Red Hood and The Outlaws #14
Writer: Scott Lobdell
Artist: Joe Bennett
Inks: Sean Parsons
Colors: Veronica Gandini & Blond
Letters: Taylor Esposito
Cover: Mike McKone & Romulo Fajardo Jr.; Guillem March
Editor: Rob Levins; Marie Javins
Publisher: DC Comics
There once was a boy who was created to take the place of another but something went, depending on your point of view, terribly wrong. He did not have the mannerisms of the other boy, you see, nor did he look like him, his appearance a bizarre reflection of the one that came before. So, the boy was abandoned and left to die, his creator having hardened his heart against him. However, an evil masked man found out about the boy and kidnapped him, intending to use him as a weapon and that’s where the story really starts. You see the boy was found and awakened from his slumber by two reluctant heroes: a beautiful warrior, far older and wiser than she appeared and another broken boy, whose ability to cause death and destruction hid a gentle soul. With his awakening it was discovered that though the boy was not like the other he was meant to replace in looks or mind he was very much like him where it counted most: in his generous and kind heart.
That’s the focus of this issue, as Bizarro, saved from death by Lex, uses his newfound genius to finally articulate the things he’d been unable to before. In doing so he helps give Jason – the first person he ever saw once he came out of stasis and the first person to ever (in any continuity) show him genuine, unabashed kindness and truly see him as a person, not just a broken clone – one of the only things he’s ever wanted: the ability to save Crime Alley so that what happened to him, and Bruce, would never happen to anyone else. However, nothing comes without a price and Bizarro knows it’s just a matter of time before the bill becomes due. The question is, will his efforts be enough to protect Jason from what’s coming?
The sense of unease throughout this issue builds and builds as Lobdell expertly and subtly lets you know that something is deeply, deeply wrong. The way he handles the characters reactions: from Jason’s joy to Artemis’ worry and Bizarro’s underlying sadness is wonderfully done. There’s also some plot momentum on Jason’s stalker that ramps up the feeling of an axe hanging over The Outlaws heads: who is this person and what do they want with him?
Joe Bennett and Sean Parsons do some good work here, though not quite as up to the level we’ve come to expect from Dexter Soy and Veronica Gandini. In particular there’s some odd facial choices with Jason that make him look a bit younger than he is in this continuity, something that stands out even more as the RHATO Annual did such a great job of showing Jason’s age in comparison to Dick. However, their background work is fantastic and the level of detail on some very famous locations almost makes up for the above.
Overall this is a great table setting issue that packs one hell of an emotional punch. Four Quantum Doors out of Five.