The Night of the Owls, the Batman event brought to us by Scott Snyder, continues on with Red Hood and the Outlaws now getting involved. It’s up to them to protect Mr. Freeze from being assassinated by one of the Court’s lethal Talons, though none of them are entirely sure why they are doing so. Honestly, I’m not entirely sold on why either.
Why Mr. Freeze? We are informed that he is being targeted because he unknowingly helped the Court of Owls with the reanimation process for their Talons. On one hand, this makes a lot of sense given Mr. Freeze’s expertise. On the other hand, it’s a little hard to believe that the Court of Owls didn’t already have this down given how long they have been putting Talons on ice. Either way, that doesn’t really explain why Red Hood would come to his rescue. I believe the implication here is that Victor Fries was the only name left on the list of targets. Given how many people the Talons are being sent after, that seems a little hard to believe. This isn’t an unforgivable stretch, but it is a stretch.
Mr. Freeze’s real role in this issue is to give Roy Harper and Starfire someone to fight while Red Hood takes on the Talon, though. Because the real drama here is between Jason and the assassin. Using a civilian target for this story would have made it trickier to figure out an entertaining way to keep Roy and Starfire busy. I can understand that. And truthfully, their fight is entertaining. I love Starfire’s reaction to Mr. Freeze cold response to her offer of protection.
There are some really great parallels between Red Hood and the Talons. The concept of the Talons is that they were trained young to take their roles, killed and then brought back to wreak bloody vengeance. Jason gets how that feels. It may have been Dick Grayson who was supposed to become a Talon, but it was Jason Todd who lived something very similar to the Talon experience.
So this is a great connection to build the story around. Scott Lobdell’s handling of it is a little clumsy, though. He really does slap you in the face pointing out Jason’s parallels with the Talons, and it really becomes a bit of an infodump once he starts learning where the Talons come from. The exposition gets heavy, and it all develops at a faster pace than is natural. Still, it’s interesting to see it brought up and dealt with at all. The final resolution to Jason’s confrontation with the Talon is a nice moment as well. I have a lot of criticisms about Lobdell’s take on Jason, but at least he doesn’t pull back from Jason’s lethality.
While Lobdell jumps into the Talon stuff, he seriously neglects other big parts of the issue. As I said, Mr. Freeze’s only real role here is to give Starfire and Roy a sparring partner. That’s kind of a waste, isn’t it? We have Jason coming to the defense of a criminal. The conflict of interest there isn’t really even brought up. I know Jason doesn’t have a pathological need to kill every criminal he comes across, but his reasons for sparing Mr. Freeze aren’t even lightly explored. He just saves the guy. On top of that, other books have made a point of showing the Talon’s biggest vulnerability is cold temperatures. Here we have Mr. Freeze and that little tidbit somehow doesn’t even come up.
This isn’t even the real waste of the issue, though. That’s reserved for a different guest appearance.
Of all the Bat-heroes to appear with Red Hood in this issue, it’s Batgirl. Barbara Gordon finally comes mask to helmet-with-the-stupid-mouth-on-it with Jason Todd. Lobdell completely blows it. Batgirl’s reaction to Red Hood is the standard one. If she sees him again, she’s throwing him in a cell. What a waste. Here you have the two Bat-characters whose defining moments are being victimized by the Joker, and Batgirl only has generic condemnation for Red Hood. These two could and should have such an interesting complex and conflicted relationship. But here, we get nothing. Why even use her? It may as well have been Nightwing. At least the reaction would fit the character then.
My favorite thing about this issue is the total absence of anything to do with the All-Caste and the Untitled. It’s just so nice to have Jason Todd back in Gotham City and beiing involved in the greater Bat-universe. You know, like he’s supposed to be. It’s nice to have the occasional story putting the character out of his element, but this is where he belongs. Unfortunately, Lobdell seems to have the opposite perspective, feeling that Jason’s ties to Gotham should be the occasional thing. If solicitations are to be believed, the crew is about to head into space for the next few months. Jason Todd in space. This isn’t exactly what I hoped for in a Red Hood ongoing series.
Red Hood and the Outlaws gives a pretty solid entry to the Night of the Owls event. No, it isn’t crucial reading for the event, but almost none of these tie-ins honestly are. The common ground between Red Hood and the Talon does make this one of the more interesting and substantial Talon confrontations in the event so far, though. The downside of this issue is that Lobdell lets the potentially interesting presences of Mr. Freeze and Batgirl go to waste. This issue had the potential to be a lot better than it is, but what it is really isn’t bad.