RED HOOD & THE OUTLAWS - REBIRTH #1

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[ RED HOOD REBIRTH
It's July, 2016, and already DC’s Rebirth has been going as strong as an ox. All the heavy hitters and media darlings have made their featured debuts, but, what about the assembled dark horses? The kind of characters that people like Scott Lobdell, Dexter Soy, and Veronica Gandini love to work with? Well, they were taking their own sweet time to get ready and present only their best, and, boy-oh-boy, they didn’t disappoint with their debuts!

TO QUOTE John Ruskin: 'Give a little love to a child, and you get a great deal back'.

THE REVIEW:
To better understand Jason Todd in this next chapter of his life, this Rebirth Special takes us on a trip down memory lane, so we can bear witness to his first meeting with Batman, right up to the moment he eventually becomes Robin. Then, once that obligatory introductory sequence is played out, we jump to the present day where we see Jason -- now in his Red Hood persona -- leading an assault on Gotham’s Mayor.

Why is he doing this? And will Batman be able to stop his prodigal son from committing murder on live TV? You’ll just have to pick up this issue to find out, dear reader! But just between you and me, the issue is totally worth it and the answers to those questions are really satisfying.

This is a fantastic issue from start to finish. Although a little slow, since it establishes Jason's new status quo, Lobdell still manages to make sure every page count, and its a perfect way to kick start the new series for both new and old readers alike. To me, this is just a very important detail to keep in mind, despite the book being called “Red Hood & the Outlaws”, this issue is totally focused on Jason alone. I'm sure Artemis and Bizarro will have to wait for their turn down the line. 

Since Rebirth’s announcement we knew that many characters would go back to previous incarnations, and while I felt it would be a huge mistake to shed all the development Jason had gone through these last six years, yes, I’m pleased to say that Lobdell managed to find a perfect middle ground between New 52 and DC YOU Jason, a middle ground that the moody Jason and the angry Jason both occupy, 'under the hood'. The funny thing is, aside from him being slightly angrier, there's not a big difference between this Jason and the way he was at the end of Red Hood /Arsenal. He’s mellowed a lot and is less prone to act in the heat of the moment. But, that said, he’s still pretty damn emotional, and more importantly, he has a relationship with Bruce that while hard to call cordial, is at least a civil one. 

Being as disappointed as I am for the current direction of Batman, it was fantastic to see him act like a parent and show actual concern for Jason's well-being, even if it's not in the terms Jason would’ve liked. In contrast with the way he acts on other books, here he shows a willingness to talk directly to Jason instead of being a downright jerk to his son. If nothing else, it seems his dynamic with Jason is mostly carried over from the previous series.

Speaking of the sons of Batman, while there are superficial similarities between the directions Dick and Jason are taking on their respective books, I think Jason is on a more personal quest than Dick. By his own accord Jason is jumping right into the darkness, since he believes this is what he should do, instead of taking advantage of a bad situation like Dick did. And in my opinion these directions will certainly diverge even more as soon as Jason meets Bizarro and Artemis, whom will also add completely new dynamics to the book. It will be very interesting to see how differently their interactions with Jason will be compared to Roy and Kori’s.

Going just by the recap on this issue it seems Jason's background is altered once again, this time seemingly being closer to the animated movie by resurrecting him with the Lazarus Pit and even changing the way Under the Red Hood happened. Whereas in the original version only Dick was present (although he never met Jason face to face) and in the glimpses the N52 gave us, Dick's role was increased (he fought Jason, for one). This time it seems like Dick wasn't involved at all and his role was taken over by Tim. Hopefully this will be elaborated upon in future issues, giving us a better understanding of Jason's dynamic with the rest of the bat family, Tim in particular.

Before ending my analysis of the script, it is important to note the way Lobdell weaves tales of both present and past: With one being the direct result of these events whilst the other has parallels that serve to highlight Jason’s evolution as an individual.

Dexter Soy takes over art duties with this series and I must say he sure knocks it out of the park. Everything is easy to follow, there’s a lot of detail on the panels, and he creates some very interesting layouts that perfectly complement Lobdell's script. Whether this is because of the inking, the coloring, or the simple fact he had more time to work on this, Soy delivers a very superior work here compared to the few issues he did for Red Hood / Arsenal. Soy’s layouts are also filled with Easter eggs and small details that help to improve the reader’s immersion of the story. A favorite of mine is the way Bruce’s presence is highlighted by making him tower over everyone else. Oh, and the best part of Soy’s pencils? The expressive helmet is gone! Hurrah!!!

While Soy is fantastic in his own right, it would be a crime to diminish the role that Veronica Gandini's colors played to improve Soy’s strokes. Her idea of using washed out colors and enhancing the red on Jason’s clothes during the flashback-scenes is brilliant. This composition keeps the spotlight on Jason and burns into the reader the color red as Jason’s signature theme. I wouldn’t mind to see this trend continue on upcoming issues yet it might clash with Artemis and Bizarro's color schemes. We'll see I guess, but right now I'm pretty confident on this art team to maintain the quality of this first issue.

THE MUSIC:
Jason is back and better than ever! So of course there’s only one song I could pick: AC/DC’s classic Back in Black.




Its powerful lyrics perfectly describe the emotions that flowed through me while reading the issue, and it doesn’t apply just to Jason either, everyone involved in the book’s creation has brought their A-Game as well.

Shame that back in red isn’t as catchy though.

THE COMPARISON:
This is the Dawn of a new era for Jason Todd, and a way for him to prove his worth to the always difficult comic book readers, once and for all. Luckily for us, he’s off to a fantastic start.

THE CONCLUSION:
Lobdell's work with Jason has always been very divisive among the readers, so the news he was leading another series with Jason was met with a lot of skepticism and bias from a considerable amount of the fan base. While I never doubted Lobdell’s prowess and absolute dominion of Jason’s character, the undeniable truth is that the odds were heavily stacked against him.

Luckily, Lobdell managed to surpass everyone’s expectations and deliver a script that even his more die-hard critics had to accept was good. Paired with Soy’s amazing pencils and Gandini’s exquisite colors, this book is one of the finest offerings DC’s Rebirth has to offer. Making it a must buy not only for Jason’s fans but any fan of DC Comics and superheroes in general.

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

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