Oh, Jason Todd; aren’t you causing enough trouble? For those who have been behind in Red Hood and The Outlaws, here is a quick summary: Jason had his memories removed when all he wanted removed was his bad memories. This was part of the now dead group The All-Caste’s long range plan against the Untitled, its founder’s very long-lived family (let me put it like this–Vandal Savage is a baby compared to them). Roy and Kori lie and say he’s a good guy, only for him to look up who Red Hood is to find out that is not the case. One attack by Cheshire and an intrusion by Green Arrow later and Jason has split from the other two, who are now having relationship issues (Roy, this is what happens when you date your former friend’s ex). Jason teams up with members of the League of Assassins, who say he is destined to save their city, and the world, from the Untitled and utter destruction. After Roy’s session with his long term shrink, Hugo Strange (who of course has planted a lot of doubts into Roy’s mind), is ruined by the arrival of Essence, delivering cryptic warnings, and the Untitled, he and Kori split up. Roy sides with the Untitled, who offers to help him rescue Jason from the League’s clutches; Kori goes looking for Essence for more information.
That is a very quick summary of events that does not give credit to the scope of what James Tynion has written in his first few issues, and one annual, of RHATO. The Red Hood is now AWOL with Ra’s Al Ghul’s minions, Arsenal is now teamed up with people who want to destroy the world, and Starfire is teaming up with an anti-heroine who tried to make the Outlaws do her bidding in the first story arc of the series. As for this issue…hold onto your butts.
While Roy is busy building weaponry for the Untitled’s planned attack on the League of Assassin’s city of ‘Eth Alth’Eban, Jason is in said city talking to Bronze Tiger. Tiger reveals that Talia’s resurrection of Jason was part of her plan to have him lead the assassins in defending the city; though he doesn’t say why the Untitled would be after this place. Jason is dealing with his friends “lying” to him to protect him, but he still misses them. At the same time, Starfire confronts Essence and after a bit of a super-powered cat fight where for once Starfire is the reasonable one, Starfire reveals the appearance of the Untitled and Roy’s deal with them. This shocks Essence, for she knows what they plan…. Jason, in the meanwhile, explores the city with Bronze Tiger. In the market, anything that can be used for killing can be sold, which includes the “Snow White Special” apple Jason almost eats. A council is called, and they are particularly concerned with securing the fountain. Essence explains why to Starfire. Ra’s Al Ghul became a student of Essence’s mother, the leader of the All Caste and a former Untitled turned to good, after he discovered the Lazarus Pits. The Lazarus Pits are in turn off-shoots of the same evil source that transformed cave people into the Untitled, the Well of Sins. Ra’s vowed to protect the Well from the Untitled getting their hands on it again, and built his city to defend the Well against the Untitled. The fountain in the central plaza serves as a lock on the Well. Of course, this is when a heavily armed Roy carrying a bunch of souped up weaponry enhanced by the Untitled comes calling, with the teaser “Next: They call him Arsenal for a reason!” bringing this chapter to an end.
I for one like Tynion’s return to the ideas from the first arc of the series, as it gives a more grounded storyline for the readers. It’s also great to see call backs from recent and not so recent issues to help long term and new readers to the series. This however has the drawback of slowing down the pacing. Through Essence, he manages to help new readers catch up to what is going on. He also references pre New 52 canon with Cheshire having a major crush on Roy; her flirtations with Roy in the annual and her dialogue here could put River Song to shame. Lady Shiva helps connect us to the larger DC Universe by expressing her distaste for Talia’s Man-Bat cannon fodder. Jason is humorous in this; thanks to his lost memories, he is as innocent as he can get. Going from the badass killer of the Bat Clan to a guy protesting he doesn’t know what’s going on is good for a laugh. But at the same time, it is kind of tedious. It is a schtick that gets old after a bit. It makes you want Jason to regain his memories and go kick some bad guy butt. His scenes are saved by the various assassins around him. Roy is, for this story, reduced to plot device as he becomes an instrument of the Untitled. However, he maintains his wit and his character development from the annual continues. Starfire here is for once not the sexpot/superhero, but a superhero in full. She is concerned not just for her friend and her lover, but for the fate of the entire world. Out of all the groups I’m rooting for, it’s Team Super-Gals.
The art by Gopez is brilliant; the show stopper here being the city of ‘Eth Alth’Eban. For a city in a cave, it is a BEAUTIFUL city, with a nice Arabian vibe in a cool color palette of blue, green, and purple. Even the Death Market looks like a nice place to explore. However, the environments gives you constant reminders that this is a place of death and murder; including a giant statue of Ra’s himself. Roy’s workshop is a dank, rusty, oily pit; which kind of fits with who his present allies are and his present clouded state of mind. Gopez’s depiction of Essence’s recounting of events is magical and chilling; which makes sense giving the tale she’s telling.
In the end, it is an enjoyable issue that sets things up for a major confrontation. Will Jason and Roy, pawns of two mighty groups, destroy each other; or will Starfire and Essence stop them in time. Tune in next time, Same RHATO Time, Same RHATO channel!