Today is a big day for Red Hood as the character’s longtime writer, Scott Lobdell, announced he will be stepping down with issue #50. On this same day, Batman: Gotham Nights features two stories with the Red Hood by two very different writers. Both stories are valid, good, and a sign that Red Hood has a bright future ahead of him.
The first story reveals who Jason Todd is by showing something that happened to him at Ma Gunn’s School for Boys. Written by Steve Orlando, with art by Priscilla Petraites, colors by Romulo Fajardo Jr. and letters by Ryan Christy, this is a tale that connects Todd to another boy at the school. An assassin has been hired and Todd is on the scene to stop things. Orlando doesn’t let us forget Todd is a highly trained fighter and may choose to wield a gun, but deep down he’s a good person. It’s a reminder Todd has been through a lot, but that didn’t change him much. It ends with a nice sentiment close friends will relate to.
Marc Guggenheim writes the second story that focuses on a team-up between Nightwing and Red Hood as they attempt to prove that a man on death row is innocent. This story is filled with clever moments of observation for both heroes, reminding us they were trained by the best and can spot clues even when time is short. Like any good mystery, the characters find solutions and clues that are believable and generally, these characters are good at what they do. Red Hood certainly gets the most important pieces in the tale, but it still takes teamwork to get it done.
Art in both stories is good, and crucially, economical. There isn’t a wasted panel, and with only nine or so pages each to tell their tales, that’s important. Guggenheim’s story has a lot of scene changes and it’s clear artist Robert Gill, color artist Luis Guerrero, and letterer Marshall Dillon are very good at dropping you into a moment and moving on quickly. The clues they uncover don’t feel cheap due to the art paying close attention to their purpose with key visuals to remind us they were there all along.
The art in the first story is a bit moodier, with the city taking on a character role in itself. It’s well done, connecting the flashbacks to Todd today and when he was a child. There’s a well-blocked shootout scene with key panels giving us a closeup on a gun or the hairy stare of the villain, which enhances the tension in the scene, too.
Batman: Gotham Nights #11 is a great example of how no matter who the creative team is, the character of Jason Todd can be written excellently. This is an example of how a great superhero can be grounded in reality, harboring a lifetime of memories being Batman’s sidekick, and yet being an edgier, unique character. Red Hood fans won’t want to miss this great two-story issue.