Red Hood and the Outlaws #0 (2012)

Red Hood and the Outlaws #0 (November, 2012)
“Everyone Has to Start Somewhere.”
Writer – Scott Lobdell
Artists – Pasqual Ferry, Ig Guara & Brett Booth
Colorist – Blond
Letterer – Dezi Sienty
Assistant Editor – Darren Shan
Editor – Eddie Berganza
Cover Price: $2.99

When The New-52! was announced, there were a handful… well, more than a handful of titles that made me groan.  I’m thinking of books like I, Vampire and Voodoo… books that I really didn’t think had a reason to exist in this new DC landscape.  I mean, who’s gonna buy those books?  (spoiler alert: very few people).

One of the titles that sorta intrigued me in a “so crazy it just might work” sort of way was Red Hood and the Outlaws.  Now, I wasn’t exactly on board with the whole “bring Jason Todd back to life” thing… I sorta stuck him in the bin with Uncle Ben, Bucky, and Gwen Stacy… those characters that should never be brought back.  Well, as ever… the joke was on me.

When the first issue came out in the Fall of 2011, I… didn’t buy it.  So disenfranchised with the entire New-52! exercise, I didn’t care enough to check it out… and of all the titles I didn’t check out that month… this was probably the only one that kinda ate at me.  Not sure why… maybe it’s my blind devotion to things written by Scott Lobdell… maybe I just really dug the concept.  Dunno.

Fast-forward to my deciding to quit my temper-tantrum and attempt to collect all the stuff I’d initially passed on… and, here we are.  Was Red Hood worth the wait?  Let’s find out.

We open on the happiest day of Jason Todd’s life… the day he was born.  We meet his mother… who is less than pleased to be in labor, and his father… who, devoted “baby daddy” that he is, is hanging at reception hitting on a reception-ist.  A little background on them… Mama was a student at Gotham Academy… Papa was a kid from the wrong side of the tracks… I feel like we need some John Cougar Mellencamp to properly frame this.

As is to be expected, Papa wasn’t someone who could be counted on… and so, Mama turned to drugs.  Jason Toddler was thrust into a position of responsibility very early on in his life.  He’d look after his mother when she was on benders… and tuck his drunken dad into bed each night.

It wasn’t all bad though… Hell, this one time his Pop would come home and tell stories about running into a certain caped-n-cowled celebrity!  Then again, we also see a bit where Jay has to bring him to an underground “hospital” to have a bullet removed from his back.  Remember this scene… we’ll be coming back to it later.

Next is the bit where everything changes.  Papa Todd gets arrested… and we learn he dies in jail.  Not too much later, Jason find his mother… dead from overdose (remember these scenes as well!).

He turns to a life of petty crime… and it turns out, he’s not very good at it.  One time, after a very thorough butt-kicking, he wakes up at the clinic of Leslie Thompkins.  She treats him well… helps him recover… and to show his appreciation, he steals from her.

As he fled, he finally runs into the Batman.  I think I’d have preferred him trying to steal the tires off the Batmobile, but whattayagonnado?  Anyhoo, Batman slams the boy into a car and goes to arrest him (with actual handcuffs!), but Leslie stops him… imploring him to give the lad another chance.

This, of course, leads to Jay’s becoming the ward of Bruce Wayne… and ultimately to his taking up the mantle of Robin.

From here it’s a montage of Batman and Robin butt-kicking.  Turns out Jason’s pretty good at this… but, perhaps a bit too violent.  His skull-splitting ways get him assigned to “monitor duty”… which really just feels like Batman mitigating the risk.  Wonder if this Jason “let that dude fall”.  Anyhoo… while on monitor duty, Jay sees… his mother?!

And so, without even a note for Bruce, he takes off to the Middle East to follow up.  While there he finds and reunites with his mother… 5,343 people dial 1-900-720-2666… and he gets killed.

Next thing we know, Jason’s being laid to rest… but, not for long.  We shift scenes to the Lazarus Pit… and our boy’s eyes spring open!

This leads us to a sorta-kinda back-up story, that we’ll call The Man Who Created Red Hood.  It’s narrated by the Joker, and flat out states that he was behind pretty much every big event in Jason Todd’s life (and, er, death of course).  He first saw our boy that night he brought his father to the underground “hospital” to have that bullet removed from his back.  Toldja we’d come back to that.

He was also there the night Papa Todd was arrested… and the night Jason found his overdosed mother.  Turns out what she “O.D.ed” on was nothing more than a rare African flower that made her look like she was dead… another machination of the Joker, natch.

The clown also dropped the lad at the door of Leslie Thompkins… and before he knew it… he wound up have created another Robin.  I’ve got a little bit to say about this, but we’ll save it for the end.

Bada-bing bada-boom, he kills Jason… who later returns to life using the Joker’s own “Maiden Name” of Red Hood… annnnnd, we’re out.

Well… that didn’t tell us a whole lot about “the Outlaws”, did it?

Now, for those who have visited the blog before… you’ll know that my New-52! game is kinda lacking.  I really can’t speak with a whole lot of authority on much of it… it’s kinda like current day Marvel… just books I dismissed as “not being for me”, and paid very little mind to.  That said, many of my concerns here will likely be things that have already been answered/resolved.

First… let’s get what this book “wasn’t” out of the way.  I was hoping to see a bit of Roy’s origin.  Having de-aged Green Arrow to match up with the TV show, I was curious as to how Roy now fit into his life.  I’m sure this has been answered by now… but, it’s really the story I cracked this book open to see.

I was pleased that this wasn’t Starfire’s origin… because all that Tamaran stuff really bores me.  I’m glad we didn’t have to see her enslaved… married off… enslaved again… fighting with her sister… enslaved again… and married off again here.  The Tamaran stories were always the second roughest ones to get through back in the New Teen Titans days (the first roughest were any having to do with Azar, by the way).

So, what we do get is a soup-to-nuts on Jason Todd… which is fair enough.  It was an enjoyable, if not a little cliche, read… and it was beautifully drawn by all the artists involved.  That’s one thing I kept noticing about this title… it always had awesome artists!

Now, my only concern (I wouldn’t call it a “complaint”) is… just how much does the Joker know?  Again, pardon my New-52! ignorance, but… is this a clear indication that he knows Bruce Wayne and Batman are one in the same?  If he meticulously plotted for this “kid nobody cares about” to become Robin… he’s gotta know, right?  Dropping him off with Dr. Thompkins… knowing he’d be taken in by Bruce Wayne… I mean, he’s gotta know… right?

It’s not like we haven’t gotten the impression that the Joker “knows” from time to time… I think that ambiguity is key to the Batman-Bruce Wayne-Joker “hate-triangle”, but, did he really have a clue this early on?

Again… apologies for being “outta the loop” on more contemporary Bat-lore… but, this wrinkle really makes that hamster start running on that wheel I got in my head.  Maybe folks with more familiarity can fill me in… or at least direct me to books where I can find the answers.

Overall… I had a really good time with this… and I’m pretty psyched to continue my journey with the Outlaws (I have a lot of the run… but, still need to track down #1!).  I’d definitely give this a recommendation.  It’s been collected in the scarily -spendy DC Comics: The New 52 Zero Omnibus, and is (for your… wallet’s convenience) available digitally.

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