NOTE: This article contains SPOILERS for “Red Hood and the Outlaws” #2
The status quo is changing for Jason Todd, the man best known as Batman’s fallen sidekick – and later known as the antihero/villain/vigilante Red Hood. With his morality meandering over the years, the arrival of the DC Rebirth delivered a shockingly strong debut in the form of “Red Hood and the Outlaws: Rebirth” that promised a new beginning – not only for readers, or even Todd himself. It was, put simply, a chance for writer Scott Lobdell and artist Dexter Soy to redefine Jason Todd’s role in the DC Universe. And they wasted no time in exceeding expectations, introducing their Todd as a man determined to show that Batman’s doubts in him were unfounded. That he could, if he tried, stay on the right side of the line in bringing down a menace to Gotham City.
In the debut issue, that meant establishing an understanding with Batman that there were some tasks that the Dark Knight couldn’t tackle on his own. But with Todd leveraging his infamy as a Gotham wild card to go deeper into the underworld, his first major mission led him instead to the first of his new “Outlaws.” And with the second now discovered, the boy whom Batman failed (and in turn, failed his mentor) has found himself at the head of DC’s ‘dark trinity,’ with an Amazonian warrior on one side, and a Man of Steel on the other.
And by the look of it, things are only going to get weirder. Maybe even bizarre.
Jason Todd: The Antihero Gotham Needs
It might be surprising for lapsed DC fans or “Batman” readers to hear that Jason Todd is working alongside Bruce Wayne, let alone being given the go-ahead to take on a mission of his own in Gotham. But the New 52 version of the Red Hood has been sticking to the lighter side of the line, characterizing Jason as absolutely not the hero that Bruce had hoped he’d turn out to be – but still in search of some redemption, not reckless crime. So when “Rebirth” found him with a Batcave of his own (under police headquarters) and eager to slip undercover into Black Mask’s operation, Bruce was willing to stage a fight to sell their dispute (while still completely doubting Jason’s actions).
The case was an easy one to make, since neither Bruce Wayne nor Batman were the right person to infiltrate Black Mask’s gang. That’s a job for the Red Hood, and just two issues into the series – and operating above the table, no less – Jason has worked his way up to a potential heir to Black Mask’s empire. Using the skills, smarts, and strategy that Bruce taught him in his youth, Jason puts himself on the mission to track down a weapon that could change everything for Gotham, Black Mask, everything.
But when Jason arrives at the target, embroiled in the kind of complicated plot Bruce Wayne can cope with in his sleep, he finds that someone has already beaten him to the punch (it happens to Bruce every once in a while, too).
Artemis of The Amazons
In discussing the new “Red Hood and the Outlaws” prior to the “Rebirth” launch, Lobdell and Soy were open about the introduction of a kind of ‘dark trinity,’ or twisted take on DC’s Big Three (Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman). With Jason taking the Batman spot, it’s Artemis who fills in as the Amazonian warrior, appearing one step ahead of Jason in pursuit of the same weapon Black Mask is after. At least it appears that way at first: the actual significance of the ancient Bow of Ra she seeks isn’t clear. Still, seasoned DC fans will recognize the red-haired daughter of an Egyptian splinter of Amazons from multiple Wonder Woman stories and adaptations.
Her initial narration explains her wandering nature, promised in her youth that she would be her people’s champion – a job ultimately stolen by Diana – so the chip on her shoulder in dealing with Jason is understandable (so too is her immediate affinity with the outcast Robin). In many ways, she is to Wonder Woman what Jason is to Batman: less concerned with appearances or doing things by the book, and generally speaking… a lot more entertaining and relatable for readers in moment-to-moment conversations.
And right off the bat, Jason and Artemis share the kind of chemistry fans would expect from a rougher, tougher take on the Justice League’s top players.
Even overlooking the fact that Artemis’ target is nowhere to be found, the two are a long way from becoming any kind of team (so the “Outlaws” tag may not signify a formal alliance just yet). But sticking to the idea that ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend’ Jason makes it clear to Artemis that he’s not looking to actually kill her, as his ‘boss’ Black Mask has commanded him. Artemis has deduced as much, and with the two matched in fighting skills and detective work, both realize that they’re better off fighting the actual bad guys (at the same time, giving Jason a hefty push towards the ‘good guy’ camp).
Unlikely or unorthodox alliances are the kind that great stories are made of, and both Lobdell and Soy show that uniting Red Hood and Artemis, be it in combat or conversation, is absolutely intended to highlight just how far this version of the trinity falls from their more iconic counterparts. Of course, there’s still the third member of the team… who just happens to be the piece of gamechanging technology that Black Mask is counting on to revolutionize his criminal empire.
A Pre-Bizarro Superman?
That’s right, as advertised and featured in numerous cover art, the third member of the trio is a new form of Bizaaro Superman, the name reserved for past alternate versions of the Man of Steel, and most recently, a genetic recreation of Superman born of Lex Luthor’s genius. Now, yet another Superman clone rests inside a tank, having been unwittingly captured by Red Hood and Artemis. The idea of Black Mask having his very own Superman is a terrifying one, and reason for Jason to hit the panic button if there ever was one.
But the readers know that this Superman isn’t a perfect clone of the original, and is doomed to be either physically stunted, mentally damaged, or both. It’s too early to tell just how the seemingly accurate copy of Superman will be transformed into the opposite-talking doppelganger fans know and love. But with the mirror image of DC’s famous trinity already featuring a Dark Knight who crosses moral lines while focusing more on humor than a rigid plan, and an Amazonian with a grudge who lets her fists do the talking, it only seems right that this Man of Steel would be the last member, and likely the least effective in running the team, not the most.
For the purposes of the main plot, it’s still Red Hood’s show. So with his two “Outlaws” now introduced, there’s nothing left but to bring the three together in a more than passing team. And if the Justice League can usually be counted upon to save the world, the odds already seem stacked in favor of Jason, Artemis and Bizarro ruining it, if anything. But we’ll be reading, that’s for sure.
Red Hood and the Outlaws #2 is available now.