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Red Hood And The Outlaws, Vol. 1: Redemption

Former Batman-sidekick-turned-vigilante, Red Hood is an antihero with scores to settle. When he teams up with Starfire and Arsenal, the trio start taking out the bad guys while dealing with their bad histories and “family” drama.

Title: Red Hood and the Outlaws, Vol. 1: Redemption
Author: Scott Lobdell (Writer), Joshua Williamson (Writer), Kenneth Rocafort (Illustrations)
Series: Red Hood and the Outlaws (2011) series
Publish Date: Aug 1, 2012 by DC Comics
Genre: superhero, graphic novel
Source: Purchased

Publisher’s Description: No sooner has Batman’s former sidekick, Jason Todd, put his past as the Red Hood behind him than he finds himself cornered by a pair of modern day outlaws: Green Arrow’s rejected sidekick Arsenal, the damaged soldier of fortune, and the alien Starfire, a former prisoner of intergalactic war who won’t be chained again. As a loner, Jason has absolutely no interest in this motley crew of outlaws. So what’s he going to do when they choose the Red Hood as their leader?

Possible spoilers beyond this point.


Kat Mandu says…

I admit I don’t read a lot of comic books. Bring on the boos and insults, I know. A lot of my superhero fandoms and knowledge stems from the MCU or DCU (movies) and other various sources. And then I get curious and read into them with the comic books. Plus, if I find a character I really love but isn’t in the movie universes, I tend to look up information on the character and go from there.

Red Hood (and Moonstone, but that’s another story) has always been different. Granted, I first came across his story by watching the animated movie Under The Red Hood. But after that, I became hooked. I recently attended the Wizard World Convention in Chicago and bought the entire Outlaw series (not 52) with glee.

Red Hood is the first DC character I truly adore and care about. Maybe it’s because I have an affinity for young characters who die and are reborn as something else. Maybe it’s because he’s got plenty of one-liners that make me giggle. Maybe it’s because he doesn’t suck *cough, cough Aquaman.*

Long story short, Red Hood was originally the second Robin, Jason Todd, a sidekick trained by Batman. He was murdered at a young age by the Joker and then came back (there are alternate versions of how he was reborn). He felt enraged that his death was not avenged and then donned the Red Hood, becoming a vigilante in the city of Gotham, promising to do better than Batman.

Regardless of the crimes he commits, Jason Todd is a hero at heart, protecting the innocent and getting the bad guys. His methods are far more justified than his mentor’s, even though he kills off the men he thinks are deserving—”let the punishment fit the crime.” He may not have the acute moral compass that Batman does when it comes to killing, but regardless, he mostly gets his revenge.

I’ve read Death In The Family, Under the Hood, and Lost Days, so now I figured it’s time to catch up on his Outlaw days.

I really enjoyed this first installment, too. Jason is smart, angry, and badass as he gets caught up in a rivalry between the All Caste (which is the assassin “school” he’s sent off to at the end of Lost Days) and The Untitled. While in the meantime, he’s teaming up with Starfire and Arsenal.

*On a side note, does anyone else hear Jensen Ackles’s voice as Jason’s? After watching Under The Red Hood, I totally still do.*

I don’t know much about Starfire beyond what I’ve seen in Teen Titans and other comics, so I wasn’t quite sure why she was hiding out on an island until she explained that it was because humans didn’t understand her, and vice versa. She’s quite a fire show with her emotions, pheromones, and powers.

I do know a lot of readers think the way she is portrayed by the writers/artists is sexist, but I don’t really buy into that. From EVERYTHING I’ve seen, Starfire has always been beautiful, has always tossed her feelings around, and has never been shy or uncomfortable about her body or feelings. She’s on an island where she’s free to do as she pleases and went there to escape restrictions. I don’t know what her sexuality has to do with sexism, because sexism is defined as prejudice, stereotyping, or discrimination, typically against women. So, how are the artists and writers being sexist? By drawing a beautiful woman who is a badass alien princess and has feelings? Come on, people. Be real here.

Arsenal is pretty damn funny. In one point of the story, Jason says something along the lines of Arsenal/Roy having the type of humor that is still funny but underlines a lot of things that are very true and very real, and I like that about him. Although I’ve never read the story where he does, I know that at one point, Arsenal goes up against the Justice League and Oliver Queen’s corporation. And I know that somewhere along the line, he loses everything—including himself. So he’s a sarcastic, sassy, angsty bastard, and I love it.

All in all, all these broken characters come in to team up and face down a series of undead, scaly, and very deadly foes and still come out victorious. Cue the applause.

Couple things before I wrap it up: I’d love to learn more about Essence. She seems like a badass too, and I’d never even heard of her before I read this series.

I’d love to see if this first book’s plots still has ties in the future books, or if it’s left unfinished. I guess I’ll find out!

And I love that, despite everything, Jason has learned, he’s still the same, angry person who wants to kill the Joker and who loathes Batman for not avenging his death. Learning new tricks and new saintly mantras doesn’t always make you a saint, and I like that Jason, though good at heart, isn’t going to be swayed one way or another. He’s going to do what he wants.

Overall, this gets a four from me.

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Almost Invincible by Kristen Brand

When the theme-park ride based on the legendary, super-strong hero, White Knight, is reopened to the public, Dave, aka White Knight, gives his teenage daughter, Elisa, his complimentary tickets. Only one of his old enemies decides to take the theme park hostage…

Title: Almost Invincible
Author: Kristen Brand
Series: The White Knight & Black Valentine, Book 03
Publish Date: September 30, 2017
Genre: Superhero
Source: Purchased

Publisher’s Description: A theme park turns into a death-trap of sadistic supervillains…

White Knight is the most popular superhero in the country—which is bad news for David Del Toro, formerly White Knight, who retired from heroics years ago and just wants some peace and quiet. When the White Knight ride at a superhero-inspired theme park has a grand reopening, Dave is more than happy to give his complimentary tickets to his daughter and her friends and spend the day at home. But then the park gets taken hostage by supervillains.

The man known as Bloodbath spent the last decade in a maximum-security prison and blames White Knight for putting him there. He’s given an ultimatum: the hero comes to face him, or he’ll kill every tourist in the park. Dave barely managed to beat Bloodbath while in his prime and doesn’t like his chances now that he’s old and busted. But unless he does something, every innocent person in the park is going to die…including his daughter.

Almost Invincible is the third book of The White Knight & Black Valentine Series but can be read as a standalone. If you like tense thrillers with big, superpowered action, don’t wait—download Almost Invincible now!

Possible spoilers beyond this point.


Kat Mandu says…

Retired superhero White Knight has found some peaceful time to spend at home with his former supervillain wife, Valentina, and his daughter, Elisa. So when Elisa and her friends decide to hit up the local theme park to see the new ride based on her father’s old alter ego, Dave sends her on her way without too much worry.

Except later that day, there’s a prison breakout – and Bloodbath, Mother Earth, Doctor Sweet, and several other notoriously bad villains have escaped. Now several are working together to exact sweet revenge on White Knight and his sidekick, Freezefire, by calling them out on live TV and promising deadly payback.

Together, Dave and Julio face off against Bloodbath in hopes of saving hostages and others trapped in the park, finding Elisa and her friends, and putting Bloodbath down once and for all.

Many of you know that I’m a huge fan of the White Knight and Black Valentine series. Not only is it action-packed, but it also contains older heroes with backstories I appreciate and can relate to. It’s not often that superhero movies or books feature the family life of our heroes and villains. But Dave and Valentina truly love each other and their daughter, Elisa, who they work hard to protect. Almost Invincible is not an exception and I really loved it.

There’s not a lot of humor in this one, as Bloodbath is a character you probably wouldn’t want to joke about. This book tends to be a little more violent than its previous sequels, as Dave finds himself at the mercy and pain of his old nemesis, who seems to have an invincibility of his own. However, despite all the really cool battles in this one, Dave getting his butt handed to him about eight times throughout the book became slightly repetitive for me. I was also hoping that Elisa would have more scenes where she kicked butt. However, none of this ruined the story for me. It just means that Dave’s not invincible and that he has weaknesses beyond the physical.

I really enjoyed this new installment to the series. If you’re looking for some superhero and villain fun, I’d really recommend this book!

Our reviews in this series…

Other recommendations…

The Astounding Antagonists by Rafael Chandler; Superheroes Anonymous by Lexi Dunne; Ex-Heroes by Peter Clines.

The Shadow: Year One Omnibus

Title: The Shadow: Year One Omnibus
Author: Matt Wagner
Publish Date: 2014 by Dynamite Entertainment
Genre: Superhero
Source: Purchased

Publisher’s DescriptionThe Shadow has enjoyed nearly a century of enduring popularity as the first and greatest hero from the golden age of pulp magazines. Here, for the first time, is unveiled the origin story of how the Master of Men returned to America following his many adventures abroad in the aftermath of World War I. How did Lamont Cranston launch his legendary crusade against crime, assemble his vast network of covert operatives, and meet his lover and companion, Margo Lane? A treat for longtime Shadow fans and a perfect introduction to the character for a whole new generation of readers. Who knows what evil lurks in the heart of men? The Shadow Knows!

Collects the complete ten-issue storyline (#1-10) from The Shadow: Year One, including a pin-up gallery of over 50 comic book covers (by top-tier artistic talent including Alex Ross, Matt Wagner, Chris Samnee, Wilfredo Torres, Howard Chaykin, and more), plus hand-drawn sketch covers.

Possible spoilers beyond this point.


Percy Procrastinator says…

I love the Shadow. I read many of the novels and comics as a kid. When it was rebooted in the late 80s as a comic series, I was there. Sadly, it didn’t last long, nor did another revival a few years after that one. I knew that Dynamite had started another series in 2011, but it was only twenty-four issues. They also put the Shadow in a series called Masks, pairing the Shadow with some of his contemporaries.

The Shadow: Year One is a compilation of a new series, again by Dynamite. I should probably step back and explain Year One.

A lot of comic book publishers are taking their known characters and doing a new look at them, called Year One. Most of the time, if you reboot or start a new Batman, Superman, X-Men, or other known series, the author will just jump into their story, assuming the reader knows how these heroes got started. Or if they do an origin, it’s usually a quick version of it.

Take Batman. His parents are killed in front of him and he vows to get revenge on all criminals who make people fear them. Bruce Wayne then disappears for a dozen years or more before coming back as the Batman. And we start when they are established and look in on their current story.

Year Ones ask the question, how easy was it for them to turn into the superhero we know? Where did Bruce go to learn to fight? How did he arrive back in the city? How did he earn the support of Commission Gordon? (Batman Begins pulled heavily from Batman Year One, if these questions sound like it answered them.)

This is no exception. The comic is written from Margo Lane’s standpoint, which serves to keep The Shadow shrouded a bit of mystery. The city is dealing with a masked figure gunning down criminals. It’s just the Shadow, though, not his usual group of agents, including Margo Lane herself.

I found this to be quite wonderful! I think that’s why I like trades now where they do tell an entire story, rather than getting individual issues. We see Lamont Cranston arriving back in New York, acting the playboy. We find out why he has come to NY and who he is fighting. We learn a bit about his powers and eventually who he is, which thrilled me! We also see him save Margo and then make her one of his agents. We see one of his early disguises at the police HQ when he needs to learn information on what the police know. And we see the start of his organization. By the end, it’s not done, but it’s a start. And the ideas of many of the Shadow stories before it are woven into it well, surprising even me a few times. I also liked the evolution that will happen between what he uses now and what his organization will use.

If I have any complaint, it’s two-fold. There is a lot of 30s slang that was tough to follow. It also took a bit to learn the characters because the art wasn’t as crisp or clean as I would have preferred to distinguish the many characters. I also think they needed a bit more foreshadowing of several things. However, still a great story and a solid four from me.

The Joker: Death of the Family by Scott Snyder

Title: The Joker: Death of the Family
Author: Scott Snyder
Series: Batman Vol. 2
Publish Date: October 22, 2013 by DC Comics
Genre: Superhero
Source: Purchased

Publisher’s Description: After having his face sliced off one year ago, The Joker makes his horrifying return in this new epic that features Batman’s entire network of partners in crimefighting, including Batgirl, Catwoman, Nightwing, Robin, the Teen Titans and more. While The Joker threatens the very existence of Gotham City, these heroes –and villains–must find a way to survive.

Collecting: Detective Comics 16-17, Catwoman 13-14, Batgirl 14-16, Red Hood and the Outlaws 15-16, Teen Titans 15, Nightwing 15-16, Batman and Robin 15-17, Batman 13, 17; & material from Detective Comics 15, Suicide Squad 14-15, Batgirl 13, Red Hood and the Outlaws 13-14, Teen Titans14, 16; Nightwing 14, & Batman 14.

Possible spoilers beyond this point.


Percy Procrastinator says…

I don’t follow comics that closely, despite all of my comic reviews. As such, I don’t know why DC did a reboot back in 2010 called the New 52, ending all lines and restarting 52 of them. And DC did it again with another reboot and followed that by going back to the previous lines and comic numbers! I can’t answer any of that, sadly, or know if there is an answer why. What I do know is that when they did the New 52, they waited a whole year before bringing back the most well-known villain:

The Joker

Right off the bat (heh, no pun intended), when I look at the list above of how many comics this contains such that I didn’t have to get all of those titles on my own, I’m very happy for this trade. Further, it puts them in a chronological order of sorts, rather than all titles from the same line together. If they had done that, we would have gotten the finale after the fourth issue and the rest would have been backstory, rather than the gripping story they wove.

The Joker’s back and he’s crazier than ever. We are shown that this time, not told. He kills. He maims. He tortures. And that’s just to his friends, much less the good guys. This is a story of the Joker making Batman pure by getting rid of all of the baggage that holds him back. And that’s the Batman’s “family” of Batgirl, Nightwing, Robin(s), and Catwoman. They all have to go if Batman is to be the pure good guy to Joker’s bad. And the Joker just wants to have fun.

****SPOILER TO FOLLOW THIS DISCLAIMER****

I’m really torn about whether to say this spoiler or not. A story should stand on its own even if it’s spoiled or it might not have had much story. At the same time, some might not want to know anything other than this:

I enjoyed it. It’s a good story. I will quibble below but enjoyed the read and felt what they did with Joker was well done.

Now, if you want no spoilers, don’t read further.

spoiler

space

*****YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED*****

Sadly, and here’s the spoiler, it doesn’t work.

At the end of it all, the writers couldn’t mess with the continuity of the other titles, so none of the family was hurt. There are slight hints that there is a fracture between them, but I don’t doubt it will be resolved a few issues later in all their own titles. None of the main characters die. Oh, the Joker still kills some known secondary characters, but Nightwing, Batgirl, Catwomen, and Robin are all okay.

For that reason, DC’s title is misleading. They wanted it to conjure images of Death In The
Family, when Joker killed then-Robin, Jason Todd. I think this does Joker a disservice. I think by hyping him up and then having him not do it weakens the character. This Joker would have killed them or done something to them, not let them all live.

The thing is, I still give this a solid four, even with my disappointment in the ending. The ride we go on to get there is fascinating. The Joker does kill several secondary characters from several titles and, as I said, he might fracture the relationship between Bruce and the others, but it will soon be status quo. What he does in the meantime, though, entertains in the most macabre way. I think Harley has it the worst. The psychology of her story is good, as well as the psychology of the Joker. I just think it’s too bad they couldn’t have done something a bit more permanent.

Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo

Get a peek into Wonder Woman’s teen years in a new YA novel by Leigh Bardugo. Wonder Woman: Warbringer is the first in a series of YA novels about the DC superheroes and villains that should prove very entertaining.

Title: Wonder Woman: Warbringer
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Series: DC Icons, Book 01
Publish Date: August 28, 2017 by Random House
Genre: YA Fantasy, Superhero
Source: Purchased

Publisher’s Description: Daughter of immortals.

Princess Diana longs to prove herself to her legendary warrior sisters. But when the opportunity finally comes, she throws away her chance at glory and breaks Amazon law—risking exile—to save a mortal. Diana will soon learn that she has rescued no ordinary girl, and that with this single brave act, she may have doomed the world.

Daughter of death.

Alia Keralis just wanted to escape her overprotective brother with a semester at sea. She doesn’t know she is being hunted by people who think her very existence could spark a world war. When a bomb detonates aboard her ship, Alia is rescued by a mysterious girl of extraordinary strength and forced to confront a horrible truth: Alia is a Warbringer—a direct descendant of the infamous Helen of Troy, fated to bring about an age of bloodshed and misery.

Together.

Two girls will face an army of enemies—mortal and divine—determined to either destroy or possess the Warbringer. Tested beyond the bounds of their abilities, Diana and Alia must find a way to unleash hidden strengths and forge an unlikely alliance. Because if they have any hope of saving both their worlds, they will have to stand side by side against the tide of war.

Possible spoilers beyond this point.


Agent Annie says…

I have to admit that I wasn’t looking for a superhero story when I found this book by Leigh Bardugo. I was looking for other titles by the author of Six of Crows and the original Grisha Trilogy when I came across Wonder Woman. Since I had recently seen the movie starring Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, I thought I would give this a try.

I was quite happy that I picked it up. The author creates a very believable young Diana who is not quite an adult. Reading how Diana experiences the world outside of Themyscira, particularly her impression of NYC, was a lot of fun.

The only complaint I might have is that there wasn’t much depth to the individual characters, so my relationship to them was pretty trivial. However, the story moves along quickly with lots of action and a few twists that keep you guessing until the end.

Bardugo stays true to the mythology of Wonder Woman and the Amazons while writing a unique chapter in Diana’s life. I give this book a 4 and would recommend it to teen readers as well as adults.

Other recommendations…

All books in the Grishaverse by Leigh Bardugo, the rest of the DC Icons series, and Leia, Princess of Alderaan by Claudia Gray.

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