RED HOOD & THE OUTLAWS #25 + ANNUAL #2

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[ WOMEN LOVE RED
This October, 2018, let's all gather together and give Scott Lobdell, Dexter Soy, Veronica Gandini, Trevor Hairsine, Ryan Winn, Phil Hester, Ande Parks, Mad Pencil Studios, and Clayton Henry, a well-deserved round of applause for their excellent work on these two issues we are about to review. Well done.

TO QUOTE Unknown:Love means exposing yourself to the pain of being hurt, deeply hurt, by someone you trust.

THE REVIEW:
I'm afraid to say that The Outlaws have seen much better days because of the thing's they've had to recently endure. This includes Jason getting into a fight with Batman, because he deliberately broke one of his cardinal rules (that being: to shoot The Penguin in the head on live TV), coupled with the fact that Bizarro has lost his intelligence and has accidentally triggered the self-destruct protocol on the Outlaws’ new base (thus threatening to kill thousands of people living in Gotham City).

Yeah. Things are pretty shitty for the Outlaws, that's for sure. Still, as luck would have it, while Jason and the gang then try their best to save the day, an old friend of his shows up and lends a helping hand. So, who is this mysterious ally? And will the team be able to save Gotham from going boom? Well, to find out, comic book fans, please pick up issue 25 of Red Hood and The Outlaws today, along with the second annual. But before you go off and do that, in the meantime, here, check this out...

Part One) STARTING OR ENDING:   In what has become one of Scott Lobdell's favorite narrative-tools, issue 25 starts off with a flashback sequence showing Jason’s time as Robin! Or to be more specific about it, a moment where he put his life at risk to save Bruce's life, which basically shows Jason’s selfless nature, love for his mentor, as well as serves as a bookend for Jason’s time with Bruce, both present and past. Then once this sequence has ended, the story quickly goes back to exactly where the previous issue left off: With everyone at Gotham PD looking for Jason. But before they can bring him in, Bang!, the sky starts falling over their heads, somewhat literally, and things, unfortunately, keep on getting worse and worse from that moment onwards.

On the whole, this issue is effectively a finale for the post Rebirth era of The Outlaws, with everything that has been built up over the past two years being systematically torn down, piece, by piece, by piece. Not that this is a bad thing, mind you. If anything, it kind of proves how good Scott Lobdell is as a writer, because he manages to make it feel like a natural consequence of the previous issues’ events, while adding a few great moments between all the cast members that leaves' the readers feeling very satisfied and eager for the story to continue as soon as possible.

Interestingly, this episode also has a small backup story, similar to the one featured at the end of 'Red Hood / Arsenal'. But whereas that story was meant to close the pages on Jason and Roy’s friendship, this one is meant to open a new tale on Jason’s story, simply by revealing a surprising secret about Jason’s family that no one saw coming. A revelation, I hasten to add, that while a bit nonsensical (as these kinds of things tend to go, due to the nature of the medium) carries some very big implications for Jason’s future, and personally, I can’t wait to see where Lobdell is planning to go with all of this.

Now, in terms of art, this issue was tackled by the combined efforts of Dexter Soy, Trevor Hairsine, Ryan Winn, Phil Hester, and Ande Parks, on pencils, with Veronica Gandini, Rain Beredo, and MadPencil Studio, on colors. Obviously the current creative-team of Soy and Gandini are in charge of illustrating the current day events, and as usual, their work is as good as ever, especially the splash pages, which skillfully bring Lobdell’s script to life. Hairsine, Winn, and Beredo, on the other hand, are in charge of the flashback sequences, and their collective style has that perfect nostalgic feeling to show a brighter, simpler past. Finally, Hester, Parks, and Mad Pencil Studios, draw a small sequence leading up to the final reveal of the issue, with a style so wildly different compared to the rest of the book, that I can’t help but congratulate them for the cleverness of it. 

Part Two) ON THE ROAD AGAIN:   At the end of issue 25, we saw Artemis and Bizarro sacrifice themselves to save Gotham from a falling air base, while Roy Harper himself made his triumphant return in the nick of time to rescue Jason from Bruce's wrath. Now, in the second annual, we catch up with the boys three weeks after those events, hanging out on their old tropical hideout, while Jason recovers from the brutal beat-down he received from Bruce. 

Well, as one would expect, Jason’s more than a little miffed about his current condition as the bat family pariah. But, in the same token, his spirits are pretty high after reuniting with his best friend. So, knowing that Jason needs to get back on his feet again and keep himself occupied, Roy has a new case to deal with which starts off a new chapter in Jason's life.

Now, if you think about it, if the previous issue was the end of the Rebirth era of The Outlaws, then this annual is a send-up of the original trio -- even if Starfire’s presence is reduced to a small cameo. Heck, nearly everything featured during the first volume of RHATO and RH/A plays a part in this story, but curiously enough, Jason plays a secondary role in it. More often than not, Roy gets a lot more time in the spotlight and actually drives the plot forward. As someone who found Roy’s appearances on Titans and Green Arrow middling at best, it is incredibly satisfying to see him take the lead in a way that only Lobdell could handle. That said, however, the rumors about Roy’s future in the upcoming 'Heroes in Crisis' cross-over event seems' to cloud this story a bit, since it feels like a sendoff of sorts.

Funnily enough, the same thing can be said about Clayton Henry's art for this annual, too. Despite rendering certain characters faces in a somewhat wonky fashion, in the same breath, he also produces some astounding work. In fact, everything is just so crisp and clean that it is easy to forget the reasons for Jason and Roy’s reunion. Marcelo Maiolo’s colors play a big part in this as well, since he works off a warmer, brighter, color palette, leading us to think of new and hopeful days. 

THE MUSIC:
With both episodes dealing with Jason losing and gaining relationships, I found the song by Little Texas, “What might have been”, very complimentary to both stories. On the one hand, you have the chance of Jason and Bruce working together, squandered by a fit of rage, while on the other, the annual shows us a glimpse of what Jason and Roy teaming up again could be like. Both possibilities painfully coming to an end within these two stories.




THE COMPARISON:
Over the years, Jason has severed ties with many-many people because of the severe nature of his actions. Although, by seeing Roy pop-up, it also shows that those ties can be mended, in part, but they can never truly be the same again. After all, people are always changing, always learning, and always evolving like life itself -- ensuring that some things can never remain the same! So with this in mind, I think that these two issues can be summarized by a broken mirror, as you can put the pieces together in the frame but the cracks will never go away. 

THE CONCLUSION:
Everyone involved with the creation of this series has brought their A-game to these two issues, and since these set the stage for Jason’s new solo outing in issue 26 and beyond, they’re more than deserving a place of honor on your shelf. Trust me, you won’t regret it.

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

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