Scott Lobdell's Rebirth Red Hood and the Outlaws Vol. 2: Who Is Artemis? could have courted trouble by running afoul of a continuity pit or two; thankfully, it does not. Ultimately, everything makes sense and we end the book with a viable Artemis, a fine mix of the old and the new.
The problem is that, for the second book of this Rebirth series, representing the culmination of almost a year's worth of stories, Artemis works perhaps too hard to be uncontroversial. Within, the Outlaws war with themselves for only the barest of seconds; otherwise the good guys are right and the bad guys are wrong and they're dispatched with alacrity. Lobdell, as usual, makes good use of Red Hood Jason Todd's long history for a particularly notable sequence, but again there doesn't seem quite enough here for a book that should be farther along than it is.
[Review contains spoilers]
The long and short of it is that this Artemis is still one of the Bana-Mighdall, a group of Amazons that conflicted with Queen Hippolyta and left Themyscira. That's simple and matches old continuity well enough, and doesn't contradict Greg Rucka's absent Themyscira over in Wonder Woman because Themyscira didn't disappear until after Diana left. Further, somewhere in between Rucka's flashbacks and the present, Diana and Artemis have met; maybe it's questionable to what extent Diana remembers that given her uncertain memories, but given that Rucka spent more time on what wasn't real than what was, certainly that meeting could have happened.
So despite this book being called "Who Is Artemis?" — a callback certainly to the volumes of stories that wonder "Who Is Donna Troy?" — there are no great shocks here, no grand revelations. Artemis is pretty much who we thought she was, and while her conflict with her old friend is interesting, it didn't perhaps warrant this title (nor this culminating place in the first year of the series) as the characters leave this book not really much different from how they entered.
Not coincidentally, Lobdell sets most of the book's action in the DC Universe's fictional Middle Eastern country Qurac, also the site of where the Joker killed Jason Todd. Lobdell has brought Red Hood to Qurac before, I believe, but not across the street from the actual burned-out building that the Joker exploded with Jason inside. That's a blast from the past, no pun intended — but more than just some evocative scenery, Lobdell has Jason acknowledge his own role in the events that killed him, disregarding Batman and running off without him. That's been such a long time coming that I don't think anyone ever expected Jason would admit such, and it's another in a long line of interesting moments that Lobdell's written for Jason, even if it's really not integral to the plot.
The book starts out with an Of Mice and Men take on Jason considering what to do with Bizarro. As Jason's friendship with Arsenal Roy Harper became the most compelling thing about this title's previous iterations, Jason's unlikely partnership with Bizarro might be the same. Unfortunately, Bizarro was mostly on the sidelines here, though it looks like the next book will be his like this one was Artemis'. Still again, given the fact that this title only has four books until the cast shrinks considerably and we're almost halfway there, it's rather surprising Bizarro hasn't had more to do in all this time.
Series artist Dexter Soy does just fine in this book, drawing something not far off DC's house style but with a nice amount of power and expression in the scenes. Original New 52 Red Hood and the Outlaws artist Kenneth Rocafort cameos for the first part of Artemis' story; something I like about Rocafort's take on these characters is that whereas he draws a dark, dangerous Red Hood, when Jason takes off his mask Rocafort draws him as noticeably young. This is a good reflection, I think, of the dichotomy of Jason Todd inherent in Lobdell's portrayal, that his rough exterior hides not a battle-hardened soldier like Deathstroke Slade Wilson, but rather a young adult who's in many ways just reacting to traumatic things that've happened to him.
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It remains that there's not much that happens in Red Hood and the Outlaws Vol. 2: Who Is Artemis? that changes the book from the previous volume — that this one couldn't have been skipped entirely and the first book simply lead into the third. That's not a particularly good place for this title to be, and indeed I begin to wonder now at what point this book becomes, so I've heard, one of the best of Rebirth. At least, Scott Lobdell brings back a continuity-viable Artemis here; that's something.
[Includes original and variant covers, character sketches]
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