“We don’t choose our teachers in life. Sometimes they are crazed vigilantes pretending to love us like a son. And other times they take the form of a space kitty who is smarter than anyone gives her credit for. Reminds me of me. It’s a load of bull to think of friendship and romance as being different. They’re not. They are just variations of the same love. Variations of the same desire to be close.” – Red Hood
If I hadn’t made it obvious by now, Jason Todd is my favourite comic character. I’m on a mission to bring as much recognition to him as possible, so I’m reviewing Red Hood And The Outlaws: REDemption today. The graphic novel collects the first arc of the original Outlaws, featuring Red Hood, Arsenal and Starfire. Written by Scott Lobdell and drawn by Kenneth Rocafort, REDemption brings together three damaged characters who find friendship and solace in each other.
The story begins with Jason blowing up a submarine that’s smuggling nuclear weapons into Miami. The explosion knocks him out, until he wakes up on a mysterious island. Starfire had pulled him out of the ocean and nursed him back to health. She states that Red Hood reminds her of someone familiar, alluding to her time with Dick Grayson. She provides Jason with new armour and he tells her about his time with Batman and their complicated history. Starfire doesn’t judge him for his past and the two of them form a close bond.
When Red Hood finds out that Roy Harper is being held in Qurac by terrorists, he and Kori mount a rescue. After saving Roy, the trio relax on the island until a ghost from Jason’s past comes calling. Essence, a member of the mystical All-Caste, comes to Jason with news that their teacher Ducra has been killed by The Untitled. Jason trained with the All-Caste as a boy and he vows to avenge his teacher’s death.
Red Hood, Starfire and Arsenal go on a hunt for The Untitled, which leads them to a small mountain town. They fight an Untitled masquerading as a police offer, but the creature nearly overwhelms them. At the same time, an alien hunter called Crux comes looking for Kori and almost kills her. The Outlaws band together and Jason defeats the Untitled while Arsenal and Starfire stop Crux.
Red Hood is given plenty of character development, moving beyond his relationship with Batman to form meaningful friendships with Arsenal and Starfire. There’s a mystical aspect to his story that pulls away from the normal street-level elements. I found it an interesting change of pace and commend Lobdell for expanding on Jason’s history.
During the time the comic came out, there was controversy surrounding Starfire’s portrayal. She directly asks Arsenal if he wants to have sex with her. This panel was met with backlash, as her classic personality is warm-spirited and compassionate. While I agree that her portrayal in REDemption is hit and miss, Starfire’s compassion is very much intact. She encourages Jason to let go of his past and it’s revealed she’s only cold on the surface because she wants to forget about her history as a slave. Lobdell emphasises her warrior spirit and I can appreciate that.
Arsenal is the comedian of the group, playing well off Jason’s seriousness. His relationship with Starfire develops beyond the physical and it’s good to see him among people who understand him.
Rocafort’s art is stunning, whether he’s drawing an island paradise, or bullets bouncing off a mutated alien hunter.
Red Hood And The Outlaws: REDemption is a story of outcasts and rebels, trauma and resiliency. Jason, Kori and Roy are able to find a home in each other. All of them have a rough past, but it doesn’t stop them from fighting alongside each other for the greater good. If you’re a fan of any of these characters then I’d recommend buying the graphic novel.