Despite appearances, I can’t read everything in floppies. I wish I could, because there are a lot of books that I enjoy but still drop to try to keep my pull list in check. But time is a flat circle, and trades always come out sooner or later. This week, that means I get to revisit the first Rebirth arc of Red Hood and the Outlaws.
After Black Mask infects Gotham’s mayor with a techno-organic virus, Jason Todd goes undercover to investigate. To earn the Mask’s trust, Jason helps him steal a new weapon—bringing him into Artemis’s path as she seeks the Bow of Ra. Neither of them counted on Sionis’s mark being a Superman clone, though. So they form a tentative partnership to tame Bizarro and get him out of the Black Mask’s hands.
There’s no pulling-the-team-together moment in Red Hood and the Outlaws. Nor is there some unseen history keeping compelling these characters stick together. For a book about a clutch of anti-heroes, that could be a recipe for grumbling loners; instead, Scott Lobdell peppers these issues with moments of heart and humor. Jason’s damaged, tough-guy exterior hides a sentimentalist. Artemis masks herself with snide wit. Bizarro…well, the big lug deserves a hug*.
That heart and humor also make it into Dexter Soy’s line-work. Whether it’s shock or anger or Artemis’s smug satisfaction as Bizarro beats up on Jason, Soy gets the book’s human moments onto the page. But more than that, his composition is spectacular. Not only do he and colorist Veronica Gandini put out memorable, visually striking pages, but they make careful use of visual parallels. For example, in the Rebirth issue, we see flashback-Batman towering over young Jason Todd; when the Caped Crusader crashes Red Hood’s bid to get into Black Mask’s gang, he towers in a more imposing take on the same image. Moments like these aren’t simply cool—they add to the book’s storytelling without adding a word of dialogue.
I did read the first couple of issues of Red Hood and the Outlaws as they came out, and I liked it. I also remember thinking that I’d prefer it collected because it took a pretty casual approach to putting its plot in motion. Well, I was right: I devoured it in trade. Lobdell does a great job of balancing characters who can be harder to write, and Soy and Gandini’s pages are some of my favorite to come out of Rebirth. And reading it in trade erased any concerns I had about its month-to-month pacing. If you like any of these characters or snarky anti-heroes in general, Red Hood and the Outlaws gets my recommendation.
*Panelology does not recommend actually hugging Bizarro and is not responsible for injuries or death resulting from attempted Bizarro Hugs or Clone Bones.
- Red Hood and the Outlaws, Vol. 1: Dark Trinity (#1-6, Red Hood and the Outlaws: Rebirth #1)
Writer: Scott Lobdell | Artist: Dexter Soy | Colorist: Veronica Gandini | Letterer: Taylor Esposito | Covers: Giuseppe Camuncoli with Cam Smith & Dean White