Warning: This review contains spoilers for Red Hood: Outlaw Annual #3.
Sucked through the quantum doorway, Bizarro and Artemis now find themselves stranded on an Earth turned upside down. In the blink of an eye, all the planet’s metahumans were depowered, and ordinary civilians were given extraordinary abilities. Cats and dogs are living together. Mass hysteria! Will Bizarro and Artemis be able to save this world, or are they doomed to suffer the same fate as every “cape” before them?
“Like a flipped switch: Every metahuman on Earth had their powers just… turned off. And nearly every ‘ordinary human’ wound up with a superpower.”
Whether it is the role reversal of heroes and citizens, or the reveal of this plot’s architect, Red Hood: Outlaw Annual #3 is full of intriguing ideas. If you’re a fan of Bizarro, Artemis, or alternate realities there are certainly portions of this book you will enjoy. Unfortunately, the execution of these ideas is lacking.
A large part of this issue’s success lies in the novelty of exploring this new world. Through establishing what happened to this Earth’s Justice League, Lobdell allows the reader to understand the threat’s scope. The opening sequences with Bizarro and Artemis in the Hall of Justice Punishment does an excellent job of setting the stage. However, after spending the first half of the issue establishing the duo’s conflict with the Dairy King, Lobdell chooses to fast-forward six months during the battle’s climax.
Following the time jump, all the villains that were introduced are no longer present. Perhaps this is because the new villains were no-names (or Bizarro threw them into the sun off-page). This is a huge misstep. It is disappointing that none of these original characters are used for the rest of the issue. We have spent a significant portion of the issue developing these characters only for them to be discarded in favor of revealing the plot’s real mastermind.
Lex Luthor’s “unmasking” as the mastermind is a welcome surprise. After all, who would be more concerned with giving “power to the people” than Lex Luthor? Thankfully, Lex’s newfound superpowers came with a cost. Pollina’s pictures with Firchow’s colors have created a grotesque iteration of Luthor that will probably induce your gag reflex. Additionally, Lex’s fate is poetic, given the man’s hubris regarding his intellect. Unfortunately, the reveal is done with little-to-no fanfare as the previous portion of the issue was dedicated to other villains. It simply feels as though Lobdell is giving the characters a villain with greater star-power to throw hands with for the final battle.
Lobdell has essentially given us the beginning and end of this Earth’s conflict. However, to semi-quote Seinfeld, he “yadda-yadda’d” over the best part. This story could have easily been spread out over a few issues to provide a full narrative arc. (In other words, give us the middle of the story.) By spreading the story out, Lobdell could craft a narrative that would have allowed us to invest in these new characters and their struggles. Unfortunately, it is hard to care about these characters as the issue’s fast-paced nature does not allow you to get to know them.
“Power does not make you something.”
Bizarro easily steals the spotlight for the entire issue. This character has some of the funniest and most meaningful lines. Lobdell’s handle on his dialogue makes this character fun. Just when you think the character is going to have a sincere moment, it is ruined by a punchline. However, Bizarro’s line, “Power does not make you something,” stuck with me after reading the issue. This line could have easily served as a theme throughout the entire issue. It is unfortunate that Lobdell does not make this a theme for the entire issue. Lobdell’s lack of follow-through is a misstep here as I think this theme could have helped to elevate the issue.
Pollina, Firchow, and Woods’ artwork are a highlight of this issue. The art team does an excellent job conveying the devastation of “Hero Day.” Additionally, the action sequences are wonderfully rendered as Bizarro is given adequate bad guys to smash.
If you’re a fan of Red Hood and the Outlaws, and you’re wondering what happened to Bizarro and Artemis, then you should pick up this annual. However, if you’re not a fan of these characters, you could probably skip this issue. I am sure there will be some recap before “Generation Outlaw.” Bizarro easily steals the spotlight in this issue with humorous and meaningful dialogue. Ultimately, Red Hood: Outlaw Annual #3 is full of interesting ideas but is lacking in their execution.