It's September, 2016, and Scott Lobdell, Dexter Soy, and Veronica Gandini, are each taking us on an exciting train-trip where we’ll see a fiery red headed warrior punching it out with a man wearing an enigmatic red helmet, criminals wearing black masks, plus we’ll also discover the existence of a new, powerful player. So buckle up, comic book fans, and get ready for the train ride of your life!

TO QUOTE Allen Saunders: “Life is what happens to us while we are making other plans”. 

Issue two of the Outlaws opens up with a small flashback scene showcasing Artemis's past, one that gives us in the broad strokes the basic information needed about this honorable amazon. She was raised in Egypt, and while she worships the Egyptian pantheon, just like Wonder Woman she was groomed to be a champion for her people. Obviously, that didn’t quite pan out.

We then cut back to the present day, where the story picks up where the last issue left off: With Jason coming face to face with a very unimpressed Artemis. Jason attempts briefly to reason with her but ultimately he has to fight her if only so he can maintain his facade as Black Mask’s enforcer.

As one can imagine, this doesn’t quite work out too well for Jason and soon he’s put against the ropes by the amazon. During the fight Artemis realizes that Jason is pulling his punches, whereas Jason notes that Artemis’s help could come in handy with his current predicament. Thus, the two of them manage to form a bond of sorts in the midst of the fight, and just in time since things take a turn for the worse when the train’s cargo is finally revealed…

For this issue, Jason takes a supporting role so Artemis can get all the focus, and I’m pleased to say, Lobdell absolutely nails her character. While it is true that Artemis hasn’t had a long publication history, Lobdell keeps all the important beats from her initial appearances while adding some new elements of his own to make her a more well-rounded character, easing the transition from a lone warrior to a team member for Jason. 

Since Lobdell’s strength as a writer lies on character relationships, the highlight of the issue are the interactions between Jason and Artemis. Whereas Jason used to be the straight man of the group, constantly being tested by his teammates’ antics; this time the roles are somewhat reversed -- with Artemis being the stern and aloof warrior and Jason being the hotheaded one.

This change of tone not only serves to differentiate this iteration from the last version of the Outlaws, but also it makes use of a severely underused facet of Jason’s personality, that of foil for a darker and more serious character: A facet that hadn’t been used effectively since his Robin days. However, this doesn’t mean that Jason has lost his characteristic “edge”, his tongue is still as sharp as ever and he’s more than able to use his wits to overcome Artemis’ physical superiority.

Black Mask continues to be a background element yet there’s something incredibly unnerving about his interactions with Jason. The man is just too friendly, and it's obvious he hasn’t shown his true colors, leading to the audience to be continuously on the edge, waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Since Lobdell is taking a slow burn approach to the building of these new Outlaws, the issue closes with our first look at the final member of the team: Bizarro. Interestingly, his appearance doesn’t match that of his promotional materials, making clear Lobdell still has some tricks up his sleeve, and I can’t wait to see what he has in store for us next.

In the art department, Soy and Gandini continue to impress with their artistic skills. Soy delivers character filled panels and manages to emote a great deal of action and emotion in the splash pages. It's also fairly apparent how Artemis is perfectly rendered under his skillful strokes; she’s an imposing presence that steals the scene every time with the elegance of her actions. I’m particularly fond of her new design: Since she was a product of the 90s, she was sorely in need of a new look. With her massive battle axe and toned build, Soy’s Artemis is the spitting image of a warrior princess updated to modern sensibilities.

But let’s not forget that Soy’s beautiful art is just half of the equation, and that proper coloring can break even the most perfect strokes. Luckily, Gandini is up to the task and her color palette perfectly blends with Soy’s pencils, creating such stunning visuals that you can almost feel yourself in the middle of the action. 

Artemis finally makes her grand entrance on this book, and along with her she’s bringing down the house. As impressive as Jason’s actions are, Artemis is simply on a whole new level. If something gets in her way, she will simply smash it with all of her might. And so, I couldn’t help but pick any other song than Talking Heads’, 'Burning Down the House'.

Artemis is a simple woman, entirely devoted to her goal and task's at hand. But once she sets her sights on something, there won’t be anything keeping her away from her prize. She will go through any obstacle with the power and determination of a running freight train, and may god have mercy on the poor saps that try to stop her.

In just three issues Lobdell, Gandini, and Soy, have positioned themselves as THE definitive Red Hood and the Outlaws team. They’ve successfully combined their individual strengths to deliver a book that is simply a delight to read. RHATO has proved itself to be the sleeper hit of Rebirth and thus, this is an issue you simply can’t let slip.

*** This review was brought to you by Adan, Comic Lad Extraordinaire.

RED HOOD & THE OUTLAWS #2 RED HOOD & THE OUTLAWS #2 Reviewed by David Andrews on October 03, 2016 Rating: 5

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