Review: Red Hood: Outlaw Vol. 1: Requiem for an Archer trade paperback (DC Comics)

October 9, 2019

 ·  1 comment

After writing close to a hundred issues give or take about Red Hood Jason Todd and his various "Outlaw" teammates, Scott Lobdell goes a different route in Red Hood: Outlaw Vol. 1: Requiem for an Archer. I can't blame Lobdell for switching things up, and the book's new direction is interesting, though surely controversial.

The new Red Hood threatens to become what in some respects it's always deconstructed, another bloody vengeance book along the lines of Deathstroke or Punisher. But Lobdell doesn't hesitate to get weird, for one, and for two, the book is rife with unexpected moments of grace. I'm not sure how long this title works, how long another "solo former Robin" book lasts without the team component (because I don't think "Nightwing but an anti-hero" is differentiated enough), but I'm certainly interested for as long as it does.

[Review contains spoilers for this title and Heroes in Crisis]

Say what you will about the controversies also inherent in Tom King's Heroes in Crisis and the obtrusive ways in which events rattle across the regular titles, but Lobdell uses the death of Arsenal Roy Harper really well as a throughway for this book. Requiem starts with a great annual that, knowing what's coming, highlights Roy and Jason's friendship one last time, and also nods to all the other past Outlaws. We are reminded what a broad swath of the DC Universe that Jason has connections to, which has always been these titles' most interesting irony — Jason ought be an anti-hero loner, but a bunch of otherwise respectable people really trust him.

Indeed, no sooner has Jason started down his new dark path — new costume, gloves off on killing — than Lobdell pulls him back off it, a bit; Bruce Wayne shows up amidst one of Jason's bloody battles, to tell him Roy died but also to reconcile a bit. Given that, essentially, it was a fight with Batman that sent Jason off on his own, patching things up with Bruce comes surprisingly, wonderfully quickly, making this again not so much the story of an irredeemable rogue agent but rather of a still-accepted member of the Bat-family who just does things a little differently.

Still, despite that even now the heroes of television's Arrow fire bullets into people with alacrity, seeing Jason Todd killing his enemies after so many years not (or rarely) doing so is unnerving. And it's not even that Jason kills (probably unsuccessfully) the book's metahuman big bad, his maybe-father known as Solitary, but that he fatally stabs and sets on fire regular street toughs, the kind of killing that seems below even murder-inclined superheroes. Later, Jason blows up a gang leader in his car; that's a step beyond, even, killing an attacker in a fight, and it makes it harder to empathize with Jason than before; it's a bold move on Lobdell's part, that I'm sure not everyone will like, to backtrack on some of Jason's heroic growth.

Lobdell picks right up from the events of Red Hood and the Outlaws Vol. 4: Good Night, Gotham; though it does not seem that it will be that way in the first couple chapters, and despite the title change and renumbering of the trades, eventually we end up back with Solitary and Hierve el Agua, and even Jason getting a sense of former-Outlaw Artemis' role in all of it in absentia. That's not what I expected; I had thought Lobdell would let it rest for a while, if not thoroughly until Artemis and Bizarro returned, if ever (it's also notable that Lobdell cuts to Artemis and Bizarro in another dimension more than once, making me wonder if they will be back sooner than expected, and what happens to the book's new direction then). Another surprise is that Lobdell dispels with the idea that Solitary might be Jason's father quickly, after the whole last book built it up; I don't think we've heard the last of that, since Ma Gunn (apparently Jason's grandmother) seemed to recognize Solitary as her own son, and in all Lobdell's doing well keeping me guessing.

Pete Woods draws most of the book, and it's good to see him again; his past work on Robin gives this book about a former Robin a sense of legitimacy. Woods has what I'd consider a softer style, not particularly threatening, but he's roughed it up on occasion and has no problem here conveying the violence of Red Hood's actions. My one quibble is that Woods does not demonstrate, as Kenneth Rocafort does, the relative youth of Jason Todd behind his Red Hood mask. In the scenes with Bruce Wayne, Woods' Jason doesn't appear significantly younger than Bruce, and I think this makes Jason seem more of an "angry Nightwing" than when we're shown that Jason is just a kid who's been brought to violence by really bad things happening to him. The book does include a large amount of Woods' concepts for the "Outlaw" Red Hood that are interesting to look at.

Support Collected Editions -- Purchase Red Hood: Outlaw Vol. 1: Requiem for an Archer

As DC's Rebirth has gone on a bit, Scott Lobdell's started to reintroduce some of his New 52 concepts; in the last volume of Red Hood and the Outlaws, it was villains, and in Red Hood: Outlaw Vol. 1: Requiem for an Archer, Lobdell's Teen Titan Bunker is back. The happy, magnanimous Bunker is kind of a weird match for Red Hood, and it feels weird that Jason does indeed seem to have a kind of second-run team of Outlaws behind him at the end of this book. I feel I'd rather have Jason on his own or with a more recognizable team, though it's good that Bunker's appearing in a title again irrespective. Lobdell has always written Jason Todd well and his newest take on the character is no exception; again, I'm on board.

[Includes original and variant covers, costume designs and sketches]

Review Date
Reviewed Item
Red Hood: Outlaw Vol. 1: Requiem for an Archer
Author Rating
4 (scale of 1 to 5)

Comments ( 1 )

  1. I think DC really needs to get some fresh voices for the Batfamily. Between this title and Nightwing, they've been relying on the same old vets like Lobdell and Jurgens for way too long. Lobdell's tenure on Red Hood has never really surpassed being just okay, and given the stories about his behavior behind the scenes, maybe it's time to move on without him.


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