contrast to the traumatised Bat Family, it flat out contradicts the nature of the story. Where most people would be walking on egg shells, Roy and Kori have the social grace of a bull in a china shop.

After which, Jason works his way through the chain of command, from Robin to Nightwing to Alfred to Batman, looking for a twisted form of validation. While you would think a rebel like Red Hood would easily relate to the troubled child that is Damian Wayne, the pair struggle to verbalise their feelings, even with their recent experiences as Wingman and Red Bird in Batman Incorporated.

Starfire's presence at the Manor posed some interesting questions for Nightwing, as their past relationship has been shrouded in mystery since the advent of the New 52. But anyone looking for any serious resolution will be unfortunately let down, as Dick outright refuses to see her, not wishing to expose any more loved ones to the Joker. Just what the pair's relationship was meant to be in this new continuity, I'm not really sure. The New Teen Titans never existed, meaning they met in some other fashion and apparently ended things on bad terms. Not that it matters, as the New 52 Starfire has had the short term memory of a Goldfish. Don't even get me started on whether Dick and Roy are still best friends. I'm not sure we'll ever know. At least while Scott Lobdell is writing Arsenal as an adolescent douche.

The most important scene in the eyes of fans will be Jason sharing panel-time with Bruce...and it doesn't turn into a shouting match! As Batman and Red Hood, the two of them have been fighting continuously, ever since Jason returned from the dead and expressed his leaning towards more permanent solutions to criminals than locking them away in an easily escapable Asylum. After his recent betrayal of the Bat Family, Bruce has had somewhat of a change of heart. While he'll never agree with Jason's methods, he appreciates the results. This is meant to be Jason finally winning Bruce's respect, but I can't help feeling as if Bruce is at such a low point emotionally, he'll do or say anything to get his sidekicks back on side.

Last but not least, the Joker has left a parting gift for dear old Jason. Small tip for Mr Todd - when a psychopath has had your airtight mask all to himself for hours, if not days, it's probably best to check it for booby traps before putting it right back on your head! The cliffhanger itself promises death, but I have a feeling it's more a death of personality. Whatever the Joker has done, the Jason who found a place back in the heart of the Bat Family will no longer exist. I mean, they couldn't kill him, right? The book is called Red Hood!

6 out of 10

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