What do the following three things have in common? A missing old lady, an international crime syndicate, and a batch of some sort of mysterious green substance that smells of... coff! The answer is fairly simple really. They're all featured in a thrilling story created by Scott Lobdell, Sergio Sandoval, Michael Atiyeh, and published by DC Comics in January, 2018!

TO QUOTE William S. Burroughs: “A paranoid is someone who knows a little of what's going on.”

After all that mess they had to go through with the Gotham Knights and the Suicide Squad, you would have thought that Red Hood and the Outlaws could've had some respite upon arrival back home in Gotham City! But no. Not really. The nefarious H.I.V.E. have turned up on their doorstep and are looking to settle down! So of course there’s no one better to stop their plans than -- yes, you guessed it -- the daring Outlaws! But that's not all, since their return, Bizarro has also been acting very strangely. So strangely in fact, that I must ask: what the hell is he up to? To find out please pick up a copy of issue 18 today! 

Overall this episode marks the end of the Bizarro Reborn story-line and does solidify its status as Lobdell’s weakest arc to date. Even though it does present a conclusion there are so many ramifications that certain plot-points will be continuing into future issues. While normally this is a pretty standard procedure for most comic book adventures, I don’t think the actual story got a satisfying ending since its just part of a much bigger canvas

Again, this is not necessarily a bad thing by itself, but unfortunately the conclusion can’t stand on it's own two feet because you have to pick up the next story-line so you can see how everything finally comes to an end.

This also causes another flaw in the story: Lobdell has to plant so many seeds related to so many future plot-lines,  the end result can't help but feel stuffed, rushed, jam packed, and bursting with questions which need to be addressed. Take the Creeper’s appearance for instance. With some benefit of hindsight it's basically more of a cameo / tease than an actual full-on appearance, as it had to share 20 plus pages with a number of other plot-lines running throughout the issue. In my opinion the story would’ve benefited from an extra chapter, at least one, so everything would’ve had more breathing room in order to feel more tangible. That said, however, even with its flaws the adventure is an enjoyable one to read, and certainly achieves what it set out to do.

The art duties for this issue was handled by guest artist, Sergio Sandoval, with some pretty mixed results. Even though most of his work turned out just beautifully, especially how he illustrated  the H.I.V.E. as well as the numerous well-composed backgrounds (with some panels being used on message boards as reaction images), the way he drew the titular team didn’t look so good on the page. Jason is the most affected by this since he barely looks like himself without his helmet on. Still, Sandoval does a good job with the material he was given, and the chilling final page was the standout of his work.

Along similar lines, just like Soy, Gandini is also on a break this month, and that is why Michael Atiyeh is the fill-in colorist. So while I found some flaws in Sandoval’s illustrations, Atiyeh’s colors, on the other hand, are spotless, vibrant, and full of life, meshing perfectly with the art provided. 

In light of the way Bizarro ends-up at the end of this episode, what with him losing his grip on reality and the reasons behind this, I found that the James Taylor song, 'A Junkie’s Lament', to be just perfect for it.

One of the recurrent themes running throughout this issue is the use of made up personas to hide the characters’ true intentions. One way or another everyone is playing the long game here, and this reminds me of a Masquerade Ball!

Comparison made. 

This issue is a mixed bag because it doesn't work as a standalone issue but it does work as part of a much bigger story that has many elements playing out in the near future. So with this in mind, even if I found some flaws with it, it still is well worth picking up so you can fully experience the stories Lobdell has in store for our favorite anti-heroes.

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

RED HOOD & THE OUTLAWS #18 RED HOOD & THE OUTLAWS #18 Reviewed by David Andrews on January 30, 2018 Rating: 5

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