Longtime Red Hood and the Outlaws readers will adore this annual- and I bet casual readers will too.
I’ll level with y’all- I don’t think I’ve ever been as excited for a comic book release as I was for Red Hood and the Outlaws Annual #2. I’ve been reading comics since I was a kid, but the New 52 Red Hood and the Outlaws series is what truly roped me back into comics while I was in college. I didn’t read the series in real time, but after reading the first trade paper back of the series, I made it my mission to collect every issue of Scott Lobdell and James Tynion IV’s series (mission accomplished, by the way). So when I finished Red Hood and the Outlaws #25, I was absolutely ecstatic to find out Red Hood and the Outlaws Annual #2 would reunite O.G. Outlaws Roy Harper and Jason Todd- and, goddamn, it does not disappoint. This annual issue is the bromantic reunion I was hoping for that manages to blend humor with a genuinely heartfelt examination of the importance of friendship when battling addiction.
Before seeing the reunion of characters inside the book, I must first point out that all-star Red Hood and the Outlaws artist Kenneth Rocafort returns to the series for the annual’s cover, and that immediately evoked a feeling of nostalgia and excitement within me. I had high hopes for this issue as soon as I closed Red Hood and the Outlaws #25 and this cover just made the glass ceiling even higher.
Luckily for me and every reader, writer Scott Lobdell and artist Clayton Henry craft a wonderful issue worthy of all my personal hype. This was the New 52 reunion I had been waiting for, exemplifying that, while Bizarro and Jason may be tight, Jason’s true best friend will always be Roy Harper.
This issue displays the balanced, reciprocal nature of the duo’s relationship perfectly. Roy Harper is the savior Jason needed- even if Jason didn’t want him. Roy doesn’t just save Jason from Batman, he nurses him back to health, providing physical and emotional support as Jason comes to terms with everything that happened in Red Hood and the Outlaws #25.
On the flipside, Jason serves as the friend Roy didn’t know he needed as he slowly realizes his addiction has gotten the better of him. Before reuniting with Jason, Roy was unable to come to terms with the fact that he needed help, that he had fallen off the wagon and had to make a change. It’s being around Jason again that makes Roy realize that he can be better, that he owes it to himself to be better. That’s what best friends are for, right? To not only bring out the best in you, but to show why you deserve your best? Lobell does an incredible job displaying the effortless bond between Jason and Roy throughout this issue.
This bond is made even more enjoyable by how bromantically hilarious it is. The subject matter may get heavy, but Lobdell brings the jokes throughout this issue, making the heavy subject matter all the more accessible. The tension brought about by more dramatic or serious moments are appropriately relieved by the more comedic elements without diluting the impact of such scenes.
This issue, for the most part, is lacking in the action department. There’s really only one scene of fighting, and while it is enjoyable, it stands alone as the only moments of action in the 34 pages. Readers looking for another action packed issue like Red Hood and the Outlaws #25 may be disappointed, but I feel the dialogue and the emphasis on Jason and Roy’s friendship will more than make up for the lack of conflict.
As an added bonus, readers get a glimpse of what the hell actually happened to Artemis and Bizarro after the last issue. I was so enamored by the main story about Jason and Roy, that the small tidbit about Artemis and Biz was a true surprise that has wide reaching effects on the series moving forward.
Aside from the lack of action, my only other complaint is that there was no inclination towards why Jason’s costume will change in issue #26, as teased in DC Nation #2. This is more of a complaint of marketing than story, but I love the normal Red Hood costume and was hoping this annual would provide a little insight into why their would be a change. Guess I’ll have to wait.
Red Hood and the Outlaws Annual #2 may not be a home run for every comic book reader, but I am absolutely certain longtime fans of the series will love this issue. The inseparable, funny, and heartwarming bond exemplified between Jason and Roy more than makes up for the minor shortcomings in this release.