With the Black Mask situation almost entirely behind them, the Outlaws’ mission shifts to Artemis’s long-sought-after Bow of Ra. But before they can move full steam ahead, Red Him and Red Her have to address the dimwitted, super-powered elephant in the room. How do you solve a problem like Bizarro? Find out, in Red Hood and the Outlaws #6.

A significant tonal shift

I read through this once, and then sat down to hammer out the frame of my review. My initial sense was that it depended more on dialogue, and that a book which has never had the strongest dialogue was failing because of it. As I read through once again, however, I had trouble finding much that was poorly-constructed. The truth is, I am now convinced that RHATO #7 likely features a higher level of quality in each balloon than we’ve been getting up to this point.

So what was up on that first read? The book feels different, to be sure, and I think the fault (if you consider it faulty) lies in the weight of circumstance bearing down on it. While some of its characteristic humor remains, Red Hood puts the brakes on the party this month and resumes—in part—our disbelief about Bizarro.

Artemis, more than any other character or element, won me over in the first few issues. The not-Wonder Woman’s sarcastic “lashings of truth” were comedic gold, deconstructing the moodiness that always turned me off on Jason Todd in the past. Yet as Lobdell asks the big question on the cover, Artemis answers not with snark, but with a soberness that I’m not used to.

Bizarro likewise feels markedly different, exhibiting self-awareness and comprehension that at times make it tough to accept that he would still have trouble with pronouns and verbs. If I have one lingering complaint, it’s that his self-awareness seems like an out-of-place shortcut to the book’s emotional final scene.

But what a scene!

If Artemis’s sick burns served as my gateway drug into Red Hood, I was hooked for good with the heartfelt interactions between Jason and Bizarro. RHATO #7 pays this off with perhaps the most touching scene since Barry Allen pulled Wally back into the world in DC Universe Rebirth #1. While Lobdell may go too far in making Bizarro explain himself, Jason offers up some of his finest dialogue yet:

Colak’s artwork shines brightest here at the end, as well, presenting a beauteous, peaceful scene: the serenity of nature indifferent to the suffering of men. Gandini likewise excels in this setting, with exquisite blends and lighting effects. And in the end, the persistent warmth of the environment invades the dark corners of the narrative, and we’re left with a picture-perfect frame—a one-image summation of the case for this book’s existence. Whatever problems have and will come in Red Hood, I will keep coming back for more, so long as this remains at the center.

A few random bits

  • Anybody else reminded of the Under the Red Hood movie in that opening scene?
  • The lab footage felt a little bloated to me, especially the last panel. Do Jason and Artemis really need a scientist to tell them that a dim-witted Superman clone poses a threat to the safety of the world?
  • Colak and Gandini’s masterful final scene goes beyond what’s in the panels. Look at the page layouts and the playful use (and inversion) of negative space. And the flower petals, man. The flower petals.

Recommended if…

  • You come to RHATO each month for the feels.
  • You don’t mind a break from the normal level of humor while Lobdell tackles a tough question.
  • You like tenuous links to The Sound of Music and you just pictured Bizarro dressed like Julie Andrews, and that’s enough motivation to get you to read this book.

Overall

Read this book at least twice. If you’re like me, you may find that it changes (dramatically) for the better. While the characteristic zing of Artemis takes a break, the touching story of Jason and Bizarro goes gorgeously full-frame, daring you not to be moved. If you’re still sitting on the sidelines waiting for Scott Lobdell to slip up, do yourself a favor and stop it. Lobdell and his team of artists have earned your attention, and they aren’t taking it for granted. Red Hood and the Outlaws #7 may be the best installment yet.

SCORE: 8/10