Review: Red Hood: Outlaw Vol. 2: Prince of Gotham trade paperback (DC Comics)

Red Hood: Outlaw Vol. 2: Prince of Gotham is a bit all over the place. This is not in a bad way necessarily, though the point and ultimate direction of writer Scott Lobdell's "Outlaw" direction is getting harder to figure. On one hand, Prince's multifaceted-ness demonstrates the variety of stories Lobdell can tell with this title and these characters; on the other hand, that certain aspects are stronger than others here perhaps suggests where this title's focus should be.

[Review contains spoilers]

Prince of Gotham is telling two stories — one, of Jason "Red Hood" Todd's rise as new owner of the Penguin's Iceberg Lounge and his attempt to take the control of the Gotham underworld that comes with it, and two, Jason's battle with the supernatural All-Caste that trained him and now wants him to return and rejoin their ranks (or die). Of the two, the All-Caste story feels tacked on; their beef with Jason (in general and specifically in the form of former romantic interest Essence) is not well fleshed out nor does it feel largely different than what we've seen before in this title.

Yes, Jason now possesses Essence's soul in a magic blade, and so presumably that means Essence is going to pop up again. But the amount of build-up in the "Prince of Gotham" story versus the quick resolution of Essence's attack, and the fact that the story still continues on from there, makes the All-Caste's role feel more about filling pages than something thematically or structurally important to the story.

In contrast, all the other parts of "Prince" are much more dynamic. There is in general this idea of Jason as the "prince of Gotham," his having taken over the casino and criminal enterprise of the man who sent his father to prison, coming victoriously full circle but with the crown of Gotham lying uneasily on his head. There is Jason making allies out of enemies in the form of Suzie Su, longtime antagonist turned bodyguard to whom, in the end, Jason hands off the Iceberg Lounge. There's the return of Jason's former, bizarrely normal girlfriend Isabel. And there's Jason's inevitable falling out with former Teen Titan Miguel Jose "Bunker" Barragan, Jason's new sidekick until he learns that Jason's had Penguin locked up in the casino the whole time.

There's a bit of Christopher Priest's Deathstroke in Jason taking on Miguel and Miguel believing that Jason's some semblance of a good guy, until he finds out he's not. Their falling out seems to come rather quick — they only partnered at the end of the last trade — and I wonder to what extent that's by design. Jason is "Outlaw" now, not "and the Outlaws," so to be true to that Lobdell ought not keep him with a team all that long. At the same time, Lobdell wraps up the entire "Prince of Gotham" status quo by the end of this, launching Jason into the role of mentor to kid villains, tied to "Year of the Villain," and that switch is so swift that I wonder if "Year of the Villain" didn't pre-empt "Prince" a little.

In the next volume, it seems Jason's dimensions-lost teammates Artemis and Bizarro will return in what's billed as a confrontation between the old Outlaws and the new ones (Jason's teen charges). I'll be curious to see what comes after that, whether the "old" Outlaws are getting back together or if Jason will stay on his own or remain a villains' teacher (whether undercover or not). Basically, it's increasingly muddled why this title needed to become "Outlaw" instead of "Outlaws," whether Lobdell means for Jason to be on his own for good or if the "Outlaw" title can remain with a team within, or whether this is now an episodic series of Jason doing good/bad things every volume — one as a brutal vigilante, another as a crime boss, a third training kid villains, and so on. I like how Lobdell writes Jason Todd and I'm happy to keep reading, but I'm not particularly sure what this book is about anymore.

Support Collected Editions -- Purchase Red Hood: Outlaw Vol. 2: Prince of Gotham

Still, I admire that Red Hood: Outlaw Vol. 2: Prince of Gotham is able to, in a way that's perfectly sensible for the book, weave in both supernatural assassin cults, ground-level crime intrigue, and the alt-reality adventures of Artemis and Bizarro (which comes off a bit silly, though Scott Lobell creates some interesting one-off heroes, including the shadowed man with opaque word balloons). This is a trait I often associate with Marv Wolfman and George Perez's New Teen Titans, where the Titans might battle Deathstroke amidst spy intrigue one day and be off in space the next. Lobdell's Red Hood books remain, in my opinion, consistently strong, and such things as lettering that seems unusually large this time (giving the book a kind of juvenile, unserious look) only contribute to the title being more underrated than it deserves.

[Includes original and variant covers, character and set concepts]

Review Date
Reviewed Item
Red Hood: Outlaw Vol. 2: Prince of Gotham
Author Rating
3.75 (scale of 1 to 5)


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