RED HOOD: OUTLAW #30 & #31

Have you ever noticed that being on Facebook is very much like being in prison? After all, you have a profile picture, you spend most of your day writing on walls, and when you least expect it, some strange person pokes you for no apparent reason whatsoever. Want to know more? Then please check out the following adventure created by Scott Lobdell, Pete Woods, Rex Lokus, and published by DC Comics in March, 2019.

TO QUOTE Winston Churchill: “If you’re going through hell, keep going.”

After receiving a fairly solid lead on Solitary’s whereabouts, Jason Todd, a.k.a. The Red Hood, makes his way to Mexico and goes in search for a place that’s so terrifying, so cruel, and so menacing to enter, none of the locals are willing to go anywhere near there, despite the fact that it’s been abandoned for many, many years.

Well, that’s what they thought, anyway, until Jason breaks into this place -- The ‘Hierve el Aqua’ Prison -- only to discover that Solitary has transformed it into his own personal HQ, so he can sell drugs, make monsters, and use it to imprison dangerous metahumans! Most notably, Bunker, a former member of the Teen Titans, who joins forces with Jason in order to fight against Solitary, alongside Wingman, the mysterious vigilante!  Want to know more? Then please check out issue 30 and 31 of Red Hood: Outlaw today. In the meantime though, here, have a look at this… 

Part One) EVEN OLD ENDINGS HAVE NEW BEGINNINGS:   Before we begin, please allow me to make one thing perfectly clear. I will try my best not to give away too many spoilers so I don't impair your enjoyment of this penultimate chapter.  So, with that in mind, please allow me to start off by saying that Scott Lobdell has finally got his groove back (after all this time) by producing a really solid script for issue 30. Overall I would say it was one part fun, two parts action, and three parts very exciting to read. Not only because he smartly moves the plot forward so we can find out what’s really going on with Solitary and the Underlife, but in addition to this, he also shows us that Jason can still use his detective skills! Which, I must admit, sometimes took a convenient leap in logic, yet generally stuck within reasonable limits and tied back to previous elements Lobdell introduced earlier in the series! 

Along similar lines, I also applauded that quick one-page tease relating to where Artemis and Bizarro have been since they 'went away' (which rekindled my hopes for their return happening sooner rather than later), as well as how Lobdell has used Jason’s memory of Roy as a motivational anchor behind his current quest! After all, their friendship hasn’t been acknowledged for most of Rebirth, so it’s great to see it back again, front and center, along with Jason’s recent characterization and temperament (although I wish it were under completely different circumstances).

Part Two) OUTLAWED AND OUT-OF-ORDER:   In fairly conventional comic book fashion, issue 31 picks up immediately after the previous issue left off, with Scott Lobdell either answering old questions (some asked as early as issue 7) or establishing new ones which revolve around Solitary, his final fate, his true relationship with Jason, Bunker, Wingman, and what our new team of Outlaws are planning to do next.  

That said, however, the conclusion in itself (and by extension, the first major arc for RHATO as a whole) was pretty underwhelming to read. Admittedly, there were some good moments sprinkled here and there (you know who you are), but generally speaking, the showdown between Jason and Solitary felt rushed, unsatisfying, and as solid as a damp sponge. Seriously, folks, I wish I could support this grand finale a lot more, but in all fairness, what should’ve been an emotional confrontation turned into a ‘paint it by numbers’ face-off that ended before it began. 

Part Three) DON’T FART ON MY ART:   Even though I’m not a big fan of how he draws Jason’s face (too podgy) or hairstyle (his 'buzz cut' doesn’t suit his personality), by and large, I really did enjoy looking at the artwork provided by Pete Woods because it meshes so well with Lobdell’s script. 

For example, during issue 30, we were presented with a brief, wordless sequence, where we see Jason walking through the numerous barren hallways of Hierve el Agua prison. Although, what makes this sequence particularly noticeable -- visually, at least -- is the creepy way Pete makes us feel, standing there right by his side! In fact, it was so creepy, that I would definitely be up for an all-silent issue (if possible) since this style of art lends itself pretty well to this brand of spooky storytelling.

However, for me, the real standout of the show can be seen on pages 16 & 17 of the exact same issue, within a very evocative image that shows us where they put together all of the Mondays (the villains from the Batwoman crossover). Honestly, fellow comic book fans, this is one of the best splash-pages I've seen in this series so far, because it’s bold in design, dynamic on the page, and very very easy on the eye. 

Come to think of it, Rex Lokus’s color palette wasn’t that bad either. Heck, just like Lobdell before him, he was also able to find his groove this month by providing a palette that’s either very vibrant or very muted in tone. Similar, in many ways, to the trend started by Veronica Gandini, the previous colorist, when she used sepia tones to color flashback sequences and other such scenarios that happened in the past. I also admired how Rex decided to tackle one of my previous complaints about Jason’s attire, namely, by making the reds in his clothes stand out compared to the rest of the scene. Having said that, though, during issue 31, I wasn't too keen on his use of lighting effects because it gave Pete’s art a 'plastic finish', so to speak, which didn’t hurt it but was still fairly distracting.

With the obvious reference to ‘Hierve el Agua’ being ‘hell on earth’, I couldn’t help but musically match-up this adventure with the Venom song, ‘Welcome to Hell’.

Well, if you think about it, some of the lyrics featured in this rock anthem do seem fairly appropriate to that scene where Jason makes his way into the prison. 

Now if you're a history buff, like me, then I'm sure you were able to see the obvious comparison between Jason standing in the doorway of Hierve el Agua prison (with the ominous "Bienvenidos al Infierno" / "Welcome to Hell" message painted above his head), and seeing Dante Alighieri standing in front of the Door to Hell (ready to start his trip into the underworld and beyond). 

Therefore, check out the picture provided, and comparison made. 

On the whole, I’d say these two issues of Red Hood: Outlaw were a pretty mixed bag. On the one hand, the story had its ups and downs, while on the other, Pete's art was great and Scott was able to put to bed some of the series longest-running plotlines. So, with some benefit of hindsight, I sincerely feel that these two episodes can’t be missed if you’re a fan of this book. 

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

RED HOOD: OUTLAW #30 & #31 RED HOOD: OUTLAW #30 & #31 Reviewed by David Andrews on March 12, 2019 Rating: 5

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