RED HOOD & THE OUTLAWS #37

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[ NO MORE BARGAINS?
It's December, 2014, and the holidays are coming. So Scott Lobdell, RB Silva, and Wayne Faucher went to the nearest bar to have a drink. Topics of interest are robotic dinosaurs, celebrities they want to meet, and what former boss has earned a good punch to the face. You know. Just the usual boys’ night out.

To QUOTE Joseph Campbell: “It is by going down into the abyss that we recover the treasures of life. Where you stumble, there lies your treasure.”

THE STORY:
Cheating death and having Ollie drop by to pay him a visit, has put Roy in a right mood for a trip down memory lane. Thus, we find ourselves with a front row seat for Roy's very own biopic.

Roy's memories aren't the happiest and really put his time with Kori and Jason in perspective -- where Roy has finally found a place where he truly belongs. His time with Ollie came close but didn't quite work out due to 'Mister Queen' being the lousy superhero mentor he truly is. Or at least that is how Roy feels about it -- Ollie wasn’t that bad.

Roy’s elementary school had the best science fairs though. How many of us can brag about having a life-size robot dinosaur in the school gym?

THE GOOD:
Overall I'd say this is an introspective issue focused on Roy, giving him the development he was sorely lacking. Lobdell delivers an engaging story told through Roy's eyes where we finally know how his relationship with Ollie worked in the New 52.

To do this he -- thankfully -- scraps Tynion's previous telling of the story entirely. Lobdell also scraps most of the similarities with the old DCU version of Roy as well. In the N52 Roy was never Ollie's field partner; his role was solely depended on providing him with all the tech and gadgets needed for his fighting crime, therefore making Roy's intelligence his defining trait. It seems Roy's time as Arsenal has always been a solo act, seemingly like a way for Roy to get back at Ollie for his faults.

While this can disappoint some of you out there this is actually a smart change for his character.

The N52 version of Oliver has had plenty of associates fulfilling the sidekick role, thus Roy keeps importance on the mythos while also avoiding the conundrum all the Robins suffer on the N52.

Oliver's depiction on the story is also one of the best takes on the character I've seen. Oliver keeps being a rich smart-ass but underneath that he's a pretty capable mentor, maybe even better than Batman.

Given the shared themes between this issue and issue 18 (where Jason and Bruce mend their relationship), it is very interesting to compare them both. While Bruce was aloof and detached from Jason, Ollie is supportive and friendly with Roy. Thus creating a marked contrast between him and Bruce.

However, the biggest difference between the two stories lies on the ending. While Bruce and Jason were able to work things out and finally move forward past their issues, Roy and Ollie are stuck on the same place; by Roy's choice no less.

Lobdell uses Roy's narration to skilfully let the readers know that what we're seeing is not how things truly happened, but how Roy believes they happened. This shows that Roy has a very particular set of beliefs on trust and forgiveness. The reveal gives a lot of depth to Roy and also puts his role on the series in a whole new light. It turns out that he wasn't the heart of the Outlaws; the Outlaws were his heart all along.

Oh! And Lobdell definitely keeps tabs on this book. I loved the playful jab at the critics for his use of first person narration on the book at the beginning.

THE BAD:
While the payoff for Roy's arc was excellent in execution, in the same breath it was weirdly paced and hurt the narrative a little. The story is also a bit dense so it's easy for readers to get confused about the developments on it (mainly the reason's behind Roy and Ollie falling out). A second reading of the book -- at least -- is needed to fully understand the story.

The plot is all about Roy and Ollie but there are some things that lacked proper development and weakened it -- Roy's taking the Arsenal persona being the most notorious. It leaves the door open for future stories about his past, yet still is a little disappointing (even more now considering that Secret Origins is being cancelled, reducing the chances for more origin stories for Roy).

However, the most notorious thing seen in this issue is the art-work, specifically Roy's depiction throughout the book. During most of it he's depicted with the classic heroic build but there are panels where he's skinny and somewhat sickly looking. A real shame since Silva’s a very talented artist, and the closing page is one of my favorite takes on Arsenal.

THE MUSIC:
In my eyes 'True Faith' by New Order perfectly depicts Roy's issues with his past and his hopeful look for the future.




THE COMPARISON:
During this issue Roy and Ollie had the chance to start anew and mend their relationship together, and so to me a crossroad perfectly depicts the options available to them. Roy chose to leave Ollie behind, but was it the right choice? Only time will tell.
  
THE CONCLUSION:
With this issue Lobdell reminds us that the core themes of the book are trust, friendship, and family, whilst delivering a strong (if somewhat dense) story about two friends whom circumstances drove them apart. I mean, who hasn't been in their shoes, eh? Or how Roy accurately says, “Real life sucks”.

Despite the slight issues I had with the writing and the art, by in large this adventure is a must buy for any Outlaws or Roy Harper fan. Well done Mr. Lobdell. Well done.

** This review was brought to you by Adan, Comic Lad Extraordinaire.