Jason Todd has been through a lot over the course of his history in comics, so much so that he's most frequently portrayed as hardened, anti-hero bordering on villain, something that was brought to a fine point when he recently shot Penguin and shattered the fragile truce he had with Batman. Yet, despite this, Jason has very much been on a journey of redemption and emotional growth, and it's perhaps that which makes Red Hood Outlaw #27 particularly powerful.
The issue picks up not long after the events of Heroes in Crisis #1, in which many heroes are murdered at Sanctuary, a sort of rehab for superheroes. Among those heroes murdered at Sanctuary is Roy Harper, Jason's best friend. The pair had literally just parted ways with Jason on a quest to find take out the mysterious group The Underlife, and Roy admitting that he needs help, and thus heading off to rehab. As one can imagine, the news that his best friend has been murdered has a massive impact on Jason, but, unlike the largely superficial drama and emotion of Heroes in Crisis, Red Hood Outlaw strikes a nerve and lets the reader into the grief and the pain.
The issue is, in a sense, divided into three parts. There's Jason finding out about Roy's death, Jason processing Roy's death, and then Jason picking himself up and going forward to complete the mission he started with Roy against The Underlife. Each part is in its own way beautifully done both in terms of narrative and art, but the true standout -- and the part that will sit with readers long after they've closed the book -- is Jason's interaction with Bruce. There is something about seeing two characters with such a complicated relationship as well as an entire cargo hold of baggage each being raw, wounded, vulnerable and achingly real that is both moving and utterly unnerving. It hits an emotional chord that one wouldn't quite expect from Red Hood, but one that is utterly satisfying.
Equally as satisfying is the issue's self-awareness. For Jason, Roy's death is difficult and painful, but Jason has a unique perspective on death. He himself has died and come back, and it's that resurrection that Jason references when he leaves his fallen friend a final voicemail, and while it somewhat serves as a gentle nod to the fact that comic book deaths are rarely final, it's also a probably the most human thing we've seen from the character in a long time. His tone, somewhere between denial and acceptance, and his promise to kick Roy's butt when he comes back to life, but then also deleting his phone number is uncomfortably real and possibly one of the best pages to feature Jason Todd in a long time.
Red Hood Outlaw #27 is a masterpiece of a comic. Visually beautiful and engaging on a narrative level, it goes far beyond simply telling a story of loss, grief, and moving forward. It makes you feel it in your very bones, taking on trauma in a way that is respectful, honest, and utterly unpretentious. It also remains faithful to the characters in a way that is refreshing. There are no easy answers when it comes to senseless death, and no easy way forward, and to see a hero -- even one whose heroic status is somewhat of a question mark -- take that on is a gift that readers are incredibly fortunate to get.
Published by DC Comics
On October 10, 20182comments
Written by Scott Lobdell
Art by Pete Woods