Book Review – Red Hood and the Outlaws vol. 3 Bizarro Reborn

  • Title: Red Hood and the Outlaws vol. 3: Bizarro Reborn
  • Author: Scott Lobdell
  • Artist: Dexter Soy, Tyler Kirkham, Joe Bennett, Sean Parsons, Sergio Sandoval, Juan Albarran, Veronica Gandini, Michael Atiyeh, Arif Prianto, Blond, Taylor Esposito
  • Line: Rebirth
  • Characters: Red Hood (Jason Todd), Artemis (of the Amazons), Bizarro (Superman’s clone)
  • Publication Date: 2018
  • Publisher: DC Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 5/16/2018

Picking up from where the last volume left off, with Bizarro dying – Red Hood (Jason Todd) and Artemis decide they are willing to try anything in an attempt to save Bizarro – so they take him to Lex Luther. Not only does Luthor save Bizarro but the cure causes Bizarro to become a genius intellect. We eventually learn that not only did Luthor use artificial Kryptonite to cure Bizarro – but Bizarro took some of it and is using it to keep himself fit and to increase his intellect. This reminded me of the original The Outer Limits story, “The Sixth Finger”.

Once he is cured, Bizarro becomes the strategic head of the Outlaws, something Jason and Artemis don’t actually mind, at all. They are at times surprised, such as when Bizarro reveals his secret headquarters above Gotham, or his teleport device (for lack of a better term), but neither Jason or Artemis are great planners, so “smart Bizarro” actually adds to their team. And he doesn’t really seem to have a hidden agenda, so all is going well.

The rest of the book pairs the Outlaws with other groups. Amanda Waller gets the Outlaws hauled in on false charges so she can have them sent to Belle Reve prison. Once there, she immediately sends them out on a mission with the Suicide Squad. The mission confirms Bizarro’s new gifts – and is a rousing success.

Batwoman and the rest of the Batfamily show up for one story in this collection, largely discovering Bizarro’s invisible HQ above Gotham. Since it’s largely a slug-fest, and only sets up the info about the new HQ, the only question I had was why Kate (Kane aka Batwoman) didn’t know that Jason was working with Bruce Wayne’s blessing. Jason has been working undercover to break up Gotham’s gangs (such as Black Mask’s gang) since Issue One of this series. But Batwoman, Batwing, etc. act as if Red Hood really was a criminal. Jason is still staying true to the general Bat vow to not kill – something Kate herself actually breaks, so what’s the deal?

Jason and company also face off against Queen Bee, who is defeated by Bizarro. And Artemis meets Creeper, but he quickly leaves when he fails to join the Outlaws. They face off against The Beast (formerly KGBeast, now a free agent), but that also doesn’t really go anywhere in terms of plot.

Finally, this collection includes the Red Hood and the Outlaws Annual #1, at the end of the book. I actually loved the story – a circus blows into town, and Jason, Artemis, Bizarro, and special guest, Dick Grayson, investigate undercover. It’s a sweet story – from Jason admitting he had once seen Dick perform in the circus, to Bizarro falling for the bearded girl, to art and flavor of the panels. They stop the KGB beast. The only problem with the Annual is the placement – the story is set earlier in time so it probably should have come first in the collection, not last. But it’s a stand-alone story, largely, so it still works.

I really enjoyed this collection. It’s a bit more on the tragic and action-oriented side than other volumes, with less humor – but it’s still a great read. Recommended.

Read my review of Red Hood and the Outlaws vol. 1: Dark Trinity.

Read my review of Red Hood and the Outlaws vol. 2: Who is Artemis.

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Book Review – Red Hood and the Outlaws vol. 2: Who Is Artemis

  • Title: Red Hood and the Outlaws vol. 2: Who Is Artemis?
  • Author: Scott Lobdell
  • Artist: Dexter Soy, Mirko Colak, Tom Derenick, Kenneth Rocafort, Veronica Gandini, Dan Brown, Taylor Esposito
  • Line: Rebirth
  • Characters: Red Hood (Jason Todd), Artemis (of the Amazons), Bizarro (Superman’s clone)
  • Publication Date: 2017
  • Publisher: DC Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 10/23/2017

**Spoiler Alert** I enjoyed volume 2 of Red Hood and the Outlaws just as much as I enjoyed volume 1, and I also read volume 2 twice. Jason Todd, Bizarro, and Artemis are turning out to be a great team, if not exactly conventional – although that is part of the charm. Volume 2 starts off with Red Hood (Jason Todd) challenging a group of mobsters and drug lords. He basically tells them to leave Gotham now or else. The mobsters of course do not listen. Bizarro joins the fight and when Killer Croc arrives to help the villains, he destroys Killer Croc. However, this croc is a fake, a robot. The gangsters are angry that they didn’t get the “merchandise” they paid for – but Jason is concerned about Bizarro’s actions and violence. However, when Jason asks specifically if Bizarro knew Croc was not alive – Bizarro states he knew.

Returning home to their hideout, Jason talks to Artemis who has discovered more information about Bizarro. The Superman clones from Cadmus have all been extremely violent, and Lex Luthor had ordered their destruction. Bizarro escapes. Next, Jason and Bizarro are on a hill in the country overlooking Gotham. Bizarro talks of his memories and then states that he knows they aren’t real. However, he also wants to make new memories with “Red Him” (Red Hood) and “Red Her” (Artemis). Jason considers shooting Bizarro, but changes his mind.

Artemis and Jason look for information to help her find the Bow of Ra. This leads them to Qurac. Both Jason and Artemis must confront their pasts as well as learning to trust and rely on each other and Bizarro. Jason is quickly captured by soldiers. He’s taken to the exact place where he died as a teenager (see A Death in the Family). Jason not only must confront his memories of what happened and his feelings and anger at the Joker for causing his death, but he hallucinates his own wounded body and has to confront the spirit. Jason is able to conquer his fears, his memories, and his triggers.

Jason then realizes from conversations with the local dictator that it isn’t the dictator who has the Bow of Ra. The dictator of Qurac had it at one point, and in trying to use it, Artemis’s once friend, Akila (the Shim’tar) was brought back from the dead (something Jason has unique experience with) and the experience left her, well, less than sane (something else that Jason has experience with). But Jason also learns the dictator no longer has the deadly weapon. And if he no longer has it, there is only one other person who could – and who was incidentally responsible for the slaughter in the country of Qurac.

Meanwhile, Artemis seeks out her friend. She is welcomed back with open arms to the company of Amazons. Slowly she begins to suspects something is wrong, but she accepts Akila’s tale that the dictator is responsible for everything.

Meanwhile, Bizarro locates a band of refugees and attempts to aid them. Bizarro gives the impression of a simple but gentle giant – like the “monster” in some versions of Frankenstein (essentially the “monster” isn’t monstrous – it’s the people around him and by their reactions that become monsters). The people treat Bizarro well when he tries to help, but when their trek ends at the base of a mountain, one man explodes in anger.

The final conflict is between the soldiers of Qurac, the Amazons-in-exile, Artemis, Jason, and Akila. Jason quickly convinces Artemis that the dictator doesn’t have the Bow of Ra. Artemis realizes only Akila could have it. She confronts Akila who admits attacking the citizenry of Qurac with it, because she wishes her people to be free. There is a battle. Bizarro knocks his way through the mountain and joins in. Artemis realizes she is also Shim’tar – a position both women had battled and trained for. She picks up the Bow and fires an arrow at Akila. The power of the bow does not harm Artemis but flows through her. It hits Akila full force, who is overwhelmed and about to explode with considerable power (not to mention damage). Bizarro flies her straight up, where she explodes out of harms way of any innocents. Bizarro falls to Earth and appears dead.

Again, Red Hood and the Outlaws is an impressive book. The characters are deep and complex. Although all three may be termed “anti-heroes”, none would violate their own personal code for personal gain or to harm others. Even when confronting gangsters, Jason, surprisingly finds a less terminal way to get them out of Gotham. Jason would be appalled if Bizarro were to use extreme force. Artemis is in many ways the same – she can be extremely violent, especially if the Bow of Ra becomes a permanent part of her kit. Yet, she also has a code. And it may be her code that led to her friend to be chosen by the gods to hold the Bow. Yet it now appears Artemis was chosen instead – or she is certainly chosen now. Bizarro is, well, he’s the gentle giant – he wants to help and is slowly learning his own strength and how to limit that. Jason now knows he can trust Bizarro within limits. However, at the end of the current volume, Bizarro is dead. That most certainly won’t last, because: comics. Red Hood and the Outlaws is a surprisingly well-written, intense book with complex, driven characters. I do feel it needs to expand a bit and additional team members brought on board, but overall I am very impressed and will continue to buy the series in graphic novel format.

Book Review – Red Hood and the Outlaws vol. 1: Dark Trinity

  • Title: Red Hood and the Outlaws vol. 1: Dark Trinity
  • Author: Scott Lobdell
  • Artist: Dexter Soy, Veronica Gandini, Taylor Esposito
  • Line: Rebirth
  • Characters: Red Hood (Jason Todd), Artemis (of the Amazons), Bizarro (Superman’s clone), Black Mask
  • Publication Date: 2017
  • Publisher: DC Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 05/15/2017

**Spoiler Alert** I loved Red Hood and the Outlaws vol. 1: Dark Trinity – I simply loved it! Jason Todd as part of the “Bat Family” is a character that I’m not super familiar with. Yes, I read the original, A Death in the Family where he’s killed by the Joker. And I’ve both read Judd Winick’s Under the Red Hood and seen the Warner Brother’s/DC Comics animated film based on it (which is quite possibly still the best of several excellent animated DC films) where Jason comes back. But that’s mostly about it. However, the previews and such about this book were very enthusiastic, so I decided to order it from my local comics shop and try it out. I’m so glad I did – because this book is wonderful!

Jason is a complex character, and this story uses flashbacks extremely well to introduce the character. It’s not, say 50-pages of straight backstory, but the flashbacks are interwoven into the story well. Obviously, they are there because the book is aimed at new DC readers, but, and it’s an important but, the flashbacks are well-integrated and they enhance the story. If you are familiar with Jason’s story arc, they simply remind you of the important points, and if you are not – well, now you know. For the long, continuing, and complex world of graphic novels and comics – this book is almost a primer on how to do that well. Plus, you have things like the very famous full-page picture of Batman, kneeling in the rain, and holding Jason’s body, but Jason’s comment that he was dead so he doesn’t remember it.

Which brings me to the second point – I wasn’t expecting this book to be so funny, but I did (literally) laugh out loud at several points. Jason Todd to me has always been a tragic figure, The Robin Who Died. The person who, like his parents death, profoundly affected Bruce Wayne and his mission by dying. (And even Bruce using the term, “the mission”, became a stronger, clearer, and more obvious part of his role as Batman because of Jason’s death.) But in this book, he’s not the street-wise kid with an attitude problem. He’s smart, and sassy, and his own man with his own way of doing things. In some ways, even though he’s nothing like Dick Grayson either, he reminds me of the first couple Nightwing books by Chuck Dixon, as Dick feels his own way and becomes his own man and his own type of superhero. Jason, here is the same – he follows his own code, he has his own way of doing things, he knows his way isn’t Bruce’s way, but he’s still becoming a hero. The characterization in this is brilliant and I loved it. And yes, there’s a lot of humor here – both Jason’s inner monologue, and in his conversations with Artemis.

The plot of the book starts with Jason “shooting” the mayor of Gotham City. However, Jason hasn’t suddenly turned assassin. He’s actually shot medicine into the mayor to cure him of techno-organic virus. Black Mask had been using the virus to control the mayor. Batman, who had made a show of trying to “stop” the Red Hood’s attack talks to Jason, finds out about the techno-organic virus, and learns that the “attack” on the mayor was part of a plan. Jason intends to go deep undercover to take down Black Mask and his organization.

As the newest recruit in Black Mask’s organization, Jason discovers that he not only blew-up the “orphanage” run by another criminal, Ma Gunn, but that he intended it to be full of children at the time. Jason also sees Black Mask kill three of his own men for “disappointing” him. But that might have been your typical undercover-in-the-mob story – until Jason tries to stop Black Mask from attacking a train delivering a super-weapon to Gotham City. In an attempt to stop Black Mask from getting whatever is in the train, Red Hood runs into Artemis. This Artemis is a Amazon warrior, a rival of Princess Diana (Wonder Woman) and on a quest to find the Bow of Ra. And she’s brilliant! I loved the character of Artemis, and I hope she stays as a regular member of Red Hood’s Outlaws. Also, the dialogue between Artemis and Jason is brilliant. It’s well-written and it sparkles like a 1930s film. Not that Artemis and Jason are a romantic couple (yet) but their dialogue is just incredible.

Jason worries that the train car that Black Mask steals has some horrible bioweapon aboard. Artemis thinks it’s her Bow of Ra. They are both wrong – it’s Bizarro, a Superman clone created by Lex Luthor. The last third of the book has Bizarro brought to Black Mask’s hideout, Jason trying to connect to Bizarro, Artemis pretty much wanting to kill off Bizarro as a threat, and eventually Black Mask using his techno-organic virus to take over Bizarro. Black Mask using his own brain to control Bizarro becomes his downfall, as Jason is able to use the cure he used on the mayor, as well as his own relationship with Bizarro to free the Superman clone from Black Mask’s control. The backlash destroys the mobster’s mind. At the end, Jason and Bizarro agree to help Artemis on her quest for the Bow of Ra.

Meanwhile, when Jason meets up with Batman to report – the two both learn a bit about each other.
I hope DC Comics continues to publish this book in graphic novel collections, because I will definitely want to continue to buy and read it. Highly recommended.

Red Hood and the Outlaws vol. 1: Dark Trinity collects the Rebirth special and issues 1-6 of the series.