RHatO 20

I do seem to love me some Jason Todd lately. Lucky me, then, that last week’s Batman and Red Hood (review here) was only the beginning. This week we return to Jason’s titular series. And we even get to spend some time with his…sidekicks? Friends? Pets? (Down, fangirls.) Well whatever bizarre relationship holds the ‘Outlaws’ (never called that) together, it’s on display this month.

After a slightly rocky start last month, I think that James Tynion will be winning over some converts this week. Though the issue certainly swerves about, it’s more of a scenic winding road kind of swerving than some horrible rollercoaster death-ride (good name for a metal band). The unusual structure allows Tynion to tell a story that is distinctly character driven without sacrificing the action and visual power of the book.

Red Hood and the Outlaws has always been made or broken by your opinion of its characters. Any superhero comic can promise you action, but RHatO’s ragtag band of heroes were the real draw. Tynion makes this issue a practical crash course of the Outlaws, examining not only their memories, but their interactions and philosophies. Though you might need a base familiarity with the characters to put that information to use, a reader with minimal context would learn a lot by picking up this issue.

As for the form of the writing, well, it’s pretty good, but decidedly clunky in places. Jason informs us that he feels “like a huge weight’s been taken off [his] chest. Like [he] can finally breathe easy.” Is there anything wrong with that dialogue? No. But it’s generic and a waste of ann opportunity to define Jason’s scattered throughout the book. Aside from these, however, I was quite pleased with Tynion’s work.

One character that I found particularly engaging was Tnyion’s take on S’Aru, the creepy little memory kid from issue #3. Despite serving as our antagonist for this issue, he remains cordial and reasonable, if not necessarily kind, throughout. It’s a delicate balance, but Tynion present one of the most legitimate arguments I’ve seen in recent comics. Both sides have a point yet Tynion never goes so far as to make Roy seem like a jerk for arguing or S’aru seem too sympathetic.

Julius Gopez also turns in an enhanced effort, compared to last month. From the first page, you can see that his faces are much more palatable, though I can’t quite discern how much of this is his doing and how much is the contribution of colorist, Nei Ruffino. Gopez’ pictures are softer and more cartoony than last month, but retain the level of detail present in his last effort. That doesn’t mean that all problems have been solved. The weird aged look that defined last issue still pops up now and again and, even worse, Starfire still displays her horrible forehead eyebrow combination. It’s probably entirely possible to design a version of Kory that highlights her eyebrows or forehead, but it is not this.

Credit where credit is due though, Gopez’ art this month is expressive, clear, and clean, which is so much better than last month. I’ve rarely considered the importance of artistic improvement in comic artists, but if the improvement I’ve seen in Gopez isn’t a onetime thing, I imagine he’ll do very well.

With significant gains in all areas, I feel comfortable saying that I’ll be sticking with RHatO through this creative transition. Especially if Tynion continues to write at this level and especially if he gets nearly as much mileage out of his own plots as he has from Scott Lobdells, Red Hood and the Outlaws will likely remain a staple of my pull list.