The time is finally right to put on your favorite pair of lucky pants and grab a beautiful lady. So come on, don't sit around and do nothing all day. Dress up, get down, and blow some cash on the following comic book created by Scott Lobdell, Dexter Soy, and Veronica Gandini! It's April, 2018, and it's time to strike it rich by heading to the casino.

TO QUOTE Jim Morrison: “Drugs are a bet with your mind.”

Following on from last months shocking finale, and we begin this month's shenanigans with Artemis confronting Bizarro about his substance abuse problem, which, unfortunately, is something that doesn’t sit too well with our pale-faced friend. No. Not in the least. Meanwhile, while this is going on, Jason is being a pain in the ass all the way across town. Or to be more specific about it, at the casino in the Iceberg Lounge; where he does his best to catch the attention of its owner, Mister Oswald Cobblepot, otherwise known as The Penguin. Now with emotions running at an all-time high, how will either of these two scenarios finally play out? Will Jason be able to speak to Ozy and mediate between his teammates? Or will this mark the beginning of the end for the Outlaws? To find out, please pick up issue 21 today. 

Overall I'd say that this months episode is a pretty hard one to review, saying so because while it has some fantastic character moments featuring the entire cast (more on that point later), the main plotline, on the other hand, felt fairly directionless, incorrectly paced, and it was spread out way too thinly to be a really satisfying read, a fact that seems even more evident by the very end of the episode. 

With that said, however, I'm happy to say that some of my previous grievances towards Scott Lobdell's handling of Artemis has finally been put to bed. Thankfully, as of this issue, he was able to give her a personality that was just beyond the norm, namely, her normal “stoic warrior” persona, doing so by playing out her more motherly nature. In turn, this has proven that while Bizarro and Jason are able to maintain the flow of a whole narrative, the need for Artemis to follow in their footsteps is starting to grow shorter by the issue, especially when it comes down to people to bounce off of and interact with.

Along similar lines, I have to also mention Bizarro's bipolar performance. After all, his self-destructive behavior is the driving force that's propelling this plotline forward, slowly followed by the way his teammates are reacting to his actions: sometimes good, sometimes bad, and sometimes indifferent. Now the main problem with this is largely due to the varying degrees of involvement between Bizarro and his comrades, because on occasion there is a lack of foreshadowing and it can become quite puzzling, rather than shocking, and this makes certain emotional moments feel a little flat.

Don't worry though, dear reader, because on the flip side of things we have the star of the show, Jason Todd, who takes the narrative to a very interesting place by establishing a future conflict with The Penguin. Unsurprisingly, Jason continues to be the highlight of this book, and his actions are really beginning to make things feel fresh by introducing us to this up and coming conflict. But having said all that, these reasons are precisely why I feel that the overall narrative was disjointed, fractured, and benign. Jason’s part of the plot wasn't able to integrate itself into the other part of the plot, the one featuring Bizarro and Artemis, so there wasn't any connection, story-wise, thus making it feel out of place and unattached. That said, however, Lobdell does have a knack for combining seemingly random plotlines into a satisfactory conclusion, so I’ll reserve judgment until we have all the pieces in place and firmly on the board. Hopefully, Lobdell will be able to surprise us once again. 

Now where the artwork was concerned I didn't have any problems with it whatsoever. So much so, in fact, that the only criticism I can offer towards Soy and Gandini's work is that 22 page's just isn't enough for us to fully appreciate it. From the ghastly green of Bizarro’s secret vault; to the rowdy interior of the Iceberg Lounge; to the breathtaking view of Gotham from the Outlaws’ base; everything is so beautifully rendered by Soy and Gandini's talents I just can't get enough. 

Even though Jason’s story was my favorite part of the entire adventure, Bizarro’s moments with Artemis were the real meat and bones to the overall narrative. Besides, it would have been so easy for these two to resolve their issues with a fist-fight, but instead, they decided to try and talk things out and reach a mutual understanding. Yet, as the closing pages of the book showed us, everything was just a façade: Similar to The Carpenters song, “This Masquerade”.

A recurrent theme showcased throughout this story was the way our three heroes donned masks to hide their identities and further their own goals. However, this is a dangerous game they’re playing, risking to lose themselves to their own duel-nature.

As I mentioned before, this is the type of issue that won’t satisfy those people interested in overarching plots which can mold the future of our favorite characters. But if you think this is a secondary element, and you’d rather focus on those wonderful character moments that have been a staple of Lobdell’s work, then this issue will deliver exactly that and more.

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

RED HOOD & THE OUTLAWS #21 RED HOOD & THE OUTLAWS #21 Reviewed by David Andrews on April 25, 2018 Rating: 5

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