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Art By: Javier Fernandez, Jose Villarrubia, Dave Sharpe
Cover Price: $2.99 Release Date: February 10, 2016
*Non Spoilers and Score At The Bottom*
First off, I just want to say how strange it is that we get this whole new series calling itself Red Hood/Arsenal when we get Joker's Daughter joining the team within the first six issues of the series...... not that I'm really complaining, it's just something that struck me when I was thinking about how to start this review and I figured I'd throw that out there........ It's just weird. I know that these characters aren't "Outlaws" anymore, but keeping the previous name for the series just seems to make more sense when Red Hood and Arsenal aren't are only main characters anymore. Another reason I decided to go into this title rant is because of how much I despise the Gotham Underground and talking about it seemed terrible to me so I figured I'd ease my way in. So yeah, our characters are all stuck in "The Nethers", where Jason is taking on a group of mercs called The Iron Rule, Roy is searching for Joker's Daughter, who is being held prisoner by the former ruler of the Underground: Charon, who on top of wanting to make Duela pay for dethroning him, wants his lava monsters to sink all of Gotham into the underground. Let's jump into this issue and see if Scott Lobdell can make the Gotham Underground interesting or if it just remains something that I hope to never see again. Let's check it out.
So our issue begins with Jason taking on the Iron Rule and just seriously getting his ass kicked while he thinks to himself about how he has to remember all the training that he's received from Batman, Ducra and the All Caste to see his way through this. It's a very odd opener since we don't know anything about this Iron Rule and the amount of time we take for Jason to tell us about how he has to remember his training and not only that, but how he has to treat this team as one opponent because....... well, just because I guess. On top of this strange inner monologue and us getting a throw away line about how this Iron Rule are apparently dead, we also get this opener told through many, many double page spreads and while I don't know if that hurt the book, it just felt odd and unconventional to tell this bit of the story. Eventually though, that ends and even though Jason appears to be on the verge of passing out, I guess he remembered that training he was talking about and got a couple of good jabs into the Iron Rule before the ground shook, allowing a distraction for him to get away............. or possibly being thrown by one of the Iron Rule........... I really don't know. All of a sudden Jason is just gone and due to the strange art and panel layout of this section of the book I wasn't certain of anything that I was seeing.
The real joy of this book is having Arsenal search out The Nethers, looking for Duela, only to be captured by the lava monsters and be brought to Charon and ultimately who he was looking for as well. The reason that this part is so enjoyable is because I can understand everything that's going on and because of Roy's hilarious attitude and dialog to the situations he's presented with. Yeah, he doesn't get a lot to do, but he's definitely the best part of this book............ so that might give you a little indication about how lackluster this issue truly is. Anyway, we get more dialog about Charon using the lava monsters as a way to break down the....... support beams...... that keep Gotham above them........ Yeah, I don't understand how cities work or how they stay above their undergrounds, but I think they have a better system than that, but that's how it appears here even though all we have to go on is Charon yelling to the lava monsters to topple the city's infrastructure.
In the end, we get a bunch of Duela having a pity party for herself about how all of this is her fault because she set Charon on this path when she overthrew him and it's really weird because it seems that without her Joker face, she's a shell of her former crazy self and we only see a second of it really when she believes that the only way to end all of this and give herself a pseudo redemption ending is when she handcuffs Charon to herself and then jumps into a lava pit........... Of course she doesn't die though because Roy saves her at the last second, but Charon went out all Terminator 2 about it, without the bad ass thumbs up though. So yeah, we get a brief glimpse of crazy from Joker's Daughter at the instance where she jumped in the pit, but our issue closes with her crying into Jason's chest, before leaving her Joker face behind for the people of the Underground, so they know that someone is watching out for them and a cliffhanger that Roy once led the Iron Rule before I guess they died and became zombie mercs for hire.
That's it for this issue of Red Hood/Arsenal and while a lot of folks out there give Scott Lobdell a bunch of shit for the over the top adventures he puts his characters in and the humorous dialog he throws at us as well, I have to admit that I'm a fan, but not even that could make me get behind this issue because it did nothing for the story except give us a reason to come back to the Iron Rule........ which since I didn't get anything out of these character over the last two issues, I really don't give a shit about them............ Oh and I guess we also go forward with Duela maybe dropping the Joker's Daughter name since she's left her face behind here. As for the Gotham Underground though, I have no idea because we didn't resolve anything about the Iron Rule terrorizing the people who live in the Underground and Charon didn't really do shit in this entire story arc, except die that is and even his lava men just went back to being mindless drones now that their leader perished. Just a whole lot of nothing besides for art that left me wondering what the hell was going on through this story when it came to Jason Todd and only slightly better looking art when it came to everything else, but since nothing really happened with those parts, it doesn't really matter. I love these characters and I want a fun book that I can have a good time with and before the Robin War, this was that title.......... but since then, it's just been terrible and this issue is the worst of the series.
Bits and Pieces:
We thankfully put a cap on our time in the Gotham Underground with this issue, but like any time spent in the Underground.......... it was a painful experience. On top of a story that really goes nowhere, we have half our issue given to us with near indecipherable art on top of strange double page panel layouts that happen way too often, which being the part that dealt with the action, I was left just wondering what the hell was actually going on. I'm a fan of this series, but this has to be the worst that we've gotten so far and I really hope it has the ability to pick up and become a fun book again.