In Review: Red Hood/Arsenal #1

Terrific visuals, with an unfunny story.

The covers: A pair to find with neither one being a Joker Variant. The Main cover is by Howard Porter and Hi-Fi, both involved with Justice League 3001 premiering soon. The two leads are blazing down a hallway with bullets flying past them, exploding on walls, causing glass to go flying. The Hood is unloading both barrels and Arsenal is ready to unleash an arrow. Excellent action shot. The Variant cover is by Kenneth Rocafort showing the pair ready for action in an industrial exterior. Red Hood has both guns up, ready to go, while Arsenal is standing tall, pulling down his hat as though posing for the viewer. Both characters are really slim on this cover, even in their armor, and this is how I prefer them. They’re much more bulky in the comic, and I wish they looked more like this. Their poses tip off their personalities well. Overall grades: Both A

The story: I never read an issue of Red Hood and the Outlaws and I think that would have prepared me better for “Desert First, Then Dinner!” by Scott Lobdell. This version of Roy Harper was really silly — No, really silly. Like distractingly silly, so that I couldn’t believe he was a hero. Three miles from the Mexico border, Aresenal is watching a trade off occur between a cartel that’s holding a CIA agent and Washington fixer Tara Battleworth. She’s bargaining for the agent on behalf of a senator that’s there. As he watches the villains approach Battleworth, he reminisces about this time with Starfire and Jason Todd. Both of his partners have gone off to who knows where, leaving him on his own to act on his own impulses, which means he wants to help Battleworth. He contacts her on her cellphone and she wants to talk to his boss. “‘Boss’? I don’t have a–” “Red Hood.” “He is NOT my–” Given ten seconds to explain why he’s calling, Arsenal tells her, “This deal you brokered between the senator and the cartel isn’t going to end well. #setup. #turnaroundandgetout.” That’s when the villains’ SUVs arrive and surround Battleworth. The deal goes down and things happen that prompt Arsenal to interject himself into the proceedings. The action is good, but it didn’t fit with Roy — at least with how I remembered him. Jason does appear and he’s more believable than Roy, but he’s so thoroughly disagreeable that it sucked any joy out of his character. I know that this book is trying to be funny and have action, but it’s not working for me. The humor fell flat and the characters were parodies of other parodies. I felt like I was reading DC’s answer to Deadpool. These weren’t my characters and this wasn’t my kind of humor. Overall grade: D

The art: The visuals by Denis Medri are very good. On the first page Medri establishes the setting in a small horizontal panel that’s a wonderful illustration of a desert, complete with mountains and cacti. The rest of the page is a giant panel showing Arsenal’s camp, comprised of the hero, some crates, some tech, and a lot of empty water bottles. The look on his face makes him seem dimwitted, so this should be a tipoff to fans on what to expect from him. Roy is drawn well throughout, even when he’s just sitting or standing. His action sequences are well done, 12 being my favorite page. He looks really elongated in the final panel on Page 3, making him look similar to the way Deadpool is drawn by Rob Liefeld. I like that look, but it’s unlike any other way he appears in this book. Battleworth looks great and I’m hoping that boys go back to her so that more can be seen of her. I prefer thin linework in my comics, and Medri draws that way on every page. It works well on Roy’s mask and costume, making his armor believable. I like the visuals much more than the story. Overall grade: A

The colors: Tanya Horie’s colors are an important story element in the middle of this book. Before getting to that, she starts the book in excellent fashion. The first panel is picture postcard perfect — These colors are what everyone in the world imagines the desert to look like in the Americas. Breaking things up, Horie uses the same red from Arsenal’s costume to color his thought balloons, giving the reader a visual indicator to whom they’re listening in on. Desert colors yellow and brown are used expertly in the story’s title on Page 3. 8 and 9 has an explosion that uses bright colors to show how massive the boom is. On 10 a deep, musty emerald is used for something that Roy has added to his entrance and it’s fantastic. It’s the exact opposite of the desert colors and it provides a beautiful background for the action that occurs. The only page where the coloring doesn’t work is 17. The focus of the splash page is colored too uniformly, making it hard to make out details in the art: one can tell what’s going on, but it’s just too blended and bright to see the visual completely. The last page uses violets brilliantly. With the exception of one blip, Horie’s doing outstanding work. Overall grade: A

The letters: Dialogue, narration, sounds, opening title and credits. phone text, and the tease for next issue’s book are done by Dave Sharpe. They look great and that opening title on Page 3 is just beautiful. Overall grade: A

The final line: Terrific visuals, with an unfunny story. I’ll give the next issue a read in my store next month before purchasing it. Overall grade: C+

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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