I received this book from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review – and boy, was I excited about it! DC! ARCs! Eeeek!
Admittedly it’s a little late but I really wanted to take my time and do a good job plus I got approved for this the day before release, I may love them but I’m not a superhero! I’ve decided to switch up my review layout (or lack thereof) for comic books.
In my prose book reviews, I don’t necessarily header each section but generally, I rate out of 5; summarise my overall thoughts; pick out parts I liked and parts I wasn’t so hot on (trying to avoid any major spoilers) and end on my ‘the future of the book for me’ as in, will I read the sequels if there are any, would I re-read, would I recommend. I do this because ridiculously long reviews don’t appeal to me as a reader, I like them to be to the point: should I read this, yes or no? Are there triggers that would rule it out for me? Arcs that are controversial. I don’t want to force my opinion down someone’s throat, make up your own mind but here’s some stuff you might want to know before.
I want to adopt a similar mindset for comics and graphic novels too, but there are other aspects to consider due to the amount of additional work to go with the story itself in such a multi-faceted universe of characters so I hope to cover them too. Here goes nothing …
Minor spoilers, just to do with character appearances but if you read the list of creators, it kind of spoils them anyway?
I feel obliged to start with the fact I haven’t read the first two volumes of this series or any Outlaws whatsoever. Why the hell are you reviewing them then? I hear you ask. Well, I actually think this puts me in a better position to give an objective opinion on it as a book. A lot of people reading and writing reviews for this book have been ensconced in this world for years, and that’s fantastic, it is, but it also creates biases. I have no biases at this moment in time, I’m sure I will develop some as I read more but as it stands I’m a completely objective third party assessing this book from the perspective of a person that wants to get into comics. I feel this makes me perfectly situated to assess this book as a gateway for someone, which to be honest is the kind of review I would want to read, disagree? Well, we’re all entitled to our opinion. Please contact me for a list of awesome veteran comic book reviewers, because I read those too.
It’s also worth mentioning that due to my limited previous reading if you think I’m being too harsh or too generous with my assessment of writing or art, it’s probably due to my limited frame of reference and there isn’t a lot I can do about that.
Writing Quality – 7/10
Okay so coming from the prose world, comic book writers do not have a lot to work with in terms of word count. I can read 500-page novels and think they didn’t really go into a lot of detail but I really like how succinctly the writer has to effectively convey their story and Lobdell does a really good job, I did find myself slightly confused in some parts but otherwise, it followed on well – I particularly liked Bizarro’s dialogue, though I know it wasn’t in line with his ordinary speech patterns, I will not explain more for fear of spoiler territory.
Image/Illustration Quality – 7/10
Also, pretty awesome! Artwork for this volume was by Tyler Kirkham, Joe Bennett, Dexter Soy amongst many other from the looks of it. The fight panels were great, my favourites without a doubt. Artemis looks awesome. There are a few panels, where characters eyes are closed or they’re far away and, what I presume are their eyelashes, make their eyes look entirely black and very creepy. Whether this is an intentional choice or it’s my digital copy not being great, I’m not sure but, it’s my only complaint.
The Life of Bizarro parts were really cute, done in a sort of chibi style which was a nice reprieve from an otherwise very aesthetically dark book. There is also a double page spread (correct term? probably not?) I loved that I think is supposed to depict the inside of Bizarro’s head that was done in really cool psychedelic colours and style.
Character Development – 8/10
This volume only collects issues #12-18 but even in that short time Jason gets some development, pretty much from the start you can tell how much he cares about the other Outlaws but watching him and Artemis, in particular, try to confront and come to terms with how to help Bizarro, or even if he needs help because they don’t want him to, was interesting. This edition also included Red Hood and the Outlaws Annual #1 – Big Tent, Bigger Dreams! in which Jason and Dick take a few steps forward in what I know is a pretty patchy relationship and that’s kind of adorable too and I’d have liked to see them interact more in it but the brief flashbacks were interesting.
In an interview, Lobdell says on why he’s drawn to Jason as a character that ‘Jason’s redemption will probably take forever. That is, he’s always going to feel the need to make up for what he’s done—he’s going to always push himself to do the right thing for all the times in his past that he’s screwed things up.’ which makes me think that that will be the overarching theme of the series and really makes me want to read the whole thing because damn-it, Lobdell I love a redemption arc too.
Bizarro gets what is by all accounts a game-changing upgrade/development in his character but something tells me it’s not for the long haul but was fun to read even though, something tells me it would have meant more had I had a longer relationship with him.
- We had a few cracks in the fourth wall – a writing device I’ve loved since Shrek – which made laugh since I wasn’t expecting it.
- Bizarro’s use of the word ‘Compatriots’ and speaking in what I couldn’t not imagine as a British accent.
- Flippy Flop the Acrobatic Clown!
The villains included confused me a little but I’m just presuming they’d make more sense to me had I read from the start and as the series develops. That and the creepy eyes.
Overall – 7/10
Perhaps not a great gateway into comics in general, but I’d wager many would struggle to point to one book for that. I would definitely say this could be a gateway to Jason Todd and the other Outlaws, provided you have a general knowledge that Jason used to be Robin, that he’s made some poor choices and Bizarro is a Superman Clone created by Lex Luthor though admittedly, all this is covered in the book so you could go in clueless. I plan to go back and read the first two volumes and then the rest of the series.
Not convinced? Well here’s a pretty great interview with Lobdell himself where he talks about the series and its characters as well as the reasons behind some of his narrative choices (and editorial intervention). And here’s an article that discusses Bizarro’s interesting upgrade.