Hey, guys. Y'all want to go down to the beach in our shiny sports car and watch the sunset? RB Silva and Rafa Sandoval are looking to stand around and pose. Scott Lobdell can wear his sexy new bikini and lounge across the hood. Whilst DC Comics snaps a picture to hang in my locker, in July, 2014. Peace out!

To QUOTE Princess Leia Organa: “This is our most desperate hour. Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi, you're my only hope.”

Well, for starters, there's no beach, no sunset, and no sports car in sight. Ed Benes and Pete Pantazis's cover is completely gratuitous. So let's just put that out there for what it's worth and move on, shall we?

We'll just jump straight in mid-mission methinks. Background is unimportant and irrelevant, as we'll probably not be coming back to the first half of the tale for a few issues yet. But needless to say, one can assume that our heroes will kick some serious ass.

However, no sooner than one can point out one's own team's amazingness -- and exchange some brief awkward moments of intimacy -- as the second half of our tale then interjects itself. Why yes, a certain doctor who shall not be named steps from the pages of your friendly neighbourhood Bat-title into Red Hood and the Outlaws, playing the interim 'Head of Security' for everyone's favorite covert government agency (no, not that one; the other one) which shall also remain nameless. 

Unless, of course, you've already read any interview with Scott Lobdell about his return to Red Hood. In which case you know exactly what doctor and what agency. But you don't know what they've got in store for Jason, Roy, and Kori, do you now? 

Scott Lobdell is back. That means we're wasting a little bit of page time with him “reclaiming” his title by reminding us that Jason is front and center, but when it comes down to it, he and Roy are the sidekicks. He also works in some brief reminders of the plot threads that James Tynion IV and Will Pfeifer left behind. But other than that, it's back to the great storytelling that made this title successful back when it started (and probably the only thing that kept it alive given all the sexy Kori hate and other “change is bad” propaganda).

Right off the bat, we get a reminder of something that has been missing from Outlaws, even in Lobdell's original run -- these guys are killers. That's a big part of the wedge that separated them from their former partners / teammates (That and, well, death). While Tynion and Pfeifer may have veered them gently towards a more straight up heroic team, Lobdell's first action is to have them kill some bad guys and save the day.

 Robin and Speedy are clearly in the past -- not the future.

As soon as we get out of Jason's internal monologue and launch right into the fight, we jump right in to the quips -- the one liners and jabs at each others expense that make Kori, Jason, and Roy such a believable trio. They're any group of high school friends hanging out shooting the sh*t. Except one's a trained assassin back from the dead, one's an alien warrior princess, and one's a super nerd expert marksman and ballistic master.

The illustrations are solid, as Rafael – sorry, Rafa – Sandoval has been consistent with since he came on board, but we've still got that, uh, inconsistent mammary issue that has been his bane since day one. But Sandoval is great with the superhero action -- the movement, the character focus, the consistency and clarity between tight and long shots -- he's a great artist. He just needs to chill with the 'Starfire flying at the viewer' shots, and dial down the breast compass a few notches. (See Ian Bertram's painfully Chris Burnham-esque but perfectly reasonably proportioned Starfire in Batman Eternal #11.)

My only complaint about this issue is that it's so short (only 20 pages of content) and we're split between what is essentially two set-ups. We've got two pages of intro to the opening scene. Eight pages of the battle and future villain reveal. Then a two page interval (where the aforementioned awkward intimacy occurs) before the second eight page chat with the Doctor Who Shall Not Be Named and big cliffhanger for next issue.

Maybe there was some reason to stick with the original solicits for Pfeifer's tale when Lobdell took the title over? Maybe there's a crossover he has to mold  the stories into before a certain date? (If you're not following it, Jason is currently pursuing Barbara Gordon around Brazil over in Batman Eternal).  Whatever the case my be, this certainly felt like instead of a quick “so Roy heard chatter” type scenario, we could have gotten a proper lead up to the opening story and put off the whole second story with the aforementioned covert agency next issue. Or two or three if there's more to the first plot than meets the eye.

While this tale was really two separate setups for two separate tales, the real crux of it was re-establishing our trio's relationships with each other and how they take on the world. So, well, let's allow New Order's “Bizarre Love Triangle” fill the air as we're reminded why we can't be ourselves like we were yesterday.

And if Jason gets used to it, shoot him. He did ask nicely.

This issue is really a new starting point. The best comparison I can come up with is a pack of runners on starting blocks. Not one runner, mind you. We've got at least three runners on the blocks, all set to sprint off around the track for a race of an undetermined distance. The gun goes off in this issue, but it ends before they really leave the blocks. We'll see which runner we're following in issue 33.

Overall this is a good issue. Is it a great standalone issue? No. This isn't the “if you only buy one comic this year” type of a issue. It's the “if you've been waiting for a place to start reading Red Hood and the Outlaws” type of a issue. Or “if you've been waiting for a reason to return to Red Hood and the Outlaws“, blah-blah-blah.

Yet I can't help but wonder if we'll see the repercussions of any of the dangling plot threads left behind by Tynion and Pfeifer, or if we're just going full speed ahead in to some new direction. Lobdell certainly seems like he's looking to weave a more complex world for our trio than the average non-big-three titles do, which is certainly a good thing. But hopefully one plot will take a front seat each issue and the others will be more casually referenced from this place forward.

Everyone get back to your own beds now. Nothing to see here. And return that car on the cover to whomever you stole it from.

*** Just reading and writing and rambling in the back of the Joker's old Ho-Home-On-Wheels... Keath.