Editor's Note: Red Hood and the Outlaws: Death of the Family will be released on December 3, 2013. However, since our reviewer was interested in the solicitation for this book, and since all the issues discussed here have been available as floppies for some time, we asked him to go ahead and review this book.
I've been reading Red Hood and the Outlaws from the very beginning of the New 52 reboot and have always made sure to pick up every single issue when it comes out. So when I saw the Red Hood tie in for "Death of the Family" on the "waiting to review" list, I immediately jumped on it. The trade paperback gathers Red Hood #0 along with issues 13 through 17 of Red Hood as well as Teen Titans #15 and #16. This is actually the first thing I need to point out in this review, as there may be some discrepancy between what I read and what you can get at your retailer.
The information given above is what you'll find listed at the DC website along with Amazon and other retailers. The copy I was given, though, had issues 0 and 15 through 18 of Red Hood, which are the actual issues dealing with the Outlaws' involvement in the "Death of the Family" storyline. On the Teen Titans side of things, there was only issue #16. Finally, my copy included Batman #17. I really hope that the copy that I read actually reflects what you will receive from retailers as it replaces two unnecessary lead-in issues from two different books with the climax of the entire storyline and a very satisfying epilogue. However as I do not know which version will be sold, I will have to give two separate ratings for this TPB.
Teen Titans #15: none of our heroes even appear in this issue, so why would it be in this TPB?
"The Death of the Family" story and the tie-in issues have all been available for quite a while and have all been reviewed individually by many people at this point, so I'm not going to rehash what's already been said. What I instead will focus on is the presentation of the TPB as one story. Volume 3 of Red Hood is very much a Jason-centric storyline, though including some time with Kori and Roy and unfortunately some filler for the Titans.
Still, Jason is the star of this arc and this is appropriate as he is without a doubt the one living person in the DC universe that the Joker has hurt the most. Arguments can be made for Barbara's intense suffering in The Killing Joke but in the end, while horrific, that storyline still doesn't quite compare to Jason being entrapped, brutally beaten to an inch of his life with a crowbar, then given a brief hope spot of escape and rescue before being offhandedly murdered along with his mother via bomb.
This portion of the Red Hood comic is Jason coming face to face with the monster of his nightmares for the first time (in the New 52 Universe at least) since that fateful day, and the version of the TPB that I read reflects that.
It begins with Jason basically being goaded into action by the Joker via the unfortunate and usual method of attacking a woman that Jason had recently begun showing interest in, which leads to his capture and confrontation with the villain. This is followed by Jason being put through the physical and emotional wringer up until the climax of the storyline where everyone makes it out alive. This is then followed by some breather time before Joker's last laugh in the story which leads to really the most important part for Jason, having to face the demons in his own psyche that have accumulated over the years before finally coming out of the entire ordeal with new insights about himself and his relationships with his family and friends. Ladies and gentlemen I present to you character growth.
The same old tired trick
This version of volume 3 is a terrific snapshot of the Red Hood comic and presents wonderfully what I feel to be the main theme of the series; three broken people come together and with help from others, work towards becoming better than they are. It's all very satisfying and I highly recommend it.
The possible retail version of the TPB though, does not have any of that. Or at least, it doesn't have the most important part. With the inclusion of Teen Titans #15 along with the removal of Batman #17 and Red Hood #18, the reader is left with a disjointed and inconclusive story that ends in the middle of nowhere. As I mentioned before, this version has two separate lead-ins to the storyline, one for Jason and one for the Teen Titans. Neither of them is necessary and a quick recap page to explain how Jason, Tim, and the Titans ended up where they are at the start would be preferable.
Next, by taking out Batman #17, the story jumps from Jason being held prisoner by the Joker along with Tim to suddenly being back at Wayne Manor along with Bruce, Alfred, and Damian before calling Kori and Roy to come meet him. This is followed by a lot of introspection and awkward-feeling conversation between Jason and Damian before the Joker's final trap kicks in and then nothing afterwards because Red Hood #18 has also been cut. This version of the TPB is only good for putting money in DC's pockets and I can only recommend it if you are the type of person who absolutely must have all the tie-ins for a big event.
Magically transported from this…to this. Not pictured: the wizard who did it.
Finally I would be remiss if I did not speak of the art at least a little bit. Whil
e again, there is nothing new here that hasn't already been on the market for close to a year at this point, special mention has to go to the cover of the TPB from artist Mico Suayan. DC lifted the cover from Red Hood #17 to serve as the cover for the TPB and it definitely works. Mico created a beautiful and haunting callback to the most recognizable image from "A Death in the Family" with Batman holding a broken and beaten Jason as Red Hood along with an image of him doing the same with Jason as Robin reflected in a pool of blood. Whether you like the overall art quality in Red Hood and the Outlaws or hate it, this image will stick with you.
So in the end, it all depends on which version of the TPB you will actually be able to buy. One is a great look into the overall themes of Red Hood tied strongly to a significant event in the primary protagonist's past while forcing him to grow as a person. The other is a huge mess that will sit on your shelf and be forgotten. I give each version 4 and 2 stars respectively.