RED HOOD / ARSENAL #11

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[ SAVING FACE AND CASH
With everyone so excited about the new Civil War movie, Scott Lobdell, Dexter Soy, and Jose Villarubia, have decided to throw a little Civil War of their own. Good guys doing things that look bad! Bad guys pretending to be good! And decisions, decisions, decisions, coming to bite everyone in the ass, in April 2016, and, you know, the usual stuff.

TO QUOTE Arthur Miller:  'Betrayal is the only truth that sticks'. 

THE REVIEW:
Now sometime before the events of Red Hood & the Outlaws #1, Roy was the leader of a mercenary group who had a credo which stated, “The Iron-clad Rule is no matter the job, to leave things better than the way they found them”. However, the problem with this credo is that, unbeknownst to Roy, his associates became power hungry and tried to become the rulers of every town they helped. When Roy realized what was going on he personally took down his former teammates and let them die in a nuclear explosion.

Thing is, since the events at the Nethers, Roy can't shake the feeling of his former partners somehow being alive. So with Jason busy with Duela, Roy decides to do a little 'Iron Rule digging' on his own.

Wait a minute! You do know what's happening with JD, right? At the moment Jason is making the necessary check-up's on Duela before letting her go back to school, and the girl is positively thrilled about recovering her new life. Yet, to Jason's disappointment, he finds the Joker's tattered old face hidden in the place where Duela is staying.

So with this in mind, we have to ask ourselves the all important questions. Will Roy get to the end of the Iron Rule mystery? Has Duela played Jason for a fool this whole time? And will Jason be able to face the truth about Duela? That, my dear reader, is something you need to discover yourself by reading this amazing issue.

With just two issues to go, all the bets are off. Lobdell finally elaborates on Roy's story (before he teamed up with Jason and Kori), and his actions make abundantly clear why he was considered an Outlaw in the first place. His solution to the Iron Rule is as effective and swift as it is ruthless, clearly a far cry from his current fun loving self.

Knowing what Roy is truly capable of puts his whole characterization in a new light, and explains a lot about his dynamic with Jason. Roy IS a very capable leader, but it's no wonder he is riddled with doubts now! Primarily because the Iron Rule went too far and forced him to take actions that have been plaguing him since. He’s now a very different character compared to his pre N52 version, yet equally interesting nonetheless. I will honestly miss Lobdell writing Roy after Rebirth.

Duela, on the other hand, is a character that I've been a little fearful about, knowing that Jason’s emotions would cloud his judgement and put him in Duela’s hands. But fortunately, Lobdell writes Jason as being better than that. Jason takes it in his stride figuring the truth out about Duela, and while he makes a last attempt at helping her out, he remains true to his principles and takes her down ASAP. Of course, it still remains to be seen if she’s actually down for the count (this is a superhero comic after all) plus I have no doubt that this will have a ripple effect in the boys that will ultimately lead to their separation.

Duela continues to be a very interesting character, with a lot more nuances than I'm used to seeing in her. Since her addition to the book in issue 6, Lobdell has slowly built her as a multifaceted character, but has always kept a certain degree of ambiguity towards her actions, keeping the readers wondering what is her true goal. In this issue Lobdell finally reveals her reasons for joining Jason: As she sees him as another of the Joker's children, and with his apparent demise, she wanted Jason to embrace his role in Joker's legacy alongside her.

This motivation is not only fantastic with its simplistic logic, it also cements Duela as a “dark mirror” of sorts for Jason. Despite using his experience with the Joker to grow and become a better person, Duela fully embraced Joker's philosophy and is trying to surpass him as a psycho. While he tried to redeem her, she tried to corrupt him.

Its also interesting to see the way Jason and Roy deal with their two similar situations.  Even though both of them took definitive measures against people they thought were 'too far gone', Roy has been riddled with guilt the whole time, while Jason sees it like a necessary evil; showing how Roy still believes that there are certain lines that shouldn't be crossed, whereas Jason crossed that line and believes it justified.

Dexter Soy returns to the art for this issue and has adapted perfectly to Lobdell’s style of writing. In just two issues, he's already surpassing Fernandez and Medri’s previous work in the series. There is one point, however, where the art is a little confusing, with a gun showing up out of nowhere and being impractically huge! While not a terrible flaw it does subtract some points from a very emotional scene, and hopefully this is just a small slip up and it won’t be repeated once that Soy moves to RHATO Vol. 2. in July.

Villarubia continues to be on coloring duties and, yes, I admit, I was lukewarm towards his work with Fernandez, saying that it does work a lot better with Soy’s pencils.

THE MUSIC:
The palpable melancholy that emanated off of Jason while he tried one last time to reach Duela, struck a nerve in me. He did his best to help this girl, to ultimately redeem her, but at the end of the day she didn’t want to be saved and everything came undone. So, the only song I could pick for this issue is Duran Duran’s classic, “Come Undone”.




THE COMPARISON:
Duela has finally shown her true face, Roy has to deal with the consequences of his past actions, and Jason has to admit to himself some people just don’t want to be saved. So to me, its clear that this issue is all about these protagonists realizing they each have two different sides to their personality: The one they show to everyone else, and the one they show to themselves.

Interestingly, it's even more obvious in the case of Duela, whom it has been said can be related to Two-Face since her introduction back in the seventies.

THE CONCLUSION:
After a slow build up for the latter half of the series, Lobdell finally puts into motion the chain of events that will break Jason and Roy’s partnership for good. Thus, this issue marks the turning point for our heroes and its ramifications will be felt in their next adventure after the rebirth of the DC Universe. So if you're a fan of Jason and Roy then this issue is a must.

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

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