RED HOOD & THE OUTLAWS ANNUAL #2

-
[ YULE FOOL FOR THIS?
Well kiss my mistletoes and call me Mary!!!! Another issue of Red Hood & the Outlaws has been Published by DC in December, 2014? Now what kind of sorcery did Scott Lobdell, Tom Derenick, Wayne Faucher and Walden Wong pull to accomplish this yuletide chore? What’s that? All the RHATO readers were good this year so Santa Didio rewarded us with this annual? All right then. Let's go. 

To QUOTE Sigmund Freud: 'Illusions commend themselves to us because they save us pain and allow us to enjoy pleasure instead. We must therefore accept it without complaint when they sometimes collide with a bit of reality against which they are dashed to pieces'.

THE STORY:
It's Christmas night at Wayne manor, and all the kids everywhere are holding their breath to see what presents Santa brings them. The Outlaws are no exception.

Yet, prey tell, it was quite the surprise when they finally found out that it was the crime lord Suzie Su delivering presents in Santa's place!

Wait a minute! Wasn't she dead? And why are the Outlaws now kids living in Wayne manor? No matter what the answer is, there's something I'm certain of: Tamaran sucks by not having Christmas.

THE GOOD:
This book is just pure fun from beginning to end. The premise is a weird one, that's for sure. As it can only work as a holiday special, just exactly what I was expecting from an Annual (that by definition are stories which don't fit the regular issues). But Lobdell still manages to throw us a surprise curve-ball with the twist at the end, revealing how it's related to the current arc.

Now the weakest facet of Lobdell's writing is how he puts plot points that are rarely picked up later. However, this issue shows that he's perfectly capable of smoothly following through everything he writes. On the regular issues he brought back Crux and Essence, where here he's picking up on everything he set up on Kori's tale in Secret Origins #2. 

And what's more, this book is so well done that it doesn't detriment the story as a whole (thus making newcomers feel like they're missing out on something amazing) but is also a great payoff for those like me that follow the Outlaws on every appearance. 

With this in mind, I wouldn't be surprised if the underdeveloped plot points are due to circumstances out of Lobdell's control -- editorial directives most likely.

There's not a lot to discuss about the story since it's pretty straightforward, but it's important to note how it subtlety dissects Jason's mind through some pretty clever dialogue and visual call-backs on the art.

Despite some people's claims, RHATO has always been about Jason and this issue is the proof of that. Having Jason's narration as the driving force behind the plot allows the reader to truly get inside his mind, making his development as a character gradual and very organic.

When the book started Jason saw Roy and Kori as nuisances, but now he has grown so much that he's able to acknowledge them as his best friends. An argument can be made about how the same thing could have been achieved through other narrative tools, although this take is the best suited considering Jason's personality: a stern and sarcastic young man with a knack for self-depreciation.

THE BAD:
Nothing. The issue is THAT good. Well, okay, the return of the expressive mask. How's that?

THE MUSIC:
Manowar rendition of Silent Night is the perfect companion for this annual, as it's filled with the holiday cheer but with the edge that characterizes our dear Outlaws.




THE COMPARISON:
The bulk of the annual is spent on the little Outlaws, delivering justice to all the naughty boys (and deer!) that ruined their Christmas. You know. Just a bunch of adorable rascals stirring mischief everywhere they go. Not that different to the Krampus from German lore. Therefore, Christmas with Krampus by Steve Purcell is my top pick for this comparison.

THE CONCLUSION:
In my eyes Lobdell takes advantage of the holiday season and the Annual format to deliver one of his best issues to date. It's a fun story that can be enjoyed as a standalone tale or as part of the current regular series. A must have for any comic book fans out there.

However, I can't close this review without expressing my concerns over the way Blackfire has been depicted throughout this run, mainly because it seems somewhat erratic. Is she a caring sister or just another loyal servant to Hellspont? 

But I'm going to hold judgement until we get the full picture. I trust Lobdell to deliver a satisfactory explanation.

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