Review: Red Hood: Outlaw Vol. 3: Generation Outlaw trade paperback (DC Comics)

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Red Hood: Outlaw Vol. 3: Generation Outlaw collects issues #37-42 of the series. With longtime series writer Scott Lobdell having announced he'll leave the book with issue #50, it's an easy bet that the next collection will be Lobdell's last on the book, whether or not the title continues. But even if we hadn't known the next volume was Lobdell's last, one can discern it here; a lot of storylines begin to get wrapped up in a very short amount of space. Some of these blithe resolutions feel unfair to long-time readers who've stuck with things this far; we can maybe hope Lobdell will offer more details before the finale, but no guarantees.

[Review contains spoilers]

Jason Todd managing a team of adolescent anti-heroes doesn't feel like the strongest direction for a title already struggling to find direction. The first volume of the new "Outlaw" title had Jason as a vengeful loner vigilante, the second had him as Gotham mob boss, and now the third has him as teen team mentor. At the moment the DCU already has a "tougher" Teen Titans team plus Young Justice, and so a third team of all-new characters seems unlikely to make a big splash.

That said, Lobdell did write a passable Teen Titans once upon a New 52. The new characters here are interesting enough to make a believable family unit by the end of the book — the weird, amorphous DNA who still has time to snap selfies, the bizarre genuius baby Babe in Arms and her zombie mother, and — perhaps the best thing about the whole book — that Lobdell brings back the titular Reiser from his short-lived Doomed series. Making the new characters this appealing in six issues is tough to do, certainly an accomplishment, though I'd surely be surprised if we saw any of these characters again after Lobdell departs.

Generation Outlaw is something of a "Lobdell-verse" reunion volume, between Doomed, Dr. Shay Veritas — late of Lobdell's Superman run and, like Reiser, a refugee from Lobdell's New 52 work a continuity ago — and Vessel, not from so long ago but who'd only cameoed in a recent Red Hood annual. Looking back, I guess this whole strange "Outlaw" excursion has been about reviving some of Lobdell's creations for the Rebirth continuity, including his Titan Bunker and the inexplicably resurrected Suzie Su. For those who have been reading Lobdell-penned titles since the New 52, seeing these characters in one place, one last time, is a treat, and one can only hope maybe we'll see his Alpha Centurion in the next book or, y'know, Skitter or someone.

While the journey to the end of the volume is problematic, I'll also grant that Lobdell offers a good final epilogue/prologue chapter. Some important things come out here, including that Jason finally learns Ma Gunn is his grandmother (though, his acceptance of this doesn't quite jibe with Jason previously refusing to believe that the villain Solitary is actually his father, Gunn's son). There's some nice banter between Jason and the newly returned Artemis, and of course I'm a sucker for the two of them rehashing Heroes in Crisis now that the whos and whys have been revealed. Also the (also newly returned) Bizarro and Doomed ("Mini-Doom!") are an inspired pair and I'd be happy to read a whole title of the two of them just palling around.

But for a story billed as Jason's former Outlaw team battling this new "Generation Outlaw," what actually happens is that no sooner do Artemis and Bizarro return to this dimension than Vessel possesses them, and no one's particularly confused by this and it's all resolved very quickly. Moreover, despite Artemis and Bizarro having been quite dramatically marooned in a post-apocalyptic alternate dimension, they are unceremoniously returned home just by standing around — not to mention that Ma Gunn is freed from a shrunken bottle prison and returned to normal size just by shattering the bottle. And most befuddling, no one seems the least perturbed that Pup Pup, Bizarro's stuffed Superman doll, is now totally sentient after being possessed by Bizarro's former computer AI.

These are sudden, anticlimactic resolutions to these plot threads, and one can't imagine they're what Lobdell envisioned originally. To that end, it feels as though what we've got here is a swift clearing of the decks, perhaps coinciding with Lobdell's departure. I was intrigued by the new, singular "Outlaw" premise for this title as it first appeared, but that everything should be put back to normal so quickly and without a discernible story purpose makes it all seem lesser than it could have been.

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Red Hood: Outlaw Vol. 3: Generation Outlaw is on the whole fine, neither as good or as poor as this title has been, but not objectionable either. Scott Lobdell continues to write a good, even definitive Jason Todd, and I wouldn't have even minded reading more about the Red Hood's teen team. But again we're on the third premise for a book with the writer about to leave; that's as sure a sign as any that it's either time for a change or to let the title and its characters rest for a bit.

[Includes original and variant covers]

Comments ( 1 )

  1. Honestly - I’m so disappointed by this. What’s started off being one of the best, surprising and at time emotional rebirths has very quickly gotten worse to the point it’s unreadable.

    The switch to the singular Red Hood killed the series in my opinion, no clear direction, horrible artwork and the break up of the characters that actually made it such a good read in the first place.


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