One night in August, 2018, Scott Lobdell, Trevor Hairsine, and Rain Beredo, discovered a batch of letters' buried deep inside a hidden treasure chest. But these letters weren't your usual secret letters! No way, Jose! Rather, they formed a brand new issue focused on our favorite antiheroes, The Outlaws! Please enjoy!!!

TO QUOTE Peter Ustinov: “Parents are the bones on which children cut their teeth.”

When this issue begins we see Jason Todd sitting down by an open fire and reading those letters sent to him by the elusive, Faye Gunn. Much to his surprise, he quickly notices that these letters were written by his estranged father, Willis Todd, who wrote them to him while he was in prison, hoping to atone for his poor parenting skills. Well, that's what he hoped for, although what he actually tells him doesn't resolve anything at all. In fact, it does the complete opposite, because after reading them, Jason's life gets turned upside down which threatens to destroy everything he has built over the past few years. Want to know more? Then please pick up issue 23 of Red Hood and The Outlaws today.

In the meantime, though, please allow me to say that this issue doesn't disappoint because Scott Lobdell finally decides to elaborate on the secret of Willis' letters (which were first featured in issue 12). Staying true to form, Lobdell dives deep into Jason's rich history and creates a whole new mythology derived from elements previously overlooked by other writers. Most notably, Willis Todd, who he turns into a very compelling, three-dimensional character that's just as responsible for Jason's beliefs as Batman is!

Although, in this instance, Lobdell turns his back on how he has written Jason's origins in the past, normally doing so from Jason's point of view (as seen in issue 0 of the old RHATO series). Instead, he now presents those said-same events from Willis' perspective, so it shouldn't be a surprise to discover that Jason's idea of his father was heavily biased and inaccurate. On the whole, these revelations make for an interesting narrative that will catch your attention in no time at all. 

That said, however, please keep in mind that Willis is an unreliable narrator, saying so because of a small scene at the end of the book which throws a shadow of a doubt over Willis' honesty. After all, he is a convicted felon and would at least try to minimize his faults and appeal to Jason's emotions. While reading both Willis and Jason's accounts of the same events, you'll notice how we're offered a clearer picture of how certain events played out, as well as giving Lobdell (and editorial by extension) enough wiggle room to modify Jason's origins as they see fit without contradicting the core narrative (if needed).

Now, where the artwork is concerned, this month Trevor Hairsine is filling in on the art duties, and while I'm not a fan of the way he draws people's faces -- they're all too similar for my own liking -- those scenes set in Gotham's graveyard are truly, truly, gorgeous. Hairsine just has a knack at depicting scenes where backgrounds have as much of a role as the characters, along with a natural talent for composing fighting scenes.  

Fortunately, Rain Beredo is in charge of coloring Hairsine's work, and I'm pleased to say that he does an excellent job with it. The standouts are the subtle differences in the color palette used in the flashback scenes, which gives them an eerie tone more fitting of fantasies than that of real events.

Now a large portion of this episode focuses on people's memories -- both good and bad -- so I couldn't help but think of Fall Out Boy's, 'Thnks fr th Mmrs', as the perfect song to listen to while reading it. I mean, there's something about the lyrics which fits really well with the wave of emotions Willis conveys with his letters and Jason’s reaction to them.

One of the most interesting revelations featured in this issue is the way both Jason and Willis recall the same events differently, and how their life experiences have molded their perspective about their shared story. Almost as if Jason and Willis’ lives were Mirror Images, and thus, they were presented with different views of the same things depending on their positions.

Overall this issue is a pretty mixed bag. Even though it doesn't work as a standalone story, it does work as part of a much bigger story, because it introduces elements I'm sure we will see play out in the near future. So with this in mind, even if I found the episode flawed, it's still an issue worth owning so you can fully experience the stories Lobdell has in store for our favorite anti-heroes.

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

RED HOOD & THE OUTLAWS #23 RED HOOD & THE OUTLAWS #23 Reviewed by David Andrews on August 07, 2018 Rating: 5

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