Though Giuseppe Camuncoli's standard-edition cover puts Bizarro and Artemis dead in Red Hood's sights, two of these so-called Outlaws don't appear in Scott Lobdell and Dexter Soy's "Red Hood and the Outlaws: Rebirth" #1. Instead, Lobdell provides a fun and accessible refresher on Jason Todd's present as well as his pre-Red Hood days, spanning from his very first meeting with Batman to his current relationship with his former mentor. This "Rebirth" issue is a wise and welcome prelude to the upcoming series and establishes the reasons behind Jason's present actions, even as it recounts his origin, death and rebirth.
Existing fans know that Jason's resurrection is rooted in a far-reaching and cosmically convoluted key moment from a couple of continuities ago. Lobdell is smart enough to recognize that newer readers don't need to know anything about Superboy-Prime's reality-bending super-punch, which originally played a part in Jason's rebirth. That might not even be the case any longer in the new "Rebirth" era, but all that is kept refreshingly ambiguous by Lobdell, who opts for the far simpler solution of a Lazarus pit.
Jason's rebirth comes later in the issue, though. The one-shot opens with Soy's interpretation of the iconic scene where young Jason attempts to jack the Batmobile's rims in the heart of Crime Alley, only to be caught by the Dark Knight himself. Colorist Veronica Gandini foreshadows Jason's destiny as Robin with dominant red monotones throughout the sequence, while letterer Taylor Esposito plays along with red-on-black narration boxes. Lobdell takes a fresh, open-handed approach to the tough street kid and the even tougher superhero, with a relaxed exchange between the two that quickly forges their early bond.
Of course, that bond hasn't quite been the same since Jason's return, and Lobdell succinctly establishes that as he moves the action to present day, where the two find themselves at odds. Soy expands his layouts and Gandini broadens the color palette while Lobdell clearly portrays Jason as the villain of the scene, both from readers' perspectives as well as Batman's. Lobdell allows this scenario to persist by interspersing the scene with another flashback: this time, Jason's death at the hands of the Joker. The truth behind Jason's murderous intentions are eventually explained, even as Lobdell simultaneously establishes a new -- and more tense -- dynamic between former mentor and sidekick.
"Red Hood and the Outlaws: Rebirth" #1 suggests that the upcoming Outlaws team will be something more than an evil version of the Superman/Batman/Wonder Woman trinity, but that won't be made clear until the next issue. On its own merit, the one-shot is a highly enjoyable place setter that puts to rest the most pertinent uncertainties regarding this "Rebirth" incarnation of Jason Todd.