Wednesday, April 14, 2010
Beware the Red Hood
I don't need every comics storyline these days be a never-before-seen take on our favorite characters or an earth-shattering re-examination placing things we thought we knew in an entirely new light. Those approaches can be great, but sometimes it's fun to simply enjoy a solid story built on the elements we've come to know and love about a character and his or her world. And that's what you get with this first volume presenting the recent Under the Hood storyline from Batman's regular comic book title.
Batman: Under the Hood, Volume 1 collects six issues of mystery and adventure, as a strange new figure, the Red Hood, begins to disrupt Gotham City's underworld, using tactics much more savage and brutal than Batman's own none-to-gentle techniques. Reacting most dramatically to the Red Hood's new war on crime is the creepy, deadly crime boss known as the Black Mask, and the Batman himself. The former justs wants the Red Hood out of the way, and the latter doesn't like the merciless approach of the Red Hood, especially when clues point to the Red Hood possibly being someone who was close to Batman in the not-too-distant past.
As said, this isn't a storyline like DC's Identity Crisis, which combined unconventional story-telling with unprecedented revelations, or The Dark Knight Returns, which presented an out-of-continuity original take on a superhero character (the Batman himself, in that case). No, the Under the Hood storyline simply delivers a solid story (by Judd Winick) and terrific art (by Doug Mahnke and Tom Nguyen) that throws lots of fun and drama our way, the kind of stuff that's familiar but never dull when it's done right. You get crime bosses, superhero guest appearances, a handful of super-villains, dark alleys, moves and counter moves, some big revelations, and lots of action. It's all great. An added nice touch is the inclusion of Matt Wagner's stylish and moody covers from the original issues, interspersed throughout this collection.
For the money, you can't beat this collection, which will provide several hours of immersive entertainment. Just be warned: the story continues in Batman: Under the Hood, Volume 2, which I just purchased. By the way, I'm diving into these Under the Hood collections because DC is adapting this storyline into an upcoming direct-to-DVD animated film, to be entitled Batman: Under the Red Hood, and I wanted to experience the original storyline first. I'm betting the movie will be decent, as it will have a lot of good stuff to draw from, but I'm glad that I'm experiencing the original epic first, before it's inevitably pared down to fit into a 75-minute movie.
Anyway, if you still have a soft spot for good, old-fashioned superhero action and melodrama, you can't go wrong with this.