By: Joe Keatinge (story), Ricken (art), Pete Pantazis (colors)

The Story: Arsenal proves that you can do a lot with a quarter if you know how to use it.

The Review: I hadn’t planned to review this issue so soon; after all, it wasn’t as if DC Universe Presents was ever much of a hot title before now.  But when I went to pick it up at my favorite comic book shop on Wednesday, I was surprised to discover it had sold out.  Seriously?  I then made a call to my back-up comic book shop, who informed me (on Thursday morning!) that they only had one copy left, which is the one I eventually bought with no little amazement.

I can’t say I completely understand what made this particular issue of DC Universe Presents such a must-buy, but I have some thoughts.  Surprisingly, Red Hood and the Outlaws is actually one of the most popular titles from DC (ranking in the top 25 for the last few months).  Besides his starring role in that title, Arsenal has also figured pretty prominently in Young Justice, so he’s got quite a bit of exposure lately.

But if I had to put my finger on it, I’d say a lot of it has to do with Arsenal’s easy, breezy personality.  Now, I don’t know how much Keatinge’s Roy Harper aligns with Scott Lobdell’s Roy Harper, but the carrot-top here takes all things, even imprisonment and torture by a Hong Kong triad, in stride.  No matter what’s going on around him, Roy maintains the tone of a put-upon frat boy (“Yeah, so—my friends are the worst.  Maybe ‘friends’ is a bit of a stretch.  Let’s got with ‘acquaintances.’  Maybe even ‘associates.’  Maybe even just ‘people I have been in the same room with at one point in time.’”), which makes him much more relatable and likable to the mainly twenty-somethings who read comics.

Beyond personality, Roy is just physically a lot cooler and more impressive than I remember.  His ability to make pretty much anything—tools in a toolbox, a Hong Kong quarter (or “whatever that coin was”), broken pieces of glass—into a weapon hearkens back to the last time he was known as Arsenal, pre-Red Arrow.  As he explains it, “Arrows are mostly nostalgic.”  As much action as goes on in this issue (and there’s plenty), you still wish there could be more, just to see what other tricks Roy can pull off.

There’s not much plot in the issue, but that’s okay since this is designed to be a character piece showcasing Arsenal as a leading man anyway.  Whatever originality or depth the Hong Kong triad men lack, Keatinge at least gives them some personality, particularly in their loosely translated dialogue (“<Emasculating, panicked comment!  A bunch of curse words which don’t paint Roy in a flattering light!  Fear of never seeing his daughter again!>”).  The most important thing is they serve as functional opponents for Roy to strut his stuff, even if they don’t develop much importance of their own, not even Fangfeng, the East’s answer to Killer Croc.

Ricken clearly understands that this title is meant to entertain first, and he does his part by punching up the comical, energetic sequences with as much pizzazz as possible.  Think of a more freewheeling Bernard Chang and you’ll get an approximation of what Ricken’s art looks like.  It has just enough technical chops to be taken seriously, but it has enough of a sense of humor to make Roy’s every reaction worthy of a laugh.  Pantazis applies that same slightly pale color treatment to Ricken’s figures as Maiolo does to Chang’s, but since Ricken’s figures have a little more texture to them, they don’t appear waxy, as Chang’s work tends to look.

Conclusion: I don’t know if this makes me want to pick up Red Hood, but it does make me wish for an Arsenal ongoing with Keatinge and Ricken on creative duties.

Grade: B+

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – Is Starfire in a Snuggie there?

– Possible tweet Jason sent Roy: “Beating crap out of those idiots tonight. #needalife.”