After all of the kerfluffle over the first issue of “Red Hood and the Outlaws,” I suspect all eyes are on the second issue. Those looking to be offended, though, are going to be slightly disappointed.
“Red Hood and the Outlaws” #2 is a solid, middle-of-the-road comic. It’s got some highs and lows, but nothing that makes it jump up and get you for being too strong or weak. Instead, Scott Lobdell and Kenneth Rocafort tell a story about the three main characters travelling to the Himalayas to avenge a figure from Jason Todd’s past, plus an opening flashback to said past.
There are some definite high points of the comic. The opening scene is easily the best part of the comic; Lobdell takes Jason down several pegs in an entertaining sequence where his arrogance leads him into disaster. While the ancient woman, Ducka, is a bit of a stereotype, she puts such a nice smackdown onto Jason that it’s easy to forgive. Rocafort’s art here also looks great, full of detail from the numerous (and each looking slightly different) spears pointing at Jason’s head, to the ornate carvings, pathways, and waterfalls in the mystical realm that he’s visiting. Even something as simple as Jason’s clothing and backpack looks good here; I hadn’t been terribly impressed with Rocafort’s art on “Action Comics,” but this looks much more impressive.
Arsenal and Starfire get much less to do this issue. Arsenal’s sole purpose seems to be to annoy, while Lobdell lays some hints about Starfire’s current situation. She’s certainly much more covered up here, with an impressive portrait from Rocafort placing her in a suit and sunglasses. There’s admittedly a bunch of leg on display, but it’s far removed from the infamous bikini scene from the first issue. Rocafort’s art here makes her still look attractive, but in a position of power instead. It’s a much more interesting portrayal.
A lot of the rest of the story trades in cliche, though. Jason Todd’s journey through Hong Kong is ultimately unmemorable as a result, and even his description of the people he’d met in the mystical realm (and his reuniting with Ducka) is so old hat that it’s hard to concentrate on it. I’m not convinced that this is a team of characters worth reading about, just yet. There’s nothing that makes me think, “I must read the next issue,” and while most of the “New 52” titles from DC have ended on cliffhangers, the last page here is surprisingly low-key and even a little dull.
Overall, “Red Hood and the Outlaws” #2 isn’t bad, but we’ve also seen better. This issue feels like it’s treading water, something that’s admittedly better than the near-drowning of last month’s installment. Next issue needs to settle into an actual stroke and start moving forward, though, or it’s going to lose readers and interest at a rapid pace.