RHatO19

This month marks the start of the second run of Red Hood and the Outlaws. Having followed the lightning flash rise of Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV steps out from his mentors shadow once again. All eyes are on him as he takes over DC’s most controversial title. With Scott Lobdell’s mysterious return to quality in the past few months, will Tynion have what it takes to hold onto his readership?

Lets first give Tynion some credit. For a fairly new writer taking over a veteran’s book, he does an excellent job of making the transition smooth. There are a couple of elements that show up rather suddenly after a prolonged absence, but, given the way that Lobdell drew the curtain on that act of RHatO last month, one could easily believe that this was the path that the story was always headed down.

That does mean that some of my issues with Lobdell’s run continue into Tynion’s take on the series, but it’s nothing too outrageous and it’s mostly in the plot, rather than the writing or characterization.

If the first page doesn’t do something to convince you that Tynion can write the New 52 Jason Todd, I don’t know that book you’ve been reading. Tynion manages to replicate that great blend of badass one-liners and self-indulgence that made Lobdell’s take on the second Robin such a frustratingly lovable character. It’s therefore unfortunate that his plot doesn’t give us the chance to see more of what the first page provides.

The Khanate is an interesting idea, but the bulk of this story revolves around Roy and Kory (yay!). It’s been a long time since we’ve had an issue that focus on one of those “and the Outlaws” but Tynion makes sure to represent them well.

How does he do? Well, that’s a bit greyer. Let’s be clear: there is nothing wrong with Tynion’s Starfire. For all the things this series has done to poor Kory, this issue is fairly blameless. Be at ease, fellow fans of Tamaran. That said, she doesn’t shine the way that Starfire can and should. She’s still the third wheel in this book, too powerful to be an equal member but too disgraced by Lobdell’s legacy to be the ace.

Roy Harper was Lobdell’s breakout character. Tynion gives us an acceptable, but different version of him, however, I can’t help but think that this wasn’t the right story to start with. While this issue shows that Tynion can write Roy with insight, it doesn’t tell me that he can handle the character in a status quo situation. Likewise, this feels like a climax story for Roy, which might be fine if it were Lobdell at the helm, but with the sense of closure last month and the changes to his character with Tynion’s arrival, the wind isn’t in the sails this time. That said, we do get a pretty great Roy moment, which also hints that his connection to the First Nations is intact (also apparently Hugo Strange. So…that’s cool).

Overall, this is a good story, but kind of a strange one. It feels mistimed. Tynion’s work on Talon makes it much easier to take this story for what it is, but it still isn’t quite what a first issue should be.

Making matters worse is Julius Gopez. I don’t remember seeing his name before, but the art in this issue does nothing for me. After the slew of great artists that have worked on this title, it’s sad to see the start of a new writer’s tenure marred by such sub-par art. I feel overly harsh writing that, but it’s the truth.

Though there are many nice representations of these characters throughout the issue, just as often they look just awful. Roy and Jason’s faces both frequently dip into the uncanny valley, not to mention…I don’t even know how to describe this. At several moments I would stop and ask myself, ‘who’s this middle-aged man’ only to realize that it was Roy again. Starfire fares better in those respects but whose idea was it to connect her hair to her eyebrows? Seriously, not working for me (also, am I being oversensitive or was that a little weird?). As for her costume, Gopez unfortunately backtracks from the revised costume that was used in the original solicited cover of this issue and really highlights how ridiculous it looks. He also draws Kory rather long in the torso (among other things) in some panels, which only exacerbates the whole mess.

Worst off, though, is this issue’s antagonist, who I won’t spoil here (but will in this link). For all the beauty and fascinating design that went into this character, Gopez seems unable to come up with a natural image. In the panels where their body appears to obey the laws of physics, they seem distorted and ugly, when that is not how the character has been previously portrayed at all. It’s a real shame that this character should reappear, only to receive such poor treatment.

In Gopez’s defense, it is quite clear why he got this job. Like Rockafort and Kirkham before him, Gopez gives us an unforgettable rendition of the Acres of All. His landscapes, his architecture, his plants, and his animals are all absolutely gorgeous. Give this man a book with a non-human cast and I think he’d do great. Unfortunately, that’s not what he has, and that’s not what I’m reviewing.

Jason Todd has kind of been the real winner of Death in the Family, with this week’s issue of Justice League showing how widespread he is becoming in this strange new world. Especially with his enhanced profile and a team up with Batman to arrive next month, it will be an interesting time to follow “the Robin that failed”.

I heartily suggest giving Tynion a chance for a few issues, especially if Lobdell’s political incorrectness (understatement) was a factor in keeping you away from this title. That said, this isn’t the greatest start to a run. This won’t be the issue that convinces you to read RHatO, but I hope that the next one will be. If you’re willing to spend a few dollars on a risk, go for it, but In worry that  Tynion might not see all of his readers returning next month. I can’t really blame them.

Advertisements