Red Hood: Outlaw #44
The Outlaws are back in business and their first assignment is bodyguard duty in Qurac, but when enemies from Jason's past emerge from the shadows, can the Dark Trinity protect the nation while it's looking for peace?
Scott Lobdell is a great writer and started out the Rebirth: Red Hood and the Outlaws very well, but it’s been slowly declining since. Where the focus originally had been on the hard edge of its lead in Jason Todd, a new Bizarro and Wonder Woman’s fellow Amazon, Artemis, and their darker quest for vengeance and justice – things have gone back to the more silly fun of the New 52 Outlaws series.
This issue focuses on Red Hood and his team as they deal with some of Jason’s old enemies in The Untitled. The Untitled are an ancient clan of Ninjas/monsters created by Lobdell and served as some of the primary antagonists of the New 52 Outlaws series with Starfire and Arsenal. Their adventure takes them to the usually war torn nation of Qurac where Jason and Bizarro take to running a burger stand at a protest for peace while Artemis protects the nation’s leader.
At the same time, Isabel Ardila, Jason’s on-again, off-again love interest has been possessed by Essence, another one of Jason’s past lovers and descendant of the All-Caste (the clan that opposes the Untitled). She seeks to kill the President of Qurac for supposedly working with the Untitled which brings her into conflict with Artemis, who also had been a love interest of Jason’s throughout this series.
This plot is cheesy, but not quite engaging. It’s fun and there are a lot of jokes, but they all come off as hollow following the explosiveness that came before it with Jason falling out with Batman and Artemis leading a resistance in a bleak future with Bizarro. Lobdell portrays big blue lug as being philosophical after being away from civilization for so long and his is one of the few character moments that I appreciated during the book as he’s no longer just a brute, but a caring friend to Red Hood.
One of the main things that carries this book is the awesome art work from Paolo Pantalena with colors by Arif Prianto. Pantalena utilizes very thin lines that give each page a sketch-like quality, but cleans it up just enough that the excess lines make for great detail like the creases on Jason’s face or the cracks on Bizarro’s. Speaking of Superman’s clone, he is drawn like a pale Zangief from Street Fighter which better compliments his current character.
Prianto makes use of a lot of muted colors and Earth tones which fits because of the environment that the issue takes place in being a desert, of course he does lighten things up in Jason’s flashbacks to learning how to spot the Untitled with added reds and blue skies. Prianto also varies the color scheme with a few ages of Ma Gunn’s Home for Wayward Boys where the sun shines bright and the colors of the Brain’s brain and Monsieur Mallah’s beret are emphasized with bright reds.
Pantalena and Prianto work best, however, in the few pages where Artemis and Essence fight. Their stare down is intense and has a palpable sense of magnitude to it, from the powerful stances to the pluming, black smoke in the background. The both wield their swords and the ensuing sword fight is even better.
Pantalena draws a double splash page on the upper half of the pair of pages with Artemis and Essence standing on either side with their swords SPLATANGing against each other. Both hair and smoke flow as their clash makes impact sparks. Prianto colors Artemis’ side with a dusty brown-orange and Essence’s side with a bluish gray to match her body suit. Both sides also make great use of lightning for gleams on metal.
This issue was very okay. It didn’t have quite the explosive action of previous issues, nor many great character moments, but it does succeed at least being a fun time filler. Paolo Pantalena only continues to get better at art and it was accentuated by Arif Prianto’s excellent colors. If you were a fan of Lobdell’s New 52 Red Hood and the Outlaws and hoped that stories of that ilk would continue, this is certainly the issue for you.
Red Hood: Outlaw #44: Back to the Middle
Writing - 7/107/10
Storyline - 7/107/10
Art - 9/109/10
Color - 8/108/10
Cover Art - 8/108/10
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