Black Mask: defeated. Bizarro: redeemed. Artemis? Who is she, really? Why does she roam the world in search of the elusive Bow of Ra? Red Hood and the Outlaws #8 delays her quest once more, as Jason prods the mystery of this she-bear of Bana-Mighdall and learns what makes his most sarcastic teammate click.
A bar is the perfect place for stories
Who would have thought that—of all the Bat-books—Red Hood would offer the sort of storytelling that many of us have craved. While Batman and Detective Comics march along through six-issue arcs, Lobdell takes a break from the madness for the second month in a row with another tight one-and-done.
Our story opens on Jason and Artemis storming a bar, looking for some criminal. When they finally find him, he proves a rather unremarkable foe, and the two
heroesoutlaws settle in for some libations and backstory. Lobdell had me worried, at first: the villain—Stirk—is a “psionic shape-shifter”, and I feared that we were transitioning from a great first-arc baddy in Black Mask into the sort of annoying players Lobdell focused on in his Teen Titans run. My fears quickly proved unfounded, however, as Stirk makes a quick exit from the narrative, giving way to Artemis’s tale.
And Artemis’s tale is great! I mean, it’s kind of tragic, too, but Lobdell succeeds wonderfully in adding a sympathetic layer to the lovably sarcastic warrior. The significance of the Bow of Ra comes out, as well—an important revelation before we follow our friends in pursuit of it. But along the way, Jason interrupts Artemis several times, which gives her plenty of opportunities to remind us of why we liked her in the first place. She has quickly become one of my favorite characters to read, and I admire the way Lobdell builds on top of, rather than in place of, the personality she has shown thus far.
Wonder Woman makes an appearance, too, and while I won’t say she’s essential, I like the role given her here. She feels like the wise older sister to Artemis’s arrogant know-it-all child. I hope Lobdell or somebody writes some more interactions between the two, as what we get this time is (necessarily) limited.
Your mileage may vary with the artwork
I know that Kenneth Rocafort has his fans, but I’ve never been crazy about his aesthetic sensibilities. So while I can appreciate his storytelling here—which is quite good—I found myself clinging to the text more than I did last month, or during Dexter Soy’s first arc. Rocafort produces a few nice panels of Bana-Mighdall and a sliver of Gotham, but overall, I’ll be happy to have Dexter back next month. His comprehensive detail work in almost every scene, and his distinct style are a big part of this title’s identity.
One more comment on Rocafort, though. There’s a shot of Diana—when she first shows up—that is just terrible. It’s drawn well-enough, I suppose, but its composition is ridiculous. She’s standing in one of those nonsensical comics poses meant to accentuate her form (this time on tip-toe), and there’s just no reason for it. I hate pinups in place of good storytelling in general, but this was particularly distracting in the midst of a serious—and seriously great—flashback.
Letterer Appreciation Day
Regular series letterer Taylor Esposito continues to do great work this month. I was especially struck by how quickly I zipped through to the last page—and there’s definitely plenty of text. Letters aren’t as sexy as line art, but when done like this, you’re never lost (even in the midst of a few confusing panel layouts), and reading is a breeze.
- You enjoy a good one-and-done story.
- You’ve been curious about the origins of Artemis.
- You’ve (still, gosh) been avoiding RHATO and all of these stories about how good it is have you wanting to check it out, but you don’t want to buy a bunch of back issues, but you don’t want to go into the next arc completely cold either, so you figure you could spare some coin for this one issue, and if it’s promising, then maybe you’re in for good.
We’re treated to yet another excellent “filler” issue before the start of the next arc, and I’ve got to tell you: I wouldn’t mind seeing a few more bar-room flashback stories in between arcs in the future. The interactions between Jason and Artemis are as excellent as they’ve been throughout the series, and the fleshing out of Artemis adds a welcome layer to her character without blotting out the qualities that have made her so likable thus far. I’ve been nervously hesitant about saying this before now, but I may as well declare openly what has become evident these eight months: Red Hood and the Outlaws is one of my favorite books on the stands, and I can’t wait to see what happens next.
SCORE: 8/10 (yes, even though I wasn’t nuts about the artwork)