In “Red Hood and the Outlaws” #1, Scott Lobdell and Dexter Soy continue the exploration of Jason Todd’s history with Batman that they kicked off in the “Rebirth” issue, only this time with a flashback that has a more direct connection to present day events. The elements that made the “Rebirth” issue so impressive are also well-utilized in this formidable collaboration, with Lobdell crafting solid characterization for Jason and Soy composing strong layouts.
Cover artist Giuseppe Camuncoli also returns with another eye-grabbing cover image, which finds Red Hood flanked by Bizarro and Artemis; the shadowy figure of Batman also looms behind Jason, which is symbolically appropriate of Jason’s attitude on his current mission. The issue still belongs almost solely to Jason, though, which works well for the story Lobdell looks to tell; rather than cobble together this so-called “Dark Trinity” by quick and easy convenience or through some contrived situation, Lobdell takes his time, emphasizing character over circumstance. As a matter of fact, the team’s second member doesn’t even appear until the issue’s cliffhanger ending.
Jason isn’t the only character Lobdell handles so well; even though Batman’s appearance is brief, Lobdell has some fun with the Dark Knight. Yes, the Bat did indeed utter a wisecrack after he takes several point-blank shots to the chest; amusing, yet not uncharacteristic thanks to Lobdell’s brevity. Ma Gunn is portrayed well both as an antagonist and a victim, while Black Mask comes across as a genuinely threatening villain, rather than a stereotypical crime lord trying to muscle in on everyone else’s action.
Soy and colorist Veronica Gandini establish the flavor of the title in their artwork. Through a range of techniques, Gandini captures everything from mood to timeframe. Flashbacks are muted, save for Jason’s red attire, but current sequences are rich with darkly colored backdrops. These same backdrops — from Jason’s hideout to the cityscape of Gotham itself — are rendered with precision, but don’t get buried in detail thanks to Soy’s care and attention.
“Red Hood and the Outlaws” #1 proves that the “Rebirth” issue wasn’t just a surprising one-off. There’s a compelling story here that holds promise for chapters yet to come.