Artemis and Bizzaro have rejoined the team, giving Generation Outlaw two new mentors in addition to Jason. How will Artemis and Bizzaro fare as teachers? And will Artemis and Jason ever talk about that kiss they shared?
Red Hood Outlaw #42 is a frustrating book. It attempts to put a bow on Generation Outlaw, tie up loose ends that have been dangling from the story for a while now –like the kiss between Jason and Artemis– and set things in motion for the next arc of the story. Attempt is the key term here, because by the end of the story, everything still feels unresolved, and more questions have been added instead of removed. There is no real feeling of completion to what Jason was doing with the super villain school, or even a conversation about what will happen with the kids next. As for trying to sort out the kiss and the romantic feelings between Jason and Artemis, in the end things still have no confirmed yes or no.
I’ll start by discussing the part of this issue I feel is most successfully done, which is the moments between Artemis and Jason. A large portion of the book is focused on their catching up and working out whatever romantic feelings may or may not be lingering after the kiss they shared in issue #25. I’ve always enjoyed seeing them interact, and I’m happy that we got a lot of time dedicated to the two catching each other up on what’s happened since they’ve been separated. It’s nice to see Artemis react to Roy’s loss, and Jason pushing Artemis to talk about her own struggles from when they were separated. The time given to them feels just right, so nothing is too rushed or seems to drag on too long.
The atmosphere around their scenes feels like a moment pulled out of a romantic movie. Where before, Artemis and Jason’s body language was very much that of friends, it leans now into that of a couple in a relationship. Arif Prianto’s colors really turn moments like Jason cupping Artemis’ chin, or her hugging him after learning Roy has died to something more romantic feeling than simple comforts between friends. The panels are lit in soft oranges and pinks, with full backgrounds of sunsets and full moon’s rising. It all screams romance. Plus, there’s the fact that it takes most of the book for them to actually talk about the kiss. Everything builds to the moment where Jason and Artemis confront their feelings for each other. I’m a bit torn on the actual confrontation of their feelings. Like I’ve mentioned, the resolution to this feels lacking to me. They do talk about things, but it seems like Lobdell still isn’t sure if he wants them to be a couple or not so he basically said: yes and no. I appreciate that he’s giving the relationship time to possibly develop, and that both Jason and Artemis seem to have come to an agreement of sorts, but the lack of a real answer is also frustrating.
Jason and Artemis are the focus of some of the most stunning moments of art in this issue. The Outlaws have apparently set up shop in Marlboro, New York and Paolo Pantalena takes full advantage of the scenery there as the two go to a farmer’s market and walk through some really scenic places. Then there are a couple really stand out scenes between them. There is one where they’re standing outside while the sun sets, looking out over mountains and surrounded by greenery that’s just really really pretty. And near the end of the issue there’s a moment between them while they’re under a full moon that’s equally as pretty. Prianto’s colors really add to every single one of these scenes as well. They take the whole book and really make it wonderful to look at. He does a great job showing sunset, evening, and nighttime, and his consistency through the issue makes it really easy to know what’s happening at the same time to characters.
In addition to wrapping things up between Artemis and Bizzaro, Lobdell shows what Generation Outlaw is doing now that they’ve been kicked out of The Block, and how they’re interacting with Bizzaro. My problem with this section is it feels like it did nothing to further the plot and I’m still not sure what it is trying to accomplish. Devour, Cloud Nine, and Vessel are completely missing from the group with no explanation as to where they’ve gone or why they aren’t with the others. Instead of talking about what might be next for the team, the remaining members: DNA, Babe in Arms, and Doomed spend the issue trying to decide if Bizzaro is cool with world domination or not, and then gradually joining him for meditation and a party by a bonfire. And I have to ask why? Why do this instead of having the group sit down and discuss what was going to happen next for them all? There are tons of questions I still have as a reader, and in an issue that’s as quiet as this one is, and set between arcs this would have been the perfect time to set up the interpersonal dynamics of the characters going forward.
To me, it was a mistake for Lobdell to not give us a scene where all of the Outlaws sit down and talk about if they’re going to move forward as a group or split ways. There has been a lot of change in the Outlaws lives, and this quiet issue is the perfect moment to sit down and talk about all that. This issue alone brings up brand new ideas, like the fact that the Outlaws are suddenly set up in Marlboro, New York, instead of returning to Gotham. How did that happen and why was that decision made? Where are the other members of Generation Outlaw, and is this group going to stay together? We also still don’t know how Artemis and Bizzaro found Jason originally. Or if they’re on board with training super villains. They’re heroes –or at least on the side of good–so why haven’t they called Jason out on this? Instead of spending time having the kids hang out with Bizzaro and talk about nothing, those pages should have been spent actually laying a foundation for what’s going on now and in the future.
Between the scenes with the various Outlaws, Lobdell has a number of extra scenes, one with Ma Gunn and Jason, and a couple designed to hint at the next arc. These are frustrating because they don’t feel like they fit the rest of the story at all. Ma Gunn’s scene feels like something he had to include in case anyone asked how Jason reacted to seeing her after finding out about Willis. Her scene is the one I have the least problems with, it does actually give some resolution to their relationship, though I’d like to have seen Ma Gunn show up at least one more time so she doesn’t feel like a set piece, and has a presence in the book. The set up scenes mostly feel disjointed, with little real context for what they might be setting up. The least successful of these is Lobdell checking back in with Suzie Su at the Iceberg Lounge. A third of the page is focused on her looking out over the lounge, while the last two thirds are given to a large close up of her face after she’s been attacked by some kind of red light coming from the safe in the room. It’s terribly unclear what happened, why, or how we’re supposed to feel about things going forward. My problem is not that it’s setting up suspense, it’s that I have no idea what is going on. It’s too obscured for me to feel any kind of worry about what’s going on. I feel like it would have worked better in the next issue, when we had real context to what was going on. As they are, these moments feel too random for a story that already doesn’t seem to know what its goal is.
It’s worrying to me that Lobdell doesn’t seem to want to clarify what’s going on with Generation Outlaw. He has a habit of creating characters and using them for a short period before moving on to new more interesting characters, which I’m afraid he might want to do here. It feels like his treatment of them in this issue was almost a goodbye, with the removal of some characters and the summer camp vibe of meditation and fun by a fire. If he was going to wrap things up with them, then I think the ending of the previous issue would have worked better. And if he’s going to continue to make them a part of a team, I really don’t understand why it wasn’t made clear. Perhaps I’m reading into it a bit too much and letting my own judgments about his past habits cloud my reading of this issue, but I do honestly like these characters and want them to stay. I just wish the time spent with them here had been a little clearer.
- How Jason and Artemis feel about each other has been a question on your mind
- You’ve wanted another story focused mostly on Jason and Artemis
- You like gorgeous colors in your books
As both an ending and start to arcs, I don’t feel like this issue came together very well. The moments between Artemis and Jason are the strongest, while everything around them feels like filler text designed to take up pages instead of further the story. It’s really frustrating that this time was wasted, because I’ve got a lot of questions that I feel could have been answered in this issue. It’s even more irritating that the book bills itself as being something that should in theory answer some of those questions, and then skirts that duty altogether. Hopefully some of those questions will be answered in future issues, but at this point I’m not holding my breath.
DISCLAIMER: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.