Thursday, June 20, 2024

Red Hood and the Outlaws is Trying to Kill Me, I S2G

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Generally, I try to keep my review headlines a tad more professional. However, since Scott Lobdell seems hell bent on clubbing my heart with found family moments, I’m calling it like it is.

I’ve always been a sucker for the found family trope. It’s not hard as a queer person, even if your biological family is loving and accepting. It’s just part of the territory. Not everyone is that lucky, and sometimes it’s also nice to have people to turn to who know what it’s like being you. It’s that sense of found community and safety.

Lobdell has managed to take three loners, Jason Todd, Artemis, and Bizarro, and turn them into the kind of found family that hits my emotional brain right in the solar plexus. This issue isn’t as heavy on the action. There’s no Solomon Grundy rampaging about (he’s Supergirl’s problem now), but Lex Luthor does have custody of Bizarro. Jason and Artemis are at LexCorp wondering what they hell they’ve done allowing Lex to “reclaim his property,” but they acknowledge they have no choice if they want to save their friend.

While Lex asserts that Bizarro is his property and that there is a minuscule chance Bizarro will even live, we get to see what a “walking with the angels” Lex looks like. He’s still technically on his white hat path, but he’s more of that infuriatingly cool and confident sort that you want to throttle, even though you need him (and maybe secretly envy him a bit.)

Long story short, Lex does come through with saving this Bizarro, and he has his lawyers start the paper work to transfer ownership of him to Jason and Artemis. The two are overjoyed and race to see him, only to find that there’s a marked difference. I won’t spoil it; it’s a delightful turn, even if it does look to be set up for some bittersweet moments a la Flowers for Algernon.

Now let’s get to the meat of the story. Bizarro’s recollection of his life, and how he knows he wasn’t really Superman, how he knows Lex created him. And the impact he’s had on Jason and Artemis.

Bizarro’s names for the Justice League are nothing short of delightful, but the warm and fuzzy recollection soon turns heartbreaking when we realize Bizarro knows this isn’t true. That he was created, and that he didn’t come out right. But he had friends who became family when he was eventually freed from his little growth pod, and we cut to both Jason and Artemis talking about how their lives have changed since Bizarro became part of their team.

Jason Todd… hoo boy. His history is well documented. Depending on who you ask, he’s either the first-ranked or second-ranked Robin who has the most reason to be angry with Batman. (Stephanie Brown fans, you’re welcome to debate in the comments.) And it’s understandable. He was a street kid from a rough background that Bruce took in to be the second Robin after Dick Grayson. Except Jason wasn’t Dick. He had needs and a history that Bruce had to work to meet and he wasn’t as effortlessly fitting as a partner as Dick was. Jason was angry, and rash, and he ultimately “died” violently at the Joker’s hands.

The point is, Jason’s had a rough go of it. And he stagnated in the New52 run, with the edgy mandate, instead of being able to grow and process his trauma and life decisions. One of the reasons I love Lobdell’s run on Red Hood and the Outlaws so much is because we’ve finally been able to see Jason get the growth he’s deserved. He’s become a caring team leader and has been able to admit and accept some of his own actions that lead to his death and violent persona afterward.

In this issue, we see Jason opening up to Artemis that yeah, he has other guys that are friendly. He knows Roy Harper; he knows Dick Grayson. But their history is… complicated to say the least, and they aren’t exactly people whom he could just go grab a beer with. Bizarro, though. Jason admits that Bizarro is his first male friend since coming back from the dead, and my poor heart started crying. Not only is Jason letting people in emotionally, but this is a nice nod to the importance of male friendship as well.

And Artemis? Well, Artemis grew up only ever thinking about filling a role. Of being the Shim’Tar. And we know how that worked out for her. Between realizing that there’s more to her life than a pre-determined destiny, and after losing Akeela, she admits that Bizarro (and sort of Jason) are the two most important people in her life.

These three wildly different individuals, under Lobdell’s writing, have managed to grow and move beyond their pasts and put together a very, very touching family and team unit. As always, the art is impeccable. Dexter Soy’s art and Veronica Gandini’s colors bolster and anchor the story Lobdell is telling, providing a vivid imagery to carry us through the ride.

I’ve said it before, and I’m sure I’ll say it again. This is one of the best teams working in comics today. If you haven’t picked this title up yet, seriously. What the hell are you waiting for?

Fanfinity Rating: 10/10

Red Hood and the Outlaws #13

Writer: Scott Lobdell

Art: Dexter Soy

Colors: Veronica Gandini

Letters: Taylor Esposito

Images courtesy of DC Comics

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