Jason and Generation Outlaw have returned to the Block to find it invaded by an unknown enemy. Dr. Veritas is missing, her clones have been brainwashed, the team is split up, and what should be a happy reunion between Jason and his long lost allies –Artemis and Bizzaro– has turned sour as their first move is to attack him! Just how are Jason and his team going to get out of this one?
Where I was pretty excited coming away from the last issue of Red Hood this one left me feeling frustrated. This arc has been anything but consistent, with issues ranging from pretty good to confusing and this one lands solidly in the confusing category. Everything I enjoyed about the last issue is lost in this one, there are no moments of introspection or character developments between Generation Outlaw. It’s action, and surprises, and a hasty wrap up to the events taking place at the Block.
Things start out okay, we get a couple of flashbacks and then an immediate continuation from the last issue. It’s quickly made obvious that Artemis and Bizzaro are being controlled by something, and that something is Vessel.
It’s with Vessel that things start to get confusing. Beyond his reintroduction last issue we haven’t seen him since Red Hood Annual #3. We haven’t seen a lot of him, so it’s hard to know his character. Beyond that it’s frustrating to be told everything about him instead of seeing it play out in a few panels here and there. If he was going to be kicked off the team and if he’d been planning all this I’d have liked to have seen some moments pointing to things. It would have been nice to show readers Vessel here and there, both to keep him in our minds, and set up this eventual situation. Leaving his reappearance to a panel or two last issue, and a feature this one doesn’t give us enough time with him, and makes the plot feel messy. The book does try to help clarify who he is with a few editor’s notes that point readers back to Annual #2 and Annual #3, but even those aren’t very helpful this time. Vessel only has a few pages in the third annual, which makes me think there’s a typo in the first reference. As for his appearance in the annual he actually shows up in, after some closer attention to the art and story I can see the hints of him being bad, but it’s far to little and too subtle to be easily expected that he’s behind everything this issue. Besides, he is a super villain in training, he’s supposed to be a bad guy and suspicious.
Vessel aside, the issue continues on s breakneck pace to explain and fix all the problems going on, like the strange creatures DNA found, and the mysterious disappearance of Dr. Veritas. Most of the answers to the problems make little sense when you really sit down to look at them. Babe in Arms somehow figures out there were other people in the base because of what time they scanned the Block. DNA makes it very clear their ability to alter other DNA is temporary in once scene, and yet they manage to use the same ability to cure mutated scientists. All of this is supposed to point out how genius these kids are, but none of it feels earned. We as readers don’t have enough time to really appreciate any of the problems, so the solution’s aren’t as mind blowing as they could be.
The only part of the plot that is really solid is between Jason, Cloud Nine, Devour, and the Outlaws. The pacing here feels right, because the story has been working towards it steadily, and even provides previous information to go off of. Jason’s solution to the problem doesn’t immediately work like he thought it would, which is a nice change from everyone else’s immediate victories. The kiss between Jason and Artemis makes a comeback here, and plays into the story. While I wasn’t a fan of it –having preferred their relationship as non-romantic– it’s a nice reference, especially since fans have been left hanging on that relationship since it happened. I appreciated that Lobdell didn’t totally clear things up over it either, in an issue already feeling rushed it would have been a waste to try to shoehorn it in here. It was good to bring back, and even better to let it rest a little longer. I also love seeing the original Outlaws back together again, even if it’s for a short period of time. I’ve been anticipating their ultimate reunion, and now that it’s here I’m excited to see where it goes next.
Even with the positives of the Outlaws vs Jason scene, there’s some problems here too. First of all, I’m still left with the question of how Artemis and Bizzaro even got to the Block. There is no answer given at all, leaving us to figure that out, or wait on some explanation next issue. And while it can be good to wait on certain explanations, I found it strange that Jason didn’t seem surprised to see them, or ask how they found him at the center of the Earth. Secondly, there’s no real reunion between the Outlaws, which is something I was really wanting to see. There was no moment of joy at finding one another again, and no moment of confusion on Artemis’s part as to where they were and what was going on. They just burst into action again, Artemis seemingly aware of Jason’s job as teacher, even though no one has told her that information. In the moment it feels okay, but when you stop to read again these are all plot holes and questions that could have easily been answered with a couple of panels.
One of the best parts about this issue is the art. I’m finding myself really enjoying David Messina’s characters. His clean lines, and the way his character’s are outlined make them pop off of the repetitive backgrounds of the base. This works really well in the dark interiors of the base, and helps keep even busy scenes easy to follow.
Troy Peteri’s colors are also incredible. Much of this issue is draped in various shadows and harsh lights from the base and he balances them all really well, especially in scenes with Jason where his red uniform might blend with the red lighting all around them. With the red on red happening between Jason and Artemis’s outfits and the red lighting it might have been very easy for the colors to feel muddled, and details to be lost to too much of the same, but Peteri uses a range of reds in these scenes that keeps things really clean.
After everything is settled between the team and Vessel, the team relocates because Dr. Veritas feels it’s too dangerous to host them any longer. Since I was never quite convinced of her being on board keeping them there, this wasn’t much of a surprise. It did feel a bit like a relocation specifically done to reset Jason and the Outlaws back in their old stomping grounds and on familiar territory though. I’m not sure how I feel about the sudden change, but we’ll see how it impacts both sets of outlaws as the book moves forward from here. Now that the whole team is together I’m interested to see how the dynamic plays out between Jason’s old friends and students.
- Vessel as a character is interesting to you
- You’re interested in seeing the kids all play to their strengths
- You don’t mind a somewhat rushed plot
As a whole Generation Outlaw has had its ups and downs. It’s had some genuinely interesting moments, and I’m growing more and more attached to the kids Jason is teaching. This issue falls into the trouble the arc has had of trying to do too much with little direction. Lobdell rushes through solving problems before readers understand why they’re problems, and tries to show off his cast of characters, but ends up leaving things feeling chaotic and unfocused. Instead of trying to find a balance between character work and action, this issue leans too heavily into action and takes shortcuts by introducing new powers, and character motivations that have had little set up or explanation prior.
DISCLAIMER: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.