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Red Hood and the Outlaws Annual continues to build on James Tynion IV’s fledgling run on the series, but the questionable footing of the directions he is taking the characters prevents him from building up much momentum.
The current events in the series revolve around Jason Todd having turned himself into an amnesiac. In theory, it’s not a bad premise to have Jason forget his past and then have to struggle through relearning all of the traumatic events of his life. However, what’s problematic about it is that Jason did this to himself and really had no reason to. Nothing really happened in Death of the Family that reasonably could have devastated him so much that he would break and ask to have his memories removed as he did. Really, it seems like a forced plot point that was hurriedly put together when DC decided to back off having his face disfigured by acid. So this plot is constantly being undermined by the reminder that Jason did this to himself for reasons that poorly fit the character.
It’s also not as enjoyable as it should be aside from that problem. The part with Arsenal and Starfire essentially lying to him about who he was to protect him is the best part of it. That’s a believable act from his friends, and it also works that Roy may actually believe what he’s saying, viewing Jason through less than objective lenses due to his own issues. But the parts where Jason reacts all horrified and indignant to the truth of who he was is less appealing and too predictable for this kind of story. Hopefully, this all isn’t going to just be Jason condemning who he used to be. Who he used to be is otherwise known as the most popular he has ever been as a character. It’s who he should return to being.
I mean, come on. If his kill count is that close to 100, he needs to at least get it the rest of the way there.
Much of the issue deals with Roy, though. And I’ve got to say that I’m liking the New 52 version of Roy Harper less and less. His current story suffers in a similar way to Jason’s in that it is undermined at the root of it. Roy is no longer a recovering drug addict. He’s a former teenage alcoholic. ...Yeah. That’s lame to even have to say. His flashbacks to the time when he worked with Green Arrow show him drinking beer. Oh, the scandal! Look, it’s going to take some miraculous writing to see Roy’s teenage drinking as anything close to being as compelling as his old drug addiction, and I don’t see that happening.
Another major change to the character’s background is that he may never have actually been Green Arrow’s sidekick. The flashbacks seem to indicate that he was only ever Green Arrow’s weaponsmith, and his desire to be a sidekick was constantly rebuked. I’m not sure what to think of this change, but my initial impression isn’t really a favorable one. What hurts is that Roy’s technical smarts is so overplayed. It’s one thing for him to be able to create some sweet trick arrows, but it’s whole other ridiculous level for him to be whipping up sophisticated “roybots” and everything else. There’s every indication that Roy barely had any real education. It’s dumb to have him able to magically do these things.
So alcoholism and inexplicable genius. The New 52 has basically turned Roy Harper into a weak imitation of Tony Stark, which is a pretty far cry from who the character used to be. I really have to wonder who sat around at DC saying “Yes. These changes make the character better.”
I also question stealing Hugo Strange from Batman’s cast of villains to be Roy’s former therapist. It seems like a waste. I guess, depending how Tynion plays this out, it’s possible that Strange could also remain a factor for Batman.
The basic plot of the issue is pretty solid, though. Jason is being targeted by some old acquaintances for reasons yet to be revealed, and one uses Green Arrow to track them down to their island hideaway. It’s also nice to be getting away from the lame All-Caste as the only thing from Jason’s past. Let’s get back to the idea that he learned skills from a variety of shady sources.
And that brings us to the introductions of Bronze Tiger and Cheshire to the New 52. And is it a reintroduction for Cheshire? I could swear I remember her showing up when Rob Liefeld took over Grifter. But if DC wants to just ignore all that and try again with Cheshire, I’m willing to play along. Tynion goes for a much more accurate take on the character. She’s a poison-centric assassin again. Excellent. He even teases her pre-New 52 relationship with Roy, though I doubt he can recreate it in a satisfactory way given all the changes to Roy’s character.
Bronze Tiger, now a werecat, is harder to judge. His appearance is brief and doesn’t give much about him. Tynion is going to have some work cut out for him justifying the dramatic physical changes to the character, though. It is kind of a big deal that the character’s now a literal catman rather than one of DC’s top martial artists.
Red Hood and the Outlaws Annual has as a good plot to it but loses points for the strained and weak alterations to some of the characters. What Jason is putting himself through is out of character, and the New 52 version of Roy really isn’t turning out to be an improvement. There’s hope for Jason to come out of this intact. However, the fundamental changes to Roy may be too much to ever really fix without another continuity revamp.