RED HOOD & THE OUTLAWS #9

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[ BOW FOR SALE
Scott Lobdell has gone to visit his two good friends, Dexter Soy and Veronica Gandini, so together they can all celebrate their long awaited reunion. Stories will be told, drinks will be drunk, and of course, reviews will be written. It's May, 2017, and it's time for Jay and the gang to get down and boogie!

TO QUOTE Buddha: “Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.”

THE REVIEW:
Finally it's time for the Outlaws to begin their search for the Bow of Ra! So its suffice to say, this quest won’t be easy for anyone involved, which becomes quickly apparent when they enter Qurac and witness firsthand the Bow's supreme might -- BOOM!!!! -- only to survive due to Bizarro’s opportune intervention. Unfortunately, this causes the team to part ways, and each member ends up finding themselves alone in a foreign land where the government wants them dead while danger lurks in every corner.

On the whole I'd say this issue is completely focused on setting up the new arc and the hardships our intrepid heroes have to now face, thus making the 'blood pumping action' relatively low compared to the other episodes in the series. This is not necessarily a bad thing, mind you, as you need proper character development so the action doesn’t becomes stale on the page. But that said, it can be disappointing for those who expected a more dynamic tone from a book like this.

After taking some time out during the previous issue, Bizarro returns in this one with a very predominant role; that being the sole provider of transportation for both Jason and Artemis (who needs a spaceship when you have your own Superman clone, right?), as well as the sole reason for the trio to survive their first encounter with the Bow of Ra. Conveniently Lobdell uses this event to send each member out on their own individual journey, and I must say, Bizarro’s is an intriguing one to follow. We’ve seen how his interactions with both Jason and Artemis have had a positive influence on him, as it has helped him to develop his own character and step away from Superman’s shadow. But how will he react to regular people? That is the question Lobdell asks with Bizarro’s plot. Will he help them or will he focus on finding his only friends?

Now given that the name of this title is partly his, to me, one of the most interesting plot-threads within this story has to be Jason’s. Lobdell has cleverly been able to use the Rebirth 'soft reboot' to his advantage by tweaking certain events surrounding Jason’s demise, namely, setting them on Qurac, as opposed to Ethiopia, which was initially established by previous writers. Conceptually this small but significant change makes it evident how invested Jason is on the well-being of his current partners, especially since he's willing to return to the place where he was murdered all those years ago. In addition to this, this also puts a new spin on his earlier actions in rescuing Roy (because, yes, Lobdell finally makes a direct reference to the original Outlaws series, which is a most pleasant surprise for long time fans like me). But wait up! Lobdell isn’t done with Jason yet.

Nearing the end of the story, Jason becomes a prisoner housed within a compound situated opposite to where he died, and of course, this forces him to come to terms with his own mortality and any regrets he might have. Jason’s death has been told multiple times before, but this is the first time where Jason is allowed to confront it head on.

Artemis, on the other hand, only has a secondary role in this issue. But if the final page is any indication, this will change soon, very-very soon. 

Now quickly moving on to the art side of things and I best mention that Soy is back, back on art duties after a well-deserved break. While the fill in artists were no slouch themselves, Soy’s bold strokes and dynamic panel layouts have become part of the title’s identity as much as Lobdell’s writing. All in all I think the break has had a very positive impact on Soy, who delivers one of his finest jobs to date. The small sequence where Jason faces his inner demons -- or should I say, demon? -- has already become one of my all-time favorites. 

Soy isn’t the only one returning though, as Gandini and her amazing color palette are back as well. Gandini’s work is so good that I’m not lying when I say she has left a mark on the series as important as Soy's, and yes, it simply wouldn’t be the same without her.

THE MUSIC:
The way in which the Outlaws are blasted out of the sky, only to find themselves facing very different and personal challenges, made me think of musically matching up this story with the Hall & Oates song, 'The Sky is Falling'. Essentially the songs melancholic lyrics fit pretty well with how our heroes react to the different situations they’ve been placed in, quite literally throwing them into a predicament beyond their control.




THE COMPARISON:
Funnily enough, that last phrase has given me a great answer for this section. Well, as Jason and Artemis now find themselves facing a situation... 'beyond their control', inadvertently this has also led them into a past they’d like to forget. Yet has the passage of time changed them into becoming better people? Will they be able to face their past selves proudly? Or will they succumb before them?

THE CONCLUSION:
With its consistent characterizations, strong writing, stunning art, and gorgeous coloring; this series continues to be one of Rebirth’s strongest offerings and one well deserving of a spot on anyone’s shelf.

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

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