The last few issues of RHOL (including the annual) have been disappointing, so it was a great relief to see this issue course correct. This issue brings the series back; I feel much more invested in the characters again. The writing achieves a much better pace and the story is progressing with more direction. This is due in part to the fact that Jason, along with RHOL readers, is learning the details of his past. Though we are introduced to unfamiliar concepts, Jason has become a relatable character that anchors readers and makes the story intuitive and engaging.
The action is gripping, but keeps the plot moving, and the slow portions have big payoff. Dr. Hugo Strange carries over to this issue from the annual, and his portrayal is one we have come to expect, though he is a little less of a mastermind. Roy and Kori’s relationship is challenged in legitimate ways that feel genuine and relatable. James Tynion has managed to take the story elements that I hated the most in the last few issues and tie them together in a way that is more than satisfying.
The League of Assassins are going to be a big part of the this storyline moving forward. In the annual, Cheshire’s dialog was forced and off-kilter. In this issue, the problem is with the rest of the assassins we meet. For the first time we see Lady Shiva, who is dressed head-to-toe as a green ninja. She is the only member thus far who resembles someone who knows the definition of stealth. The design of these assassins ranges from gothic vampire to, as Jason put it, “Tigerman.” Granted, most comic book villains are flamboyant, but these character designs just feel lazy.
The poor design, coupled with the extremely rough and almost refined artwork in this issue, make me wonder if artist Julius Gopez was under the gun to get this issue done in time with the annual. The art work isn’t the worst we have seen by a long shot, it is not up to caliber.
This book is a must-read for fans of the series, and is as good a jumping on point as we’ve had in a while. Jason’s unfolding quest for self discovery has become compelling again and, if the last page of this issue is any indication, he has some big choices ahead of him. Roy and Kori’s future has finally achieved some emotional depth, and this issue makes me want to see them prevail. This book should be on your list for your next visit to the comic store.