Red Hood: Outlaw #29 is so packed so full with killer fight scenes it’s easy to overlook the narrative shortcomings.
With Artemis and Bizarro missing in action, Starfire hanging with the Teen Titans, and Roy Harper (SPOILER ALERT!) a casualty of the assault on Sanctuary, Jason Todd is without his Outlaws as he tracks the vicious Underlife crime syndicate across rural America. This lone wolf, redesigned Red Hood was meant to allow the character to be deadlier than ever, returning to his more… lethal roots while still fighting for the good guys. Red Hood: Outlaw #29 continues Jason’s new adventure as he comes face to face with just a small chapter of the Underlife in a small midwest town, taking the sect down with the help of Batwoman. The ensuing issue boasts wildly exciting, wonderfully rendered action sequences from artist Pete Woods, but lacks in almost every other aspect with a thin narrative and little character progression.
As has been the case since the Red Hood: Outlaw rebrand took hold, Pete Wood’s stellar interiors are a sight to behold. Every fight scene flows effortlessly while maintaining the sense of speed, style, and brutality derived from Jason’s acrobatic brand of lethal combat. Readers won’t get lost in the chaos of the Red Hood’s skirmishes, instead they can easily follow along and picture the fights playing out with ease, as if they were looking at a Hollywood storyboard.
Besides the fantastically rendered action scenes, this issue is chock-full of, simply put, f-----g cool panels. Of all things, this issue had me thinking “goddamn Red Hood is so kool” on multiple occasions, whether he was staring down a mansion he was about to assault on a beautiful starlit evening or catching a motorcycle chain in mid-air before using it to decapitate an assailant. There’s even a bad ass panel showing Jason walking away from an explosion without so much as a second glance- a classic cool guy move. It may be a simple, possibly cliche, observation, but this issue is just so cool looking in all the right ways.
This issue is so entertaining and fun to simply look at, it’s easy to overlook the weak narrative propelling Jason to the explosive conclusion. In fact, the art and interior pages are so good that once I finally realized how little I was invested in the actual narrative, I thought to myself “ah who cares, these fights are too awesome.”
The plot is ultimately forgettable, especially with the visuals stealing the show. Writer Scott Lobdell does a fantastic job pacing the action sequences, with small breaks in between each to avoid overbearing the reader, however the plot driving the issue is very thin. It’s a simple “bad guys have town hostage, must stop them” story with little to no personal stakes for Jason Todd or Batwoman. This story’s resolution doesn’t do anything to develop either character, which is a shame no matter how good the action is.
The team-up between Red Hood and Batwoman is surprisingly entertaining while causing readers to realize that both are kind of the bat-sheep of the bat-family. The pair’s hard nosed yet smart-ass personalities clash well and make for some great moments of banter, while Batwoman’s tactical prowess and Jason’s guns-blazing style clash to make the fight sequences a joy to watch. There’s a quick moment of solitude in which Batwoman offers condolences for Roy’s death, however that moment will aggravate any readers, like me, who still aren’t happy with Jason’s nonchalant attitude towards Roy’s untimely demise.
Despite its narrative flaws, Red Hood: Outlaw #29 is still a very enjoyable read. Scott Lobdell’s excellent pacing and Pete Woods’s expert interiors make each and every moment of action enjoyable to the point readers will linger on nearly every panel. If only there were a more memorable story to supplement the excellent combat sequences, and this issue may have been a perfect 10.