Review: Red Hood and the Outlaws Vol. 3: Bizarro Reborn (Rebirth) trade paperback (DC Comics)

July 24, 2019

After what felt like stalling for a couple of volumes, Scott Lobdell's Rebirth Red Hood title finally gets moving with Red Hood and the Outlaws Vol. 3: Bizarro Reborn. As is appropriate at the start of the second year of a title, Reborn is largely concerned with the Outlaws encountering other superheroes and finding their place in the world; as such, there's a bunch of fun guest stars this time around.

Lobdell certainly brings emotion to the Outlaws' central "Bizarro" conflict, and it's all altogether compelling the way in which Lobdell shows how a certain amount of positive growth on the part of the Outlaws is leading them toward a negative conclusion. My main complaint is that Lobdell at times shows more than he tells about how these characters feel about one another, making these connections more logical than emotional; still, a good outing all around.

[Review contains spoilers]

Bizarro Reborn ends with the series' first annual, shunted to the end, even though the story itself states that it takes place before the book's first chapter, issue #12. That placement was a mistake, I think; even though the annual interrupts the flow of the overall story from issues #11 to #12 (and indeed, the annual probably "occurs" even earlier than before issue #12, somewhere toward the beginning of Red Hood and the Outlaws Vol. 2: Who Is Artemis?), thematically I think it would go better at the front. By being in some respects "just" a Red Hood and the Outlaws story, and by including a little more of the team palling around than we normally see, the annual offers a glimpse at the friendships between the characters that we otherwise don't see.

Indeed, as Red Hood Jason Todd and Artemis fret over the ailing Bizarro, Lobdell and artist Dexter Soy show brief background panels of Jason and Bizarro playing video games or Artemis and Bizarro splashing in a fountain. We understand, if nothing else, the affection that Jason feels for Bizarro in part because he empathizes and sees himself in the pseudo-resurrected creature. However, when Artemis says that, thinking of the fountain,"Being with [Bizarro] I've learn to be. To be in the moment. To be me," it's a lovely sentiment, but a dozen issues into the book, I recall Artemis and Bizarro being friendly, but never hanging out. It's a detail, and an emotional connection, that Lobdell doesn't solidify with the reader's own experience, contrasted for instance with the well-crafted friendship of Orphan and Clayface over in James Tynion's Detective Comics.

That said, however, Jason and Artemis' concern over Bizarro is moving, and the intrigue surrounding Bizarro's sudden growth of intelligence is also interesting. Lobdell has gone from Of Mice and Men to Flowers for Algernon, and this is all assuredly going to end in tragedy. I thought especially notable was Jason's consideration late in the book that — between the invisible spaceship that the brainy Bizarro has built as the Outlaws' new headquarters and the wealth of toys including a cloaked motorcycle — the team has become more Justice League than outlaws. That's good for Jason — coming in out of the cold, being more of a superhero — but because we know it'll end poorly, the lesson is all the worse, that he should not dare for or isn't worthy of good things because they'll inevitably go bad.

Guest-stars in this volume include Tynion's Detective Comics Gotham Knights and also the Suicide Squad. That's two logical team-ups, reflecting perhaps the dual natures of the Outlaws themselves. I thought Lobdell wrote the Knights with a lot of authenticity, more than a typical guest-spot might require, and in both sequences I thought he paired characters well, especially Artemis and Orphan, Artemis and Harley Quinn, and Jason and Killer Croc (who have in common friend Arsenal Roy Harper).

In two places, surprisingly, Lobdell resurrects some of his New 52 antagonists, both Teen Titans foe Harvest (or what's left of him) and also the Superman villain HIVE Queen. There's also a particularly random appearance by the Creeper, who apparently has a history with Artemis, and I'm eager to see Lobdell follow that up; then Nightwing, as well, appears in the annual.

Support Collected Editions -- Purchase Red Hood and the Outlaws Vol. 3: Bizarro Reborn

This series has one more volume before its status quo changes considerably, as I understand it. To that end, following Red Hood and the Outlaws Vol. 3: Bizarro Reborn, Scott Lobdell still has a lot to tie up — the mystery of Jason Todd's father, Ma Gunn's connection to it, the fact that Bizarro has (if I'm not mistaken) shrunk down Ma Gunn into a bottle prison, what is actually going on with Bizarro, the aforementioned lost mission of Artemis and Creeper, and who sicced Solomon Grundy on the team. That's a lot for Red Hood and the Outlaws Vol. 4: Good Night, Gotham, though the book is seven issues — I'm not sure if that's enough or not. I'm optimistic Lobdell can bring this one to a good close.

[Includes original and variant covers]

Summary
Review Date
Reviewed Item
Red Hood and the Outlaws Vol. 3: Bizarro Reborn
Author Rating
4 (scale of 1 to 5)

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