Bizarro is going off the rails, and his friends are closing in on his secret. Desperate to hold on to his new-found intelligence, the lovable lug has done some—at-best—morally gray things to maintain his heightened faculties. But his friends know something’s up, and they care about him—and the rest of the world—far too much to let things continue as they have been going. Can the older Outlaws finally solve the problem of Bizarro Reborn? Red Hood and the Outlaws #20 may hold the answer. SPOILERS AHEAD

My Soy-friend’s back

The first thing that grabs you when you open RHATO #20 is that Dexter Soy is back after a two-issue break. His substitutes did a decent enough job, but this book is as much Soy and Gandini’s as it is Lobdell’s. Soy’s insane amount of detail, colored to perfection by Gandini, is one of the things I appreciate most about the series, and it’s good to have it back. The storytelling works wonderfully, and the book is visually exciting, even though it consists mostly of different folks standing around talking to each other. Gandini’s colors are just as detailed as Soy’s lines, and together, they create an immersive aesthetic that few teams achieve.

Esposito has lettered this book from the beginning, and I appreciate his work every time. He doesn’t call a lot of attention to himself, instead focusing on solid balloon placement and overall readbility. When he does flex his muscles a little bit, the results are consistently excellent. It’s a (largely) thankless job being a letterer, but I’m grateful that Esposito is willing to do it.

The heart of the Outlaws

It is Bizarro, though, who ultimately sells Red Hood and the Outlaws. Jason may be more tolerable than ever, and Artemis is tough, funny, and tragically guarded, but it is Bizarro who brings me back time and again. He’s got a great heart, and his bumble-footed heroism puts a smile on my face every time. I’ve been anxious about where things would end up with the current crisis around Bizarro, and seeing Jason and Artemis close in hasn’t helped. And with the Amazon of Bana-Mighdall at last discovering B’s darkest secret this issue, I’m worried. I don’t think that Lobdell would make him do something irredeemable, but my heart nurses some doubt.

Recommended if…

  • You love Soy and Gandini’s artwork.
  • You’re anxious to see how things shake out for Bizarro.

Overall

Red Hood and the Outlaws #20 initiates the endgame of Lobdell’s tale of Bizarro’s brainy rebirth. It might be the best issue of the series in some time, and I’m happy to have the end of “Smart Bizarro” in sight. Soy and Gandini produce another excellent collection of pages, and Taylor Esposito continues to make RHATO a readable book with clean, well-place balloons, and interesting approaches to SFX. May this book—still the surprise hit of Rebirth almost two years in—receive the recognition it deserves, and may we see it on comic store racks for years to come.

SCORE: 8/10


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