The transition from Red Hood and the Outlaws to simply Red Hood: Outlaw has been a rocky one. The new moniker got off to a great start in issue #26 before taking a nose dive in issue #27 in an ill-fated attempt at crossing over with Tom King’s excellent Heroes in Crisis event series. Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on how you want to look at it, Red Hood: Outlaw #28 is unlike either of its predecessors in many ways. It’s an issue rife with non-stop, well illustrated action that’s light on story, ultimately failing to really contextualize all the carnage.
Red Hood: Outlaw #28 could easily be described in one word- action. This issue is 90% fight sequences and, luckily for the reader, the brawls are pretty entertaining. These aren’t the highly stylized, acrobatic shootouts fans of the series are used to from Dexter Soy. Instead, artist Pete Woods draws a more claustrophobic type of combat that feels more like a sloppy street brawl than anything else- and it totally works.
This issue is really broken up into two major fights, each drawn and paced quite well by Woods. There is still some room for improvement and moments where the panel by panel flow feels a bit jarring, but overall the action is easy to follow and exciting to experience. The opening fight, for example, is reminiscent of the church battle royale from Kingsman: The Secret Service, with Jason Todd fending off scores of townsfolk in undeniably brutal fashion as they attempt to kill him for no real reason.
In a way, however, that is a problem with this issue- there’s no reason for all this chaos and carnage. There is no denying how entertaining these clashes are, but thus far there is no meaning to them, thus no impact. This issue just moves from one fight to the next without giving and context or explanation as to what caused the fight or why the fight is important. Violence for the sake of violence can be entertaining, but is ultimately forgettable.
One unexpected aspect of Red Hood: Outlaw #28 is how humorous it was, although that seems to contradict the new direction of Jason Todd. Jason has never shied away from quips in the past, especially when surrounded by his Outlaws. With this new title and costume, however, readers were supposed to see a grittier, angrier, and more serious Red Hood than before, making the amount of humor in this issue a little surprising. The humor works, no doubt about it, it simply feels a bit off given the supposed new direction of the character.
Writer Scott Lobdell even throws in a bit of fourth-wall breaking, self-referential humor to kick off this book that, once again, is indeed funny but out of place. Lobdell introduces Wingman to the series, who is hot on the trail of Jason, however uses the narration to explain the character’s introduction is just a “subplot” and won’t be referenced again for another few issues. What’s the point of introducing him then? To fill pages? I understand Jason has a history with the Wingman, but right now this little interjection just serves a distraction that delays the real start to this issue.
These opening pages could’ve been used better, perhaps to show Jason Todd grieve over Roy Harper’s death- something that was sorely missing from the previous issue. Once again, it is a little frustrating and questionable that Jason remains so unaffected by Roy’s death. Of course, Jason understands better than anybody that death is not permanent, but it is nonetheless unbelievable that Jason so quickly moves on from the sudden murder of his best friend. I’d much prefer to read a story about Jason Todd hunting down Roy’s murderers than his investigation into underlife, and it would help make the Heroes in Crisis event more cohesive across multiple properties (which it is already doing a fantastic job of, by the way).
Red Hood: Outlaw #28 is enjoyable, but ultimately lacking where it counts. The action is constant and well illustrated by Pete Woods, but lacks any context or motive which ultimately makes it meaningless. Meanwhile, there’s virtually no story advancement and Jason Todd still shows almost no grief or emotion other than humor. At this point, it’s about time to bring the Outlaws back and get this series back on track.