RED HOOD / ARSENAL #7

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[ MAKE SALES. NOT WAR.
Way back in December, 2015, Scott Lobdell, Javier Fernandez, and Blond, took the boys in their care to go and see the circus! You know, to reward them for the good behavior and good work they'd done throughout the year. And what better reward could they get than seeing a flock of Robins staging their own little play? Wink-Wink!

TO QUOTE Suzy Kassem: “Doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will.”
 
THE REVIEW:
Gotham City is at the edge of total anarchy, with a bunch of kids naming themselves “Robin” going into the streets to combat crime, eager to make a difference. Problem is, they don’t have either the experience or the training needed to pull that off, forcing the GCPD to enact the “Robin Laws” to try and contain the collateral damage.

Now it's in this time of crisis that Jason reunites with his feathered-foster-brothers to deal with the fallout of the wannabe Robins’ actions. However, since he can’t be completely sure of the Jokers Daughters allegiance, he chooses to make her and Roy stay behind. Obviously Roy isn’t very happy with being JD’s babysitter, yet he completely understands Jason’s reasons to go alone. So without something else to do, Roy and JD decide to pick a quick job to keep them entertained until Jason’s return.

And where is Jason? He reunites with Tim in a darkened alleyway, and despite everything coming crashing down around them, they still make the time to have a long overdue heart-to-heart about what it means for them once being 'a Robin', and how the other’s presence influenced their actions while wearing the mantle.

The issue then devotes all of its focus on Roy and JD, whom were hired by a circus owner to stop a gang of C-list villains from kidnapping any orphaned teenager in the premises. Roy takes care of them with ease but gets cocky and the tables are quickly turned on him, prompting JD to save the day. However, the way in which she accomplishes this task puts into question her efforts of becoming a better person. Will JD be able to overcome her psychosis and reform, or will she have to be put down by the boys?

Overall this issue is an odd beast. Despite being billed as a tie-in for the Robin War event, it has little to do with it, and in fact, works better as an advertisement for the series. All the signature elements are there: powerful character moments, dynamic and explosive art, a self-contained story that is the stepping stone of a larger plot, plus plenty of humor.

For those of us that have followed this series from its inception this is a treat since it doesn’t change a lot of its format to fit into the crossover. But on the other hand, it could be a serious turn off for those collectors that only picked up this issue based on the crossover banner.

Having said this, the few pages Lobdell devotes to the crossover are one of the best to come out of what -- in my opinion -- has been a pretty mediocre and disappointing event. Unlike the main series, Lobdell skillfully manages to avoid taking sides in the conflict by having Jason and Tim simply stating the facts and allowing the reader to reach their own conclusion. Free from the obligatory reference, Lobdell then delivers one of the best moments between Jason and Tim in recent memory: the boys talking openly and honestly about what it meant for them being Robin.

What is particularly notorious is that for the first time Jason talks with someone else about his confidence issues (“I was never going to be Dick”) without trying to cover them up with snide remarks and how much it hurt him to be replaced by Tim. This moment of weakness on Jason’s behalf not only shows how much he has grown as a character under Lobdell’s pen, but also, it shows how much he trusts Tim. Tim reciprocates Jason’s trust by also admitting how intimidated he was by Jason’s own feats during his time as Robin, and how it molded him into the vigilante he is today.

To be honest, this kind of fraternal moment between the 'Sons of Batman' was what I was hoping from the event, and is a damn shame that in the other books these moments are used to prop one (Dick) or more characters (the We Are Robin cast) instead of giving the former Robin's a time of reflection and camaraderie that they’ve been sorely lacking on the N52.

As for Roy’s side of the plot, all in all it's just what I’ve come to expect from Lobdell: an action filled story with some great character driven moments in it. It's easy to sympathize with Roy, as the guy knows what it's like being labeled a failure, so he can understand JD’s plight. But at the same time he has pretty reasonable doubts about the legitimacy of her claims, and yet, he is still willing to put up with her because of the trust he has in Jason: showing once again the strength of Roy and Jason’s friendship,  proving itself as one of the best written friendships to come out of the N52 reboot.

JD’s character is surprisingly multidimensional: not only are some of her jokes actually funny (no doubt a combined effort between Lobdell’s script and Fernandez’ expressive art), but you can truly buy her as a confused and lost teenage girl looking for a purpose. It's still early to say if she deserves to be redeemed, but it can’t be denied that she adds a very interesting dynamic to the book and opens the door to many potential plot lines and chances of character development for the boys (and she can even get her own development at the same time!). Good work Mr. Lobdell, good work.

As of this issue Javier Fernandez takes over as the series’ artist, and his art proves to be a great fit for Lobdell, with breathtaking backgrounds, dynamic poses, and very expressive characters. As a whole, I couldn’t help but think of the manga aesthetic while looking at his work on this issue. I’ll certainly miss Medri’s beautiful work but Fernandez has proved himself to be a worthy successor. Though I have to admit; I’d liked to see Fernandez take on Medri’s redesigns for the boys.

Blond keeps handling coloring duties so there’s still warranty of quality on that regard. He needs to adapt to Fernandez’ style though, as there were some moments where the coloring seemed a little flat.

THE MUSIC:
JD's whole reason to face her inner demons and try to become someone better is because Jason trusts her, something that no-one had done for her before. So I picked my favorite song about trusting someone: 'Stand by Me' by Ben E. King




THE COMPARISON:
Pretty obvious and somewhat of a cliché, but JD's tearful confession to Roy was the spitting image of a Sad Clown. And hey, who am I to argue with the classics?

THE CONCLUSION:
For fans of the series this issue is another hit by its creative team. However, if you are looking into the issue for its connection to the Robin War crossover and you have little to no interest on Jason, Roy and JD; then you’ll be better off looking elsewhere.

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