RED HOOD / ARSENAL #8

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[ PRICE CHOP, HOOD STYLE
Scott Lobdell, Javier Fernandez, and Blond, have each gathered together to raise a little hell, take out the trash, and enjoy some well earned quality time. 'And why is that?', do you ask. 'Simple' says I. It's because it's January, 2016, and it's time to say goodbye to 2015, and hello for all the exciting things to come.

TO QUOTE Abraham Lincoln: “To ease another’s heartache is to forget one’s own.”

THE REVIEW:
Following on from last issues cliff-hanger, this issue kicks off with Jason finding his way into the so-called “Nethers”, and attempting to save his captured partners. But to his surprise the Nethers are inhabited by a group of Arkham Asylum escapees, and they aren't too happy to see him.

Meanwhile, in another part of the plot, Roy is being tortured by a minion affiliated with their kidnappers: the former king of the Nethers, Charon. And, of course. being a good minion obviously means they have to spill the beans about their bosses plans, not to disappoint. Turns out, Charon was only looking to get his revenge on JD and Roy was accidentally caught in the crossfire. Yet as we all know, Roy would be more than happy to leave JD at Charon’s mercy, but since Jason cares about her, he cares too. So once he has made his mind up he puts on an impressive display of his skills, easily taking care of his captors and freeing himself.

While this is going on, JD is being confronted by Charon, who reveals to her his new subjects: “The Dwellers”, a group of Lava based beings that live in the lowest stratum of Gotham’s underground, and likewise relays his plan to destroy Gotham City using their help. If you just thought “Great, another God-Complex psycho bent on destroying Gotham City”, don’t worry, JD thought the same thing.

Around the same time Jason has finally been able to communicate with the Nethers’ denizens, who tell him about a group of outsiders killing them off, one by one, for fun. So confident that Roy will be able to keep JD safe until he can reunite with them, Jason can’t help but decide to assist these lowly denizens with their worries.

Now while this issue is mostly a set up for what is yet to come, in my opinion Lobdell delivers amazing character moments which have been his signature on this series -- from Roy’s inner turmoil about helping JD, to Jason’s choice of lending a hand just because its the right thing to do, to JD being utterly unfazed while being threatened; every character has their moment in the spotlight.

It's interesting how Roy has become the most active member of the team over the course of this series. Not only because he's the one who put the plot in motion, but because he also often saves the day using his intelligence. While this could be disappointing for Jason’s fans, I’m pleased with the development since Roy took a backseat to Jason on a majority of RHATO’s run and he needed some time in the spotlight.

Another element that really grabbed my attention is how despite JD joining the team was Jason’s idea, she has interacted with Roy more, letting us see a facet of him that hasn’t been explored much through the N52: Roy as a team leader.

The Outlaws were never a proper team, rather three friends hanging out together and having adventures (thus a leader figure was never needed). Red Hood / Arsenal on the other hand has changed Jason and Roy's dynamic to that of a partnership, one where both of them have equal standing. JD's introduction has modified that dynamic slightly and Roy has taken to the mentor role, still holding doubts about JD’s worth; yet still proving himself to be quite competent at that.

Although Jason took a backseat in this issue he continues to show some depth that few writers can achieve with him. He's literally the voice of reason in a room filled with crazy people. And while he is legitimately concerned about his partners’ safety, he still has full confidence in their abilities.

I also really enjoyed seeing Ducra again. The All-Caste was one of the best additions to Jason’s backstory in the N52 (when handled by Lobdell) and it's fantastic to know Lobdell hasn’t forgotten about them.

JD continues to be the books wild card, not having the same amount of depth that Roy and Jason have, but slowly carving her niche out one episode at a time. Considering her track record, I was pleasantly surprised at Lobdell giving a follow up to her previous story with Charon. It seems Lobdell is planning to give closure to her current characterization before taking her in a new direction.

Moving onto the art department and I must say Fernandez keeps topping himself with each new issue. The whole book was beautifully illustrated but the opening sequence (done completely in Black & White) was the standout piece for me. It left me with such a potent impression that now I wish a full issue was done in the style of old silent movies, with no colors nor dialogue. A herculean task for sure, but I’m confident Lobdell and Fernandez are more than qualified for it.

Oh well, a man can dream.

Of course, that doesn’t mean I found Blond’s color-work lacking, on the contrary, he has adapted to Fernandez’ explosive style, elevating Fernandez’ already gorgeous pencils to even bigger heights.

THE MUSIC:
On the whole this story was about good and evil. The good part of the equation is Roy putting to one side his hesitation and wanting to help JD. While the bad part is about Jason getting ready to take on a group of maniacs terrorizing the Nethers. So with those facts in mind, there’s only one song able to keep us pumped for next issue. The Survivor classic: Eye of the Tiger.




THE COMPARISON:
Jason and Roy's decision to help people in need for no other reason than for it being the right thing to do, made me think of them as being a pair of noble Samurai Warriors whose travels has led them to a community in desperate need of their help.

I’m not going to deny that my comparison is a bit corny, but you can’t tell me the idea of Jason and Roy in traditional samurai gear isn’t balls-to-the-wall amazing.

THE CONCLUSION:
Red Hood / Arsenal #8 has taken the momentum given to them by the previous issue and weaved an action packed story set in one of the least developed settings in Gotham City: unveiling not only a part of its past, but also, about its inhabitants and the role it plays on JD. By mixing Fernandez’ kinetic art, Blond’s stunning colors, and Lobdell’s great characterizations, we have a classic action movie in comic book form.

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

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