More so than the house of ideas, DC Comics likes to tout their 25th issues as landmark release worthy of the “extra-sized” moniker. More often than not, these issues are merely celebrations of the title with little by way of excitement or reveals. Red Hood and the Outlaws #25 is one of the few extra-sized anniversary issues worthy of any additional hype that truly makes use of its extra pages. This issue is possibly the best in the series’ history with its exceptional pacing, raw story, and jaw dropping surprises.
I have no problem admitting that I am a total Jason Todd fan boy. in fact, I think my fandom has made me a bit too harsh on the series from time to time. Which is why I am so happy when an issue like this comes along- one that truly blows me away, that have no problem picking up and reading three to four more times. The climatic showdown between Batman and Jason Todd following the murder of Oswald Cobblepot is downright thrilling, especially in the way writer Scott Lobdell and artist Dexter Soy frame the story.
The opening to this issue tells a quick story about a time when Jason, as Robin, risked his own life to save Batman from drowning while trapped in a submerged Batmobile. This little vignette is presented in a very crisp, classic layout evocative of older comics which really drives home the nostalgic feel. Readers are supposed to feel comfortable with this scene- it’s a reminder of the bond Bruce Wayne and Jason Todd share.
This is also, however, a painful reminder- Jason was there when Bruce needed him. This excellently presented opening places the reader in a conflicting mindset that mirrors the major characters at play in this issue- Batman, who is a reminder of what Jason could’ve been and Jason, who is a reminder of how Batman failed.
With this framing in mind, the inevitable showdown between Batman and Jason becomes all the more raw. On the one hand, you have Jason, fed up with his former mentor who always seems to be too late- either to save Jason himself or Jason’s father from the Penguin’s schemes. Then there’s Batman, who’s constantly haunted by his mistakes with Jason, this time resulting in a brutal vigilante execution on live television, besmirching the Bat-family brand.
The resulting brawl is brutal both physically and emotionally. Readers watch as Jason and Bruce’s relationship rapidly deteriorates from the father-son partnership showcased in the beginning to the no holds-barred brawl detailed throughout. Both trade stern verbal jousts that creatively yet firmly show just how broken the relationship has become, like Jason’s great “I’ve never seen you hit the Joker this hard” quip. Batman delivers incredibly harsh lines that really show the reader just how furious he is with Jason while not coming off over dramatic. These moments really drive home just how fractured their relationship has become and it is truly disheartening.
My one complaint is that Jason does not put up much of a fight, and really gets his ass kicked. I am not at all saying Jason would even hold his own against Batman, but I would’ve liked to see him at least get a few good licks in. Regardless, the fight is simultaneously exciting and emotionally raw, making it one of the more unforgettable battles of the year.
Aside from the main event, this issue is packed with legitimately jaw-dropping moments that make this a special release. I won’t spoil anything, but a certain former Outlaw saves Jason’s ass from Batman in a moment that had me shouting “let’s go!!” while reading, a scene that may be my absolute favorite of the year. The current Outlaws also play a major role here, each with their own gut-wrenching moments of heroics that will surely affect Jason moving forward.
There’s a “bonus” story attached that starts off like any other nonsense seven-page side story but quickly plays out like an epilogue with a massive detail about Jason Todd and his father. Once again, no-spoilers, but this is a real surprise that will have a lasting affect on Jason Todd for the remainder of his life.
This is one of the best Bat-family comics of the year and maybe the best Red Hood and the Outlaws issue since the series debuted with the New 52 in 2001. This release truly earns its extra pages and capitalizes on the “anniversary” label now applied to 25th issues for a jaw dropping, emotionally gripping, and exciting story that will go down as one of the best single issues of 2018.