RED HOOD AND THE OUTLAWS has mostly been hit or miss for me, and I say that as a big Jason Todd fan. Issue #18, though? Easily my favorite yet. Scott Lobdell tells a surprisingly moving story and Tyler Kirkham's art is stellar and sets an appropriately dark tone.
This issue is all about Jason Todd's psyche and Lobdell reels you in with his most heartfelt tale yet. There are some deeply powerful moments here as Todd examines his complicated relationships and what needs to be done moving forward. Witnessing Todd's realization of needing Batman and attempting to fight off his past is staggeringly emotional. Lobdell provides some thoroughly vivid Joker dialogue, too (wiping brain matter on his purple suit? Yeesh).
This is all perfectly complimented by Tyler Kirkham's detailed and rough style. He flawlessly executes Todd's elaborate nightmares. Joker's haunting and lightning cracks across the sky and every panel manages to impress. This is all topped by a set of gut-wrenching panels in the conclusion. Arif Prianto's colors add a whole new layer of darkness and despair as we're thrown into Todd's tormented dreams or observing Wayne stay by Todd's side in a gloomy room.
Despite having Requiem on the cover, this has nothing to do with Robin (well, he's technically in the dream). This may be off-putting to some, but it's an understandable choice. How would they even fit it in? Batman decides to mope around and talk to himself about Damian while sitting next to Todd? It wouldn't feel appropriate at all.
I'm slightly disappointed the acid attack is leaving no permanent damage, but it's a decision I can somewhat understand. If it was, they have such sophisticated technology that could help him. Scott Snyder's run showcased a digital mask and there's far more they could do to help repair it. Then again, it would have been interesting if it did leave an impact and Todd decided to stick with it as a reminder of his past.. you know, assuming that wouldn't include overflowing amounts of emoness on the side. Regardless, the choice has been made and, seeing as the attack led to one of the most engrossing tales yet, I'm absolutely cool with it.
This story is without question mandatory reading for any Jason Todd fan. Gripping, powerful and visually stunning, Scott Lobdell is leaving the series with one helluva swan song. It doesn't deliver the same amount of feels as the absurdly good BATMAN & ROBIN #18, but it's still an incredibly solid story that'll tug at your heart before all is said and done. Now, it's time to see what James T Tynion IV will do with the trio.