RED HOOD AND THE OUTLAWS #23 / Writer: Scott Lobdell / Pencils: Trevor Hairsine / Inks: Ryan Winn / Colors: Rain Beredo / Letters by Taylor Esposito / Publisher: DC Comics / June 13, 2018
I had no intention of writing a review on anything this week but I just finished Red Hood and the Outlaws #23 and decided it was so emotionally raw and impactful that I needed to write my feelings down into words. I read it twice in the span of 15 minutes and am now left with the same feeling of emptiness I get after finishing a good book or great video game.
To quote the Irish economist and author Paul Sweeney,
“You know you’ve read a good book when you turn the last page and feel a little as if you have lost a friend.”
The previous issue of Red Hood and the Outlaws left off with Ma Gunn’s granddaughter handing Jason a series of letters from his father that Ma hid from him. We open with Jason being gunned down by the Penguin’s men before flashing back to him opening the letters an hour prior.
Willis Todd’s story is emotional and incredibly relatable. He was clearly a man who wanted to do better for his child, but the circumstances around him forced him to make tough and negative decisions. Jason’s response to his father’s letters is anguish and anger…but not at him. Over the many arcs that Jason Todd has had as Red Hood, they have often revolved around the theme of “what could have been.” In Red Hood’s origin, Batman: Under the Red Hood, Batman is faced with his failure to save his son and the consequence of Jason coming back to life. In that arc Batman deals with the tough reality that his choices for his son led him to this moment.
Here, Jason is faced with reality that his birth father wanted nothing more than the best for him but Willis and other people in Jason’s life never allowed him to see the full truth. Lodell effectively weaves a story through Willis’ letters that evoked deep empathy within me. There is no one who doesn’t grapple with idea of “what could have been.” Esposito’s choice to use looseleaf paper and handwriting as the part of the lettering for Willis’ letters stuck to the personal nature of this story and the vulnerability Willis must have felt bearing his failures, hopes, and soul to his child.
In addition, Beredo’s use of grayish tones during flashback scenes was an excellent choice to help the reader see things through Willis’ eyes. My one issue with this book was the art. Red Hood’s helmet was drawn skin-tight to his suit and with facial expressions. Whenever artists give the helmet lips, Jason ends up looking less like Red Hood and more like the android Red Tornado. Overall, Red Hood and the Outlaws #23 is the best issue of this series and is up there for me in regards to the best single issue I have read. Also, if you have a chance to pick up Guillem March’s variant cover I highly recommend doing so. It adds to the feeling of emotional vulnerability and the idea of “what could have been” that is a key theme throughout the issue.
Verdict: 5 out of 5 Letters from Willis Todd
In addition to writing and tweeting into the void, Elizabeth Garcia enjoys applying ethical and political theory to modern comics while wearing leggings and drinking wine with her cat on her beat-up couch.