Friday, January 12, 2007

Seeing Red Part Two: The Buddy System (DC comics)
Green Arrow #70 When: March 2007
Why: Judd Winick How: Scott McDaniel

The story so far...
Jason Todd, former Robin and protege to the Batman, has returned from the dead and isn't in the best frame of mind.
Walking a line between good and evil, Todd assumes the identity that gave birth to The Joker - Red Hood - and begins a lethal war against crime for control.

Danny "Brick" Brickwell arrived on the Star City underworld scene abruptly, and his rise to power was swift.
Though his extraordinary strength and rockhide durability were key to his success, perhaps his greatest tool was intelligence and guile.
It was this that set him apart from the other gangsters of the city.

Red Hood has brought his vendetta to Star City, and sought out Brick with a deal too good for a man of his intelligence to pass up. The only question that remains now, is whether or not he'll survive long enough to propose it...

Previous Form:
Red Hood (#29): Red Hood teamed with Batman to defeat members of The Society.
Brick (#197): Brick has suffered defeat at Green Arrow's hand twice.

Tale of the tape...
Strength: Brick 5 (Super Strength)
Intelligence: Red Hood 4 (Tactician)
Speed: Red Hood 3 (Trained Athlete)
Stamina: Brick 4 (Trained Athlete)
Agility: Red Hood 4 (Gymnast)
Fighting Ability: Red Hood 5 (Martial Artist)
Energy Powers: Red Hood 2 (Projectile Weapons)

Well, a pretty interesting way to start out the year, I must say.
As a fan and wannabe-writer, I have a great interest and affection for good independent street villains. These guys are arguably two of the best new comers to the scene, and pitting them together is just really interesting. It's not the kind of match-up you'd expect to see.

Anyway, fawning aside, who measures up how?

The most overt advantage here is Brick's rocky exterior which not only makes him invulnerable to fatal wounds from most basic weaponry, but also grants him incredible strength and striking power.

We've seen time and time before how the Batman has been able to overcome overwhelming odds of muscle through strategy and preperation. Victories against Superman, Captain Nazi and Amazo remind us of that.
What's important to recall is not only that Red Hood has had conditioning to approach such obstacles in a likeminded fashion, but is also willing to extend his strategies to incorporate lethal force. Something Batman would never condone.

Thus, in many ways, this makes Red Hood even more dangerous than Batman.

Likewise, Red Hood's acrobatic agility and training in the martial arts put him a level up on Brick, whose school was one of hard knocks. Street wise scuffling may get you to the top of the gang pile, but against guys relying on nothing but skill, your odds start to dwindle.

Certainly it isn't an easy pick-up for Red Hood, but given the difference in experience and style, it's difficult to tip the man-brute that is Brick.

The Math: Red Hood (Champion Class)
The Pick: Red Hood

What went down...
Red Hood shows up on the scene just in the nick of time to mow down his own men, as they threaten to open a can of urban warfare on Brick's ass on a count of a lost shipment of weapons. Foiled, of course, by Green Arrow and Speedy (with a mysteriouso assist from Batman).

Red Hood proposes the notion of Brick helping him with his problem, but when Brick says he isn't interested the helmeted vigilante starts to press his point.

Using his fantastic agility to leap in the path of the hometown advantage, he draws his pistols. Brick shows him just how much he likes that, revealing the hard way how fast he can be.

The crimson cowled one finds himself in the grip of a far more powerful opponent, and unable to breath as he crushes down on his protective helmet.

Reaching for the back of his belt, the Hood produces an explosive grenade which puts distance between he and his potential partner in crime.

Breaking the seal on the helmet, Red Hood reveals the man underneath, still wearing the red domino mask that mirrors his past as a boy wonder.

Red Hood unload a clip of lead in Brick's rocky hide at point blank range, which rocks even his mighty head to the core. Stumbling back, Brick keeps talking, sharing his understanding of the dramatic with a heavy fist that breaks a building wall built with his namesake, as the Red Hood ducks it.

He leaps high into the air, again leaving the Hood to use his speed and agility to narrowly escape certain doom.
The shockwave of Brick's impact rattles Red Hood, but puts enough distance between the two of them to give the smaller of the two opportunity to produce another fantastic gadget.

He fires off a rocket that buries itself into Brick's mighty arm.
With an explosive in his arm and a smiling Red Hood holding a remote detonator, Brick finally stops to reconsider the offer proposed. A deal that will prove mutually beneficial.

The hammer...
Well, even though there's somewhat of a peaceful resolution, I'm going to call this one on points and declare the winner, and king of all the dichotomous gangsters - Red Hood.

If you've been reading Secret Earths for a while, or even tracking back through various links or archives, you'll know there's an invested interest in Judd Winick; or more specifically, his period on the flagship Batman title. [Batman #637, #647, #648]

Something that's been key to my distinct slant toward Marvel titles lately has been the deterioration of my interest in the Bat-titles. Certainly Batman was key to my DC interests this decade, but a shift away from the stoic urban super crime drama of the first half of the 00s, toward retro influenced 'lighter' adventures has curbed my interest.

What's nice about this new storyarc in Green Arrow is that it pays service to Wininck's time on Batman, and continues on the unfolding saga of Red Hood.
The shift in priority of the core Bat-titles meant Red Hood was somewhat lost to the shuffle, reduced to guest-spots in books like Teen Titans, which relied on deviations from his chief objective as displayed in Batman.

Here we are obviously somewhat diverted [to Star City], but Winick is at least able to maintain a consistency of the criminal interactions the Red Hood involves himself with.

Unfortunately Green Arrow remains far less solid as a piece of writing versus the well used issues of Batman. Likewise, Scott McDaniel's overtly cartoony pencils and relaxed inks [by Andy Owens] paint a much less attractive and suitably subdued picture. Which is probably the key difference between he and predecessor, Phil Hester, who, along with Ande Parks, presented a familiarly cartoony look, but with well grounded personal exchange.

Curiously Green Arrow appears to consistently be a touch-and-go title, and while it very much appears to be Judd Winick's stomping grounds, it reads much more B-list than his higher profile work. I don't really have any theories as to why that is, other than perhaps the necessity of editorial decisions forcing Winick to make the decision to cram all his ideas in with immediacy, rather than wait-out the interruption.

Though resembling somthing I'd expect to be more at home in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Brick continues to be an exciting new character in the DC landscape.
As a physical "supervillain" he has an interesting presesnce, but in the vein of the Batman Rogues, he is perhaps most interesting as a character who is capable of astute, almost deadpan understandings of the world in which he operates, and how he can benefit from that.

Though bestowed with extraordinary strength, and a Tombstone-esque theme of resilience, he in many ways reflects real world criminals more accurately.

The Fight: 4 The Issue: 4

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