Way back in Red Hood and the Outlaws #19, longtime Red Hood writer Scott Lobdell teased a new villain for Jason Todd and his meta-human companions, Bizarro and Artemis. Ever since, there’s been a slow drip of information around this new villain who’d eventually be revealed as Solitary, leader of the worldwide crime syndicate Underlife and Jason Todd’s long lost father. He’s been the core villain of the latest arc of Red Hood: Outlaw, an arc that comes to an unceremonious and disappointingly swift end with this week’s Red Hood: Outlaw #30. Despite being wonderfully drawn and purposefully colored by artist Pete Woods and colorist Rex Lokus, this issue rushes through its half-hearted arc-ending story by wasting an opportunity to create a truly memorable villain for the Red Hood all the while placing an utterly irrelevant character in the spotlight instead.
One consistency of Red Hood: Outlaw has been its fantastic artistic presentation. Ever since the title dropped to a Jason Todd solo book, Pete Woods has been crafting a grittier, action-focused feel for the new direction of the series — and he’s done so with flying colors. As has been the case through his run on the character, Red Hood looks as menacing as ever and the fight scenes flow together effortlessly.
Woods’ work really stands out during the more intense sequences of this book. Whether it be the way he makes a crowbar feel like it’s flying off the panel or how he creates a true sense of kinetic energy with every landed blow, Woods showcases a mastery of superhero fight scenes in how he captures the intensity of such brawls.
Nearly every page is elevated by the terrific colors of Rex Lokus, so much so that the far-too-frequent pages lacking background details are much more noticeable because of their glaring white appearance. Lokus’ streaks of violent reds, purples, and blues help capture a sense of speed and intensity during fight sequences. Meanwhile, his use of background lighting elevates the importance of certain scenes, specifically Bunker’s emergence from captivity, which gives the feeling of a savior returning to life thanks to the angelic glow of yellow behind him.
Once again, the excellent visual presentation is ultimately let down and overshadowed by an utterly lackluster narrative. With how much and how long Solitary has been teased as the new pain-in-Jason’s-ass, his swift and relatively easy demise in this issue may leave readers thinking “that’s it?”
This is largely due to the fact that the struggle between Jason and Solitary seems pushed out of the way in what felt like an obvious to make the obscure meta-human Bunker seem both relevant and powerful. With almost no explanation, Bunker is thrust into a vital role in this issue, striking inexplicable fear into Solitary’s heart because he apparently is the only thing standing in the way of Solitairy’s world domination (because, apparently Jason wasn’t going to do anything).
This focus on Bunker’s role in everything completely steals the thunder from Jason’s crusade against Solitary and Underlife, making it feel like he’s a side player who was never going to make a difference anyway. Moreover, Bunker is no household name, a mostly forgotten character from writer Scott Lobdell’s New 52 Teen Titans run who feels completely shoehorned into importance in this issue.
The most upsetting, however, is just how quickly and mundanely Solitary is defeated. After months of build-up Solitary’s grand plan, which is never actually explained in anyway shape or form, falls apart in a matter of pages, with little to no explanation why. Why is Bunker such a threat to his operations? Why does Solitary sacrifice his entire operation to stop bunker? What was Solitary’s end goal with Underlife? Why has Solitary been trailing Jason and the Outlaws for over a year? None of these questions are answered by the time Solitary is anti-climactically defeated, making his presence over the last year feel pointless and his villainous arc sadly rushed.
This issue, and the arc as a whole, does end on a quasi-high note, though. Jason visits Roy’s grave in a moment of grief that brings physical and symbolic closure to Jason’s fight against Underlife, a fight that started with Roy back in Red Hood and the Outlaws Annual #2. While some may not agree with the seemingly uncharacteristic calmness Jason expresses over Roy’s death, his visitation to his grave is the only bit of payoff readers will get from this entire arc — that Jason finished what he and Roy started.
Overall, this issue leaves far too many questions unanswered in the most frustrating ways. So what was Solitary ever even after? Why is Bunker suddenly so important? Where the f*ck are Artemis and Bizarro? As pretty as this issue is to look at, its narrative is an absolute disappointment that leaves so much to be desired.