Red Hood and the Outlaws #10 review

Red Hood 10

Grounded in Qurac! Red Hood and the Outlaws have been shot out of the sky, but who fired the bolt? Bizarro plays hero for some displaced citizens while Jason confronts his demons, but can they get to Artemis before her past consumes her? You have questions—Red Hood and the Outlaws #10 has answers! Spoilers ahead

Better together—but still pretty good on their own

So much of RHATO’s appeal has come from the heartfelt and humorous interactions between the book’s core characters. Whether Jason’s unexpected affection for Bizarro, or Artemis’s delightfully sarcastic emotional shielding, Lobdell has thus far managed to draw me in with each issue by showing who these people are together. Beginning with the prologue two months ago, this arc marks a departure (in varying degrees) from that prior focus. If I’m being honest, I prefer what we had before. That’s not to say that I dislike “Who Is Artemis”—on the contrary, I like it quite a bit, and my investment in these characters makes it very easy to follow them through this new paradigm (it also helps to know that they will surely be together again soon enough).

Lobdell does well building on the groundwork he’s laid up to this point. The aforementioned shield around Artemis’s heart makes much more sense in the context of her broken past; and as she confronts that brokenness, I don’t miss the shield for a moment. Each of the three Outlaws has a tragic past, but Artemis’s tragedy has been compounded by her own agency in it. And I can’t say I’m surprised with where things are by the end of the issue, but knowing where the plot was aimed didn’t take away any of the tension inherent in watching Artemis experience it.

Jason’s solo adventure doesn’t cover much new ground for his character. I know a lot of folks grow tired of reading new angles on Jason’s murder, but I’m okay with this. Lobdell’s particular angle has a certain poetic appeal to it, and for me, this is a defining moment that Red Hood should never outgrow—it may bear different fruit over time, but that day in the warehouse is the root of who he is, and I think it ought to stay that way.

As usual, Bizarro manages to put the biggest smile on my face. Simultaneously one of the funniest and most endearing characters in all of comics, Lobdell’s remixed take on the Superman clone may be the primary force of gravity drawing me to this book every month. I don’t want to spoil the specifics, but he gets to do some new things this time around, and I can’t help but feel a little like I do when I see one of my kids get something they really wanted. Good, good stuff.

Delightful details

I have been singing the praises of artists Dexter Soy and Veronica Gandini since this book began, and they haven’t let me down yet. With this issue’s different location and different character dynamics, the super-team manages to step up yet again. I’m always talking about the level of detail that these two include, and they’re still at it in #10. Soy adds cracks to largely-silhouetted marble, or trash to remote corners of a dark and dirty warehouse scene, or high-fidelity masonry work in the fringe foreground of a two-page spread. Gandini subtly textures spots that most artists would ignore, or makes a beautiful vista at sunset look almost as breathtakingly immersive as the real deal. The thing is, they never over-detail, either—the layouts don’t feel busy, and the sophisticated background work doesn’t distract us from what we should be seeing. But every time I do a first read through an issue of RHATO, it’s so easy to get sucked into the environment of the story. All of these seemingly irrelevant details are doing the heavy lifting of selling the locations to my subconscious.

But Soy just as skillfully sells the story. Whether it’s deliberate planning or just really good instincts, his framing and character posture emphasize a lot of the subtler things going on in the script. So while, on the surface, it looks like Artemis enjoys an inconceivable reunion with her dead friend and new sisters, her facial expressions, and her subordinate posture and positioning, prevent any joy or relief from taking root. We find out all sorts of good things about Akila before the end—she’s alive, she doesn’t blame Artemis for doing what needed to be done, and she has an apparent self-awareness about the mistakes she made that led to her death. But the artwork constantly gnaws, even when Artemis expresses no verbal signs of uncertainty.

There are, of course, some great “money shots” in here, too. I won’t spoil any of them for you, but be on the lookout for a delightfully laid-out flashback spread, and a heroic moment for Bizarro. These sorts of spreads would be cold comfort in a bad book, but in something as textually and visually enjoyable as this one, they nearly make me erupt in applause.

The silent skill of the letterer

Taylor Esposito has lettered this book from the start, and while he doesn’t have the graphic design chops of some of his colleagues, he’s more than capable with the letterer’s primary objectives. RHATO is a text-heavy book, and yet it never looks crowded with balloons. Part of this success comes from sensible tail lengths and balloon-to-balloon distance—devices that bring the added benefit of suggesting pacing and mood. But Esposito also has good instincts for blending in with the rest of the artwork. At one point, he’s stepping three connected balloons along the line of a street in Bana-Mighdall; at another, he’s got the BLAMS of a pistol following the exit trajectory of several point-blank shots. He even adds the magical final touch to one of those aforementioned money shots.

You won’t notice these things if you aren’t looking for them, but this “invisible” skillfulness makes a world of difference. Sound effects and balloons that nestle into a scene (rather than obscure it) are certainly neat, but more importantly, they’re highly functional. They transform what could be a necessary evil of the medium into a desirable artistic feature that elevates the rest of the work.

Time = money

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: time makes a world of difference. Every month, Red Hood consistently looks like a book for which the creators have ample time to work. Most of DC’s current titles—even ones with great writing—are a visual mess. Even when the artwork on a single issue works, these books have no strong title-wide visual identity. I cannot overstate how important it is for Red Hood that its lower status gives it more time to marinate. Artistic consistency allows readers to settle in and get comfortable, without the jarring experience of having a new team every issue or arc. This book may not feature the characters that I’ve always wanted to read about, but it is more often than not one of the books I want to read most each month.

Recommended if…

  • You love this book. If you don’t, you should—it’s very lovable.
  • You want to experience what might be the most consistent, high-quality art experience in DC’s line.
  • Bizarro is your hero.

Overall

Another outstanding outing with the heroes none of us knew we wanted, Red Hood and the Outlaws #10 further develops the surprise hit team of the year. With outstanding artwork from layouts, to lines, to colors, and letters, this book just looks better than almost everything else DC publishes. This one is worth your money and your time—be sure to give it both.

SCORE: 8.5/10

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