Review: Red Hood and the Outlaws Vol. 4: Good Night, Gotham trade paperback (DC Comics)

August 18, 2019

It's been apparent from the beginning that things were going to go terribly wrong; what I didn't expect was the revelation of the long game that's been played from the beginning.

Scott Lobdell's Red Hood and the Outlaws Vol. 4: Good Night, Gotham brings this chapter of the series to a close before it relaunches as Red Hood: Outlaw. Admirably, Lobdell ties up or at least addresses all of the series' hanging threads before the end, with more than a few surprises. Obviously the story's not over (though I would hope, going through the trouble of re-titling and renumbering the trades, the book doesn't revert too soon), but Lobdell sends us out with a few good cliffhangers to be re-addressed down the road.

[Review contains spoilers]

Just about everything I mentioned at the end of my review of Red Hood and the Outlaws Vol. 3: Bizarro Reborn that I wanted to see Lobdell get to before Good Night closed, he did. We know what Bizarro's been up to, we know who's been working against the Outlaws behind the scenes, and we know the significance of Artemis' mission-gone-wrong to Hierve el Agua. That Artemis has an earlier connection to Red Hood Jason Todd than we previously knew was one big surprise; the true identity of the person who's been hunting the Outlaws was another, and I admit I didn't put two and two together until the final pages.

It's been apparent for a while that Bizarro-gone-smart would end badly; that the definition of "badly" would not be Bizarro himself rampaging through the streets but rather the Outlaws' city-sized ship nearly crash-landing in downtown Gotham is another of the book's surprises. It stretches believability for me that neither Jason nor Artemis nor Bizarro himself would put a failsafe in place to maintain the integrity of the floating headquarters were Bizarro incapacitated. At the same time, among the fatal flaws here is certainly hubris, that all three Outlaws were too busy celebrating Bizarro's intelligence — celebrating that one of them got a break and the world was perhaps not so crummy after all — to take the time to plan for disaster. As I mentioned in my Reborn review, Jason will perhaps ultimately see here the cost of daring to be happy, to his detriment.

Mainly because I don't think DC would allow for killing off major villain property the Penguin (and I think I've seen previews that suggest his presence elsewhere in the DC Universe), I was skeptical from the outset that Red Hood killed the Penguin at the book's end. Good Night, Gotham includes a couple shout-outs to the earlier books, and we recall this iteration started with Jason seemingly killing the Gotham mayor, only for it to be revealed a ruse. I imagine this business with Penguin to be the same thing, though the question is whether Batman is in on it. I'd like to think so, rather than we have angry Batman lashing out at his partners again and also fooled twice by Jason's same trick; I'd sooner Jason and Batman were putting on a good show for purposes yet unknown (maybe that Jason already knows his father is behind it all and etc.).

There's what seems to be an odd tangent early in the book where, in showing Bizarro considering killing a room full of "henches" (henchmen-for-hire in Gotham, apparently), Lobdell profiles a down-on-his-luck hench named Ben. I had thought perhaps this was simply for drama's sake, that we were supposed to sympathize with Ben and therefore it heightened the tension of Bizarro's almost-murder, but by the end, it seemed to me more that Lobdell was fleshing out the concept of "henching" itself — that Jason's father Willis Todd was a hench, like Ben and the 63-year-old career hench we meet, and that perhaps the intention is for us to empathize with the mutated Todd, sold out by the Penguin and experimented on, once we understand his ultimate plan.

I admit to being a little fuzzy now on Jason Todd's origins, as I thought for sure in Death in the Family, after a series of misdirections, that Jason did indeed learn his mother was Sheila Haywood shortly before she handed him over to the Joker, who killed him. All that Lobdell sets up here, including the letters from Willis to Jason, suggest that Catherine Todd was indeed Jason's mother, who died of an overdose, and Jason went after the Joker on his own for reasons unknown. That's lesser, I think; it seems to me Lobdell could still tell the story of Willis being alive while keeping Death intact. I am not totally sold on Jason's father needing to be a super-powered antagonist (shades, I feel, of perfectly viable character Maggie Kyle becoming the meta-human Sister Zero), but Ma Gunn being Jason's grandmother is a stunner that wholly redeems any other little quibbles.

Support Collected Editions -- Purchase Red Hood and the Outlaws Vol. 4: Good Night, Gotham

With Red Hood and the Outlaws Vol. 4: Good Night, Gotham, the "team of Outlaws" concept seems over very quickly this time around. Scott Lobdell's New 52 team had 40 issues versus this team's 25, which isn't really all that much, but it does feel as though Jason, Artemis, and Bizarro never quite got to know each other as well as Jason, Arsenal Roy Harper, and Starfire. Again, I hope re-titling Red Hood and the Outlaws to Red Hood: Outlaw isn't just for purposes of a storyline, especially since DC has started re-numbering the trades, but I also wonder whether a Jason Todd title is better or worse without a team behind him. Which is not to say Red Hood: Outlaw can't still include a team; the animated combination "Outlaws" team shown here a couple of times is fun (though lacking Crux, Scott) and I'd enjoy seeing that team up in actuality some time. Let's see what happens next.

[Includes original and variant covers]

Summary
Review Date
Reviewed Item
Red Hood and the Outlaws Vol. 4: Good Night, Gotham
Author Rating
4 (scale of 1 to 5)

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