Red Hood and the Outlaws is my favorite DC series — since the New 52 through the current DC lineup. You could say I am a fanboy and that would honestly be an understatement. Which is why it breaks my heart that Red Hood and the Outlaws #19 is by far the worst issue of Jason Todd’s adventures, a forced Valentine’s Day special that slightly advances the plot while barely providing anything worthwhile.
This issue can easily be summed up in one sentence: While on a date, Jason and Artemis decide to do something about Bizarro’s fluctuating mental state, meanwhile Bizarro meets a mysterious three-faced man in a bar after struggling with his deteriorating mind. You may now skip this issue entirely, you’re welcome.
After reading the solicitation for this issue, I assumed there was going to be a sudden romantic development between Artemis and Jason in issue #18 since there has been little inclination of romantic tension between the two — save for slight joshing from Nightwing in the annual issue. Alas, there was no development in issue 18.
In #19, Artemis references a bet Jason lost causing this date, but I don’t remember any bet. I even re-read all 20 issues — the Rebirth one-shot, #1-18, and annual — and, unless I’ve completely gone bonkers, there’s no bet. So when I say this is a forced Valentine’s Day special, I mean forced like hammering a ten-inch square peg through a one-inch hole with Mjolnir while driving a double-decker bus through a tunnel with only nine feet clearance.
There’s no reason for the sudden tryst between the two — even after discovering Artemis set the date up so they could discuss what is happening to Bizarro. Artemis has voiced her concern about Bizarro’s new intelligence in just about every issue since Lex Luthor saved him; why does she suddenly need Jason alone? Readers don’t even get to see the important details of their conversation — those are mystified on the final page, being referred to only as “a deal” between Artemis and Jason.
Alongside this non-existent bet, editor Rob Levin notes to readers to reference an instance in issue #6 where Jason can’t hold his liquor around Artemis. One slight problem — that never happened. There’s literally not a drop of alcohol found on a single panel in that issue. On two separate occasions references are made to events that never happened. It’s infuriating to see a complete lack of due diligence to the series’ past.
The issue becomes even more aggravating with the introduction of Solitary, a brand new villain who manages to lure Bizarro to a bar alone. As a die hard Red Hood and the Outlaws reader it still took me five minutes of brain racking to realize who this new character was, even after reading the entire series ten minutes beforehand. In the same issue that cites two non-existent moments, readers are tasked with connecting the dots between this new character and his previous appearances in the series that consisted of a whopping three panels across 20 issues.
DC is asking for angry fanboys like me with this issue. Referencing a character that can only be understood by readers who have paid very close attention while also mentioning two moments that never even happened is absurd — the readers who recognize Solitary are the same readers who will quickly notice the discrepancies that flood this issue.
The guest art from Marcio Takara is a jarring departure from the highly stylized, detailed panels readers are used to from Dexter Soy. Takara’s art is more cartoony, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it just doesn’t feel right in a Red Hood book that has been home to intricately detailed and color-bursting drawings since the New 52. The art is not the worst part of the issue, but it doesn’t even begin to make up for the narrative shortcomings.
This issue has two positives. First, Bizarro’s continued hallucinations of his plush Superman doll, Pup-Pup, begging him to ask Artemis and Jason for help. These scenes are quirky, sure, but there’s something so unsettling about a genius hallucinating a child’s toy who is pleading him to connect with his friends. Even more unsettling when remembering that Pup-Pup was initially a gift from Jason, which pulled Bizarro away from insanity before, in issue #3. The second redefining quality? This issue is only 19 pages! It’s painful, but quick.
There is almost nothing good about this issue. Unless you’re a Red Hood collector or completist (like me) you’re better off completely skipping this issue. Artemis and Jason’s inexplicable newfound romance, the change in art style, and the lack of adherence to the series’ past issues make this the worst issue to bear Red Hood and the Outlaws on the cover.