RED HOOD / ARSENAL #12

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[ READY / AIM / BARGAIN ] 
Mother’s Day is only around the corner, and I'm sorry to say that Scott Lobdell, Joe Bennet and Jose Villarrubia have been so busy with work they weren’t able to get their presents in time. So, with little time they do have left, they’ve set a little poll to decide what presents to give: flowers, flowers, and more flowers! It's May, 2016, and it's time for Jay and Roy to do their thing again! Aren’t they adorable?

TO QUOTE Arthur Miller: “Friendship is always a sweet responsibility, never an opportunity”.

THE REVIEW:
This issue opens with Roy and Tara at the mercy of the Iron Rule, whom in a peculiar showing of creativity has set an online vote to decide if Roy lives or dies. While this is going down, elsewhere, Gotham’s emergency services are doing their best to save Joker’s Daughter’s life. As deranged as she is, Jason couldn’t bring himself to put her down once and for all. In his eyes they're more alike than he would like to admit, and hence, killing her would seem the same as killing himself.

Jason’s thoughts are suddenly interrupted by Barbara Gordon, who gets him up to speed about Roy’s predicament and to offer her help to rescue Roy. But as you'd expect, Jason declines her help. To him, this is a very personal matter and the bat family can’t get involved. After all, Jason and Roy got themselves into this mess, and they will get themselves out of it too. So with the clock ticking, Jason hurries to Roy’s workshop where Jason’s last hope to save his best friend lies. 

Well, do you remember how I mentioned in my last review that their choices would come to bite everyone in the ass, sooner or later? Jason’s decision to let JD live has cost the life of two paramedics, one driver, and four policemen. Taking a page out of her old man’s playbook, JD butchers everyone in the ambulance while her gang makes sure the convoy never arrives at the hospital. Here is where the other shoe drops: JD’s gang is the Iron Rule.

Everything that has happened since issue six has been part of JD’s insane plan to surpass the Joker: She will not only kill Jason, she will also break his spirit by killing Roy first.

Unlike RHATO, Lobdell had a lot more time and support from Editorial to develop a satisfying end to this series (and it shows). All the plot points introduced in the second half of the series are tied neatly into a pretty ambitious plan to break Jason for good. The reveal about the Iron Rule’s true allegiances clarifies their role in previous issues of the series, mainly why they just bothered to look into Roy’s whereabouts at this particular moment in time.

Duela pulling everyone's strings is a fantastic twist, although I have to admit, the plan hinges on a lot of variables working just right, with people acting in a specific way. But again, this is nothing out of the ordinary for comic books so I’m willing to give this scheme a pass. I’d liked for Duela to truly have a change of heart but with Rebirth and DC’s new direction, this is likely the last time this version of Duela will show up in the DCU, so I can understand Lobdell wanting her to go out with a bang.

Its notorious the way in which Lobdell has decided to have a bookend of sorts, not only for the series itself but also for the adventures of Roy and Jason in the N52. RHATO and RH/A begun with Jason rescuing Roy from what would seem like certain death, so its only fitting that is how they will go their separate ways.

Another great detail present in this issue is the use of a poll to decide Roy’s fate, an obvious shout out to the infamous stunt that killed Jason in the 80s. While it's not a novel moment (Morrison used the same basic idea on his B&R run a few years back) I feel Lobdell’s take is more fitting with the tone of the series. Morrison’s was a straight forward commentary aimed at the reader by turning the character to vocalize his own views, and thus, making the plot a secondary element. With Lobdell, however, it's just another showing of Duela’s tendency to make a cruel joke at the victims’ expense by using the audience’s potential for cruelty: Thus making it feel better integrated into the plot.

With all these reveals going on, Jason has a small role this time but Lobdell makes it count. Jason not only acknowledges how important Roy is for him, he also shows an unshakable faith in his friend by heading straight to Roy’s workshop, confident on the fact that he would find the necessary inventions to save him there. While this speaks volumes for their friendship it also makes more painful knowing that they will be separated come Rebirth.

Joe Bennet takes over the art for the last two issues and I’m pleased to say he does a much better job than Tom Derenick did back on RHATO. Bennet’s style is more realistic and with a heavy emphasis on faces that perfectly meshes with the script. My only two complaints involve him not using Medri’s costume in the brief flashback of issue 3 and that there wasn’t a better coordination with Soy regarding Duela. See, in the last issue Duela was wearing a pretty casual outfit, while here she’s in her full JD’s garb, creating a pretty big disconnect between the two issues.

THE MUSIC:
Ouch! The time is running out for both our heroes and this book, and they have only one last chance to set things right. We won’t know until next issue if they will be able to turn things around so I picked up Toto’s “Running out of Time” to keep us company in the meantime...




THE COMPARISON:
Duela has stacked the odds against Jason in a final bid to break him by putting Roy in a seemingly inescapable situation. But as we all know, Jason is not someone that will let something like that get the better of him, oh no, and that's why he puts everything he has into a final sprint to save everyone and make sure Duela gets her comeuppance. Ka-Pow!

THE CONCLUSION:
This issue marks the beginning of the end for Jason's and Roy's friendship. So what are you still doing here? Go get it! Rebirth is still grating its cheese, so don't you want to see how these two untie their knot!!!!

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

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