Red Hood: Generation Outlaw by Scott Lobdell, Kenneth Rocafort, and Rex Lokus
DC Comics, pb, £9.56
Reviewed by Sarah Deeming
Picking up where we left off in Prince of Gotham, Jason Todd, otherwise known as the Red Hood, is now the sole teacher at Lex Luthor’s school for the next generation of villains. Jason must adapt to his new position as the authority figure, while hopefully teaching these kids enough so they don’t end up another dead teenager who had delusions of being indestructible. But when Artemis and Bizarro return to their world and Jason, all is not as it seems, and instead of running to embrace him, they are coming to kill him.
There are many roles I expected to see Jason in, but a teacher was never one of them. However, with Lex Luthor’s sale pitch, “get it right where Batman got it wrong”, it’s not hard to see why Jason accepted the offer. The first time we see his students, we are in Jason’s POV, inviting us into his story like never before, so we can see what he’s up against, teenagers with powers. Cocky and sure of themselves, they are so like Jason when he was his age, you could almost feel sorry for him. However, Jason has always been self-aware, and so he handles this new role in a way that does get through to the young people in his care. He lets them charge ahead and make mistakes but is right behind them when they fall. While his students may look down on him at the beginning, by the end they have some respect for Jason and his life lessons.
There is a change of artists for Generation Outlaw to the two books preceding, but this does not mean there are any unwelcome changes to the style. There is a freshness about the younger characters, a barely contained energy in their moments of inaction, and frustration at Jason and his teaching techniques. There is also a new element to Jason, more confident and in control, his body language speaks of experience in hostile situations, and those moments we see things from his point of view are really engaging.
Generation Outlaw has the feel of the calm before the storm. Jason succeeds at teaching, Artemis and Bizarro return to him, he appreciates a little more what Bruce Wayne had to put up, and he resolves some of the family issues that have been shadowing him since the series Red Hood and the Outlaws. But clouds are gathering on the horizon. While Lex Luthor wants these young people to be the next villains, Jason is an anti-hero, and this forms the basis of his lessons. By the end of the book, some of the young people are already showing signs that they are not the villains Lex wants them to be, while others are setting their own plans in motion. The future looks set to some sort of civil war between the school with Jason in the middle trying to save those he can. At least, I can always hope.
If you’ve never read any of the Red Hood series, then this series, Red Hood Outlaw, is a great place to start.