Review: Red Hood and the Outlaws Vol. 1: Dark Trinity (Rebirth) trade paperback (DC Comics)

There is nothing particularly problematic about Scott Lobdell's Rebirth Red Hood and the Outlaws Vol. 1: Dark Trinity and that's perhaps an accomplishment in and of itself given the controversies that followed this title's New 52 debut. It feels a little soft, with the story — like a TV pilot — putting the title characters where they need to be to meet one another, and that's about it. At the same time, Lobdell shows a brilliant understanding of these characters, or particularly Red Hood Jason Todd; just as Lobdell found unexpected commonality between Jason and Joker's Daughter in the last Red Hood/Arsenal volume, here he makes a Red Hood/Bizarro team-up make sense. More can assuredly be done with this book and the first volume doesn't give me any hesitation about continuing.

[Review contains spoilers]

As mentioned, Dark Trinity involves Jason, pretending to work for Black Mask, protecting a weapon that's attacked (mistakenly) by the Amazon Artemis, and that weapon turns out to be Bizarro. That seems somewhat by the numbers; it's not less contrived, for instance, than a pre-set Justice League team or a Green Lantern joining a team because they happen to be "in the area," but Dark Trinity still feels like it unfolds rather predictably. There's an issue to introduce Jason, an issue to introduce Artemis, two issues for Bizarro, and two issues for the conclusion. I'm hopeful that in the next volume, when Lobdell has fewer scene-setting beats to hit, the developments in this title might begin to feel more organic.

Still, Lobdell writes Jason Todd strongly as always. In this volume he particularly pulls well from the breadth of Jason's publication history, from Bronze Age Robin stories to the retroactively established details of Jason's resurrection, to some of the minutiae of the previous Red Hood and the Outlaws series mostly ignored in the Red Hood/Arsenal incarnation. And paralleling Bizarro's current resurrection with Jason's own was very smart; I would guess that the idea to include Bizarro in this title came before considerations of what he and Jason have in common, and I thought that such a parallel, logical in retrospect, was clever.

Artemis is a favorite character from her past continuity appearances. She certainly fares here better than Starfire did in the previous first Red Hood and the Outlaws, though her presence based entirely on her own misunderstanding, again, felt contrived; hopefully in the next book, Who Is Artemis?, Lobdell will be able to give a sensible answer to that question for Rebirth that's not hampered by the continuity shenanigans going on in the Wonder Woman title.

On the other side, Lobdell portrays Black Mask as much more of a traditional supervillainous mastermind than other incarnations, though that may not be a bad thing. What seems a deliberate call-out at the end of the book to one of the most gruesome Black Mask scenes from Ed Brubaker's Catwoman run reminds me what we could have been in for with Roman Sionis presented in his usual gangster role. I do like the idea of Jason repurposing childhood foe Ma Gunn as Black Mask's caretaker and I hope Lobdell keeps her as a supporting character in this title.

It has seemed to me that writers sometimes change the definition of Batman's "morality" to suit a story's purpose — that, for instance, a recent Batwoman series suggested Batman was never too violent with his enemies nor would team up with a villain for a common cause, both ideas of which are demonstrably false in Batman's own titles. I appreciated then, that after some early-story grousing, Lobdell has Batman accept Jason's "outlaw" status and even acknowledge that Batman himself breaks "into private property without a warrant" and brutalizes people "almost every night." Though it seems we'll have a rogue Red Hood again in the not-too-distant future, the "Bat-ally hunted and shunned by the Bat-family" trope feels tired (not to mention the "Batman just doesn't understand" trope), and it's refreshing to hear Batman say that he doesn't expect Jason to follow his example to the letter.

Support Collected Editions -- Purchase Red Hood and the Outlaws Vol. 1: Dark Trinity

I'm writing this as news breaks of Scott Lobdell getting to write the "redemption arc" of a major DC hero. I'm skeptical, but at the same time I acknowledge Lobdell has really defined Jason Todd quite definitively on a scale for instance of Chuck Dixon with Nightwing, so maybe he can right that troubled character too. Red Hood and the Outlaws Vol. 1: Dark Trinity is not the best this franchise has ever been, but it's no slouch — a good start that hopefully will just get better from here.

[Includes original and variant covers]


Review Date
Reviewed Item
Red Hood and the Outlaws Vol. 1: Dark Trinity
Author Rating
3.75 (scale of 1 to 5)


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