THIS WEEK: Jason Todd stakes out his own corner of Gotham in Red Hood: The Hill #1.
Note: the review below contains spoilers. If you want a quick, spoiler-free buy/pass recommendation on the comics in question, check out the bottom of the article for our final verdict.
Red Hood: The Hill #1
Writer: Shawn Martinbrough
Artist: Sanford Greene
Colorist: Matt Herms
Letterer: Troy Peteri
Cover Artist: Sanford Greene
Jason Todd has been a lot of things in the twenty years since his return as Red Hood. He’s been a trusted member of the Bat-Family, and he’s been an outcast from them. He’s been a hero, an anti-hero, and an outright villain at times. He’s led multiple teams of Outlaws, and he’s been a solo operator. During the recent Gotham War storyline, he had his mind tinkered with by Batman himself in an attempt to get Jason to stop being Red Hood altogether. It’s safe to say one thing he hasn’t had is much stability, if any at all.
Enter Red Hood: The Hill, the continuation of a two-issue story arc from 2020, which finds Jason setting up shop in the Gotham neighborhood called The Hill. The series is written by Shawn Martinbroughwho co-created The Hill with Christopher Priest in the 2000s Batman: The Hill one-shot and wrote the aforementioned two-issue arc. Martinbrough is joined by artist Sanford Greenecolorist Matt Hermsand letterer Troy Peteri for the series, and this week’s first issue picks up right where that previous story arc ended, with Red Hood working with a new group of street-level vigilantes called The Watch to protect The Hill from warring gangs packing enhanced weaponry.
Martinbrough focuses the story of the first issue largely on Dana Harlowe, an old friend of Jason’s who also happens to be the vigilante known as Strike. The two know each other’s secret identities, and their interactions both in and out of costume are full of tension and indicative of their shared (but unknown to readers) personal history. Dana is a woman trying to do what’s right for her neighborhood in the face of overwhelming odds, without the resources of the Bat-Family behind her, which instantly makes her story of ella all the more compelling. Beyond Dana and her motivations, Martinbrough establishes a threat in the form of Demetrius Korlee Jr., a gangster working for a mysterious organization that sounds a lot like the League of Shadows. That should be plenty for Jason and friends to handle over the rest of the six issues.
Martinbrough’s script is well complemented by the visuals from Sanford Greene and Matt Herms. Greene’s linework is stylized and loose, giving the characters a nice amount of physicality and kineticism on the page. There’s not a ton of action in this issue, but when there it is exciting and engaging, with interesting panel layouts guiding the reader’s eye through the sequences. Herms, who has colored Greene’s lineart a number of times previously, uses the right palette to make even a dialogue-heavy scene pop off the page and keep the reader from looking away. The combination makes for artwork that grounds the story in the familiar setting of Gotham while still making The Hill feel fresh and unlike any other area of the city.
If there’s an issue to be found here, it’s with the timeline of events. As mentioned up top, Jason’s been through a lot, especially recently, but there’s no indication of any sort of mind tampering by Batman here. The previous two-issue arc that this series picks up from was released in the immediate aftermath of the Joker War storyline, but leaving this series set in the same time period without reflecting on more recent events will likely be confusing to readers who are following Red Hood’s ongoing storylines. There’s also no mention here of Batgirls Stephanie Brown and Cassandra Cain, who had set up shop in The Hill in the Batgirls ongoing series. Once you understand that this is set in the past it becomes less of an issue, but getting there is a distraction from an otherwise solid issue. Even an editor’s note would have been sufficient.
That aside, Red Hood: The Hill #1 is an enjoyable kickoff to this tale featuring one of the Bat-Family’s most misunderstood members. Martinbrough has a clear vision for The Hill, and he, Greene, and co. are bringing that to the page expertly. Gotham City has long been in need of more diverse residents, and it’s nice to see it finally get some. Here’s hoping The Hill becomes a regular fixture of the Bat-titles going forward, and that it’s tackled with the nuance and skill on display so far in this story.
Final Verdict: BUY.
- Elsewhere in Gotham, batman #143 continues the “Joker: Year One” storyline that kicked off last week. I’m still not sure what we’re doing here or why this was an important story to tell, but at least the weekly release schedule means it will be over quickly.
- Meanwhile, Batman & Robin #6 finds the dynamic duo facing off against Mr. Zsasz (please don’t make me spell that again) and his son, who happens to be a fellow student of Damian’s at Gotham High. This series continues to be a blast, telling relatively self-contained stories that all feed into a larger mystery at work at the school.
- In non-Batman books, Action Comics #1062 finds Superman contending with a Metropolis – and ultimately a world – that has magically been turned into Bizarros, and fighting off the Bizarro within himself. It’s a great concept executed to perfection by Jason Aaron and John Timms. The final page reveal is both a huge surprise and makes perfect sense.
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