“Red Hood and the Outlaws” #3 is a more interesting comic conceptually than it is in execution. When I think about the issue, I find myself liking it; when I flip back through it, that enjoyment disappears. Conceptually, it’s a straight up action book with a flashback for each of the main characters that helps shed some light on their personalities and adds depth to each of them; in execution, it’s a fluffy comic with unlikable characters that spout off flip remarks that carry little weight and go through the motions in a quest that’s presented as trivial. The flashbacks don’t add nearly as much depth as they’re supposed to, either. That disconnect between the idea and the reality ultimately makes this an interesting comic in a unique way, but not terribly good.
With the All Caste — a group of monks in the Himalayas — slaughtered, the Red Hood, Arsenal, and Starfire follow the culprit, the Untitled, to the Chamber of All where they must surrender their most cherished memory to gain access. The rest of the issue is a mixture of each character’s memory and them fighting their way to what the Untitled was after. Why? Because that’s what they do in this comic.
The memories shown don’t provide as much insight as they should. Starfire’s memory is so divorced from how she’s presented here that it seems to have been plucked from the mind of another character (pre-relaunch Starfire, I imagine). Arsenal’s memory demonstrates how screwed up he is and only underlines how thoroughly unlikable he is as a character. It’s a memory of hitting rock bottom, which is perfectly in sync with his lewd one-liners and general skeevy nature.
The only memory that stands out in any way is the Red Hood’s, where he remembers one of the few tender moments as Robin. And, yet, his decision to leave it behind reminds us that, he, too, is damaged in a way that offers no indication of why anyone would be rooting for him. His fellow ‘Outlaws’ don’t like him, or each other, and their ‘quest’ is one that’s happening based on momentum, it seems.
Kenneth Rocafort’s art is suited to the characters, somehow always managing to capture the unattractive elements about each of them. His younger Arsenal is so junkie chic that it’s the most entertaining part of the comic. The art is energetic and that energy sometimes leads to cluttered layouts and compositions. Rocafort is very good at making sure there’s something visually distinct happening in every panel but, sometimes, doesn’t choose the best layout or angle. Some pages have a muddled flow or panels that are so packed with detail that there’s nothing that draws your focus. His sketchy line work is a problem at times for that reason, while also lending that energy to his art. He needs time to figure out how best to present his art; the potential is clearly here.
What should be an illuminating issue of “Red Hood and the Outlaws” is more of a turn-off issue. It’s clear what Scott Lobdell is going for and the way he writes the comic makes this a lackluster issue. In an issue that should make readers understand the protagonists more and make us want to root for them, he accomplishes the opposite.