When the H.I.V.E. Queen comes to Gotham, things within the Outlaws team begin to unravel.
RED HOOD AND THE OUTLAWS #18
Writer: Scott Lobdell
Artist: Sergio Sandoval
Cover Artist: Mike McKone and Romulo Fajardo Jr.
Colorist: Michael Atiyeh
Publisher: DC Comics
What You Need To Know:
After Bizarro’s near death, criminal mastermind Lex Luthor arrives to provide assistance in saving the Kryptonian clone’s life. With little options available, Red Hood and Artemis reluctantly give him the go-ahead but fear the worst. When the procedure is over, they discover that not only is Bizarro’s life signs back to normal, but his previous simple intellect is now replaced with that of a genius. Using his newfound mental skills, Bizarro aids the Outlaws with more than just his brute strength but now with his superior mind as well. The change both surprises and elates Red Hood, but Artemis has her doubts which she mostly keeps to herself.
What You’ll Find Out (Spoilers):
The H.I.V.E. Queen arrives in Gotham City looking for Red Hood. It seems she’s a bit miffed that he previously stole millions of dollars from The Penguin, money that was really meant for her as payment for services rendered. Red Hood confronts her, telling her that there are enough crime lords in Gotham (himself included) and that he means to make sure she doesn’t become one of them. When she threatens him with a telepathic attack, Red Hood shows her that he is able to avoid some of her psionics and plans to shoot a synaptic gun at her, which will leave her mentally disabled. Sensing that he means what he says, she submits to leaving the city. Just before she does though, H.I.V.E. Queen notices a blip in Red Hood’s subconsciousness.
She’s just about to reveal to Red Hood that he’s suppressing a key thought when Bizarro instantly appears and knocks H.I.V.E. Queen unconscious. When Red Hood questions Bizarro about his actions, he tells him that his sensors indicated that H.I.V.E. Queen was about to telepathically attack him, so he took her out before she could. Bizarro then tells Red Hood that he’s had a hard night and should go home to rest, leaving Bizarro to clean up H.I.V.E. Queen’s temporary base. Red Hood thanks him, telling him that he’s going to visit Ma Gunn instead as she had something important to tell him. Bizarro smiles, telling him to give her his regards.
When Red Hood arrives at Ma Gunn’s Home for the Criminally Infirmed, he sees that there is a collection of mail letters left in front of her door. When he goes inside, he finds the place empty with a note left on the counter, telling him that she had to leave suddenly on family business. When Red Hood returns home, Bizarro asks him how his visit went. Lying, Red Hood tells him that it went fine.
We then discover that Bizarro has been having strange hallucinations.
His cherished stuffed Superman toy Pup Pup has suddenly become animated and yells at him that he needs to let Red Hood and Artemis know what he really has been doing. One such rant happens with Artemis in the room, but she doesn’t seem aware of Pup Pup’s presence. Pup Pup goes on to tell Bizarro that if he comes clean with his friends that maybe they could help him. Bizarro ignores Pup Pup’s pleas and instead goes about his usual business despite the hallucinations and his thought process at times reverting back to his slower self.
Artemis discovers Jack Ryder (aka The Creeper) inside of their home base. During an argument, they reveal a past experience together in Hierve El Agua, Mexico in which they both were the only survivors. The argument soon escalates into a brawl. Bizarro ends the fight, telling them both that the floating fortress’ anti-gravity foundation might not be able to handle the damage caused by a meta-human battle. He tells Artemis that she should be more hospitable to a guest, especially one whom he’s asked to join the Outlaw team. Red Hood steps in telling Bizarro that to invite new members to the team without consulting the other members first is unacceptable. Bizarro apologizes and tells them that he isn’t feeling well and needs to rest.
Going into his private chambers, Bizarro reveals that he thinks that Red Hood and Artemis think he’s reverting back to his old Bizarro self. He tells himself that he’s not. He reveals that he set-up the Suicide Squad team-up so that he could steal thousands of gallons of synthetic Kryptonite from The Colony without anyone knowing. As he begins removing his clothing, Pup Pup appears again and tries to push him back from entering a pool of the liquid Kryptonite. Pup Pup tells him that he has no idea what the synthetic liquid is doing to him and that he’s getting worse. Bizarro ignores him, completely submerging himself in the green liquid. When he comes up again, his eyes are completely black.
The last scene shows Ma Gunn reading a book in front of the fireplace. As the camera moves out of the window, it’s revealed that she and her home have been shrunk down in size and is placed inside of a green corked bottle on Bizarro’s nightstand. A nude Bizarro laying on the bed then tells himself, “Me got this.”
What Just Happened?
More of Bizarro’s secret life comes to the forefront as we see that he’s orchestrated each of the Outlaw missions to somehow benefit a plan he’s hidden from both Red Hood and Artemis. While Artemis’ reluctant trust has been apparent for some time, the revelation of the H.I.V.E. Queen’s telepathic probes reveal that internally Red Hood is just as apprehensive of the new Bizarro as his Amazon companion is. We also learn that Bizarro has been taking baths in pools of synthetic Kryptonite that may be affecting his mind. Also, is Ma Gunn really miniaturized in a glass bottle on Bizarro’s nightstand, or is it just part of his mental hallucinations? And will the addition of The Creeper and his detective skills somehow cause Bizarro’s secret plans to come to light?
Final Thought: Despite the H.I.V.E. Queen being on the cover, she only was a short filler character that took all of a few pages to appear and leave. The real story within this comic is Bizarro and his secret duality within the team. While his real motives haven’t been revealed yet, we see that he’s had his own secret agenda taking place behind the scenes on each of the Outlaw’s various missions. Through it all, Bizarro’s been experiencing hallucinations of the stuffed Superman doll Pup Pup, the same doll that Red Hood gave him back in the first few issues of the comic, come to life and act as a sort of Disney-esque Jiminy Cricket conscience to him. It’s an interesting route to show that Bizarro is having inner turmoil over his actions, but I admit to laughing out loud when the little living Pup Pup doll first appeared. Not only is it surreal to see the little doll animated, but I couldn’t help but “hear” Pup Pup’s voice in my head as an exact copy of the voice used for the Gingerbread Man character “Gingy” in the Shrek animated movie series. (Voiced by the amazing Conrad Vernon.) This lets readers know that deep within him is the old simple Bizarro trying his hardest to keep the new Bizarro persona in check.
Another interesting point in the comic was that we are finally able to learn Artemis’ last name, or rather, the last name she’s given herself. Since her creation back in 1994, the closest thing we’ve had to a formal name for Artemis has been ‘Artemis of Bana-Mighdall‘. (which is not really usable on a first name/last name paper form) While not earth-shattering news, it’s still interesting to see that she’s finally chosen a name for herself, similar to how her distant Amazon sister has chosen the alias Diana Prince.
I’m not really sure how I feel about The Creeper possibly joining the team, but it’s rather interesting that Artemis somehow already knew him from a past adventure. I’m actually interested to find out more about that initial meeting myself. Interesting too on how the Harley Quinn/Artemis yin and yang parring during the Suicide Squad cross-over that played out so well may now be further played into with this new character addition. Perhaps The Creeper joining the team plays further into Bizarro’s ulterior motive angle?
This comic also sees a departure from the normal Dexter Soy art interiors. Whereas Dexter’s pencils are reminiscent of both Terry Dodson and Joe Madureira art, the new art from Sergio Sandoval leans more toward Brett Booth lite. It’s detailed and beautiful to look at, but not as kinetic as the Soy art that preceded it. I’m not sure if this is going to be a full-time art change for the title, or if it’s just a filler, but if it’s a permanent change I don’t mind the new look.
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