It’s the Outlaws vs. those other outlaws: the Suicide Squad! Batwoman and the Wannabats have shipped Red Hood, Artemis, and Bizarro into the hands of Amanda Waller. Can the team escape one of the most secure prisons in the world? Will they have brain-bombs before the day is over? Does axe beat mallet??? Get answers to these and other questions in Red Hood and the Outlaws #16.
Still not want I wanted, but still largely fun
I covered my thoughts on this arc’s direction last month, so I won’t do a complete rehash here. Suffice it to say that I would have preferred the character roster remained small. We went from a pretty touching issue two months back to this silly sort of versus-and-teamup thing that we’re in now. I’m not automatically opposed to the Outlaws interacting with other noteworthy characters, but I would rather Lobdell have saved this crossover for another arc. That way, we could have had a touching tale of Bizarro doing the best he could to make an impact before reverting. And as a bonus, the crossover with the Squad could have featured “normal” Bizarro, which would have been quite a bit more fun, I think.
Anyway, personal preferences about direction aside, RHATO #16 is another fun issue of the book. The pre-Bizarro portion feels a lot like the early issues of the series, when Jason and Artemis were
running around, Artemis insulting Jason hilariously. There’s a good bit of that here, and I welcome its return. It’s similarly entertaining to watch Artemis and Harley interact, and I actually would have enjoyed more of this than what we got.
Soy and Gandini thrive in their usual ways. The level of detail that both apply is pretty amazing—in an interrogation room, or a hallway, or the various elements in Waller’s study. Soy’s layouts feature lots of solid storytelling, as well. Consider the eye-leading going on in these two pages:
In the first example, all of the characters lead us to Bizarro with their gaze, but also with legs, arms, a gun, and a hand gesture. Once we look at the big guy, his gaze sends us down to the next panel—but so do those legs, arms, gun and hand. I love when these sorts of visual suggestions function in multiple directions. Kudos to Esposito, too, for intercepting Bizarro’s line of sight along the way. Lastly, the tilt of Bizarro’s head in this middle panel leads us down to Waller, and there’s your page.
The next example is just as cool—maybe even cooler. After filling the first three panels with a zooming effect, Soy places the tea cup off-center, leading our eyes to the left for the next frame. There’s other content with the tea cup, but while it is functional, it’s also subtle enough that it doesn’t pull the eye away from the intended path. Esposito’s balloon placement helps here, too, coming from the general vicinity of the next panel. Your brain naturally wants to follow the tails to the source of the dialogue, and they more-or-less point you in the right direction. Once you’re in that second-to-last panel, Bizarro’s chest projector sends you straight across to the right. But what I love is that it doesn’t just work in the sense that your eye lands in the right spot. It also works because when your eye follows the line implied by the projector, it gets to the actual projection. Really good stuff. As a bonus, look back up at those top two panels—Bizarro is “projecting” out from his brain first. I like the visual symmetry of it—even if the top and bottom of the page are a bit off-axis from each other.
Smart Bizarro is kind of stupid
Despite the delicious visuals, this is where the dialogue starts to lose me. By and large, Lobdell’s writing on this title has impressed me far more than any of his prior work at DC. But every so often, he jams up dialogue with expensive words used in very inelegant ways. There’s a lot of that coming from Bizarro here, as though he’s suddenly gained a massive vocabulary that he wants us to know about. It probably doesn’t help that a lot of B’s dialogue here at the end is straight up exposition about a prior Lobdell villain that I’ve never enjoyed, but even putting that aside, it doesn’t read nearly as well as the first part of the book.
Also, a word about the credits. I like lighthearted fun as much as the next guy, but the goofy credits don’t work for me. It’s all cheap adjectives. Not nuts about the hashtag theme, either. BUT—I absolutely LOVE the Bat-twitter logo. That’s pretty amazing.
There’s still plenty of enjoyment to be had here. It’s not my favorite issue of the series by any measure, but at least half of my evaluation comes from my own preferences about what I wanted this story to be. It’s entirely possible that you could read this and enjoy it all the more. As always, your mileage may vary!
- You’re on board with the shape this arc has taken—less touching, more action and pizazz.
- You recognize that Soy and Gandini are amazing and you never tire of seeing what they’ve come up with.
There isn’t much heart to be found in Red Hood lately, but there is a good bit of fun. The artwork is still beautifully orchestrated and finished, and most of the dialogue is enjoyable to read. Hopefully the poignant moments will return, but in the meantime, Red Hood and the Outlaws #16 is a solid bit of entertainment.
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