As early as its opening arc, Red Hood and the Outlaws has always read as a kind of meditation on the problematic nature of super-powers in the world. Think of Scott Lobdell and Kenneth Rocafort’s first sojourn into the world of this comicbook. It was a flooding in of hardened individuals in an even harder world, a world where the leads don’t necessarily want to live by might-makes-right but find that they themselves need to resort to exactly that to assert a greater moral authority.
But it’s only with its most recent storyarc, “The Big Picture,” that writer Will Pfeifer takes the Outlaws into truly uncharted territory for the title, territory the Justice League found themselves in nearly a generation ago.
Keith Giffen and his fellow collaborators on the late ‘80s title Justice League International (which later split into Justice League America and Justice League Europe) certainly had a unique way to deal with the geopolitical threats that came with the end of the Cold War. There’d been an evolution in story design of the Justice League. No longer a League where the powers of multiple superheroes would be needed to interdict one global threat (Starro the Conqueror, say, from the Silver Age revitalization of the Justice Society of America that saw it rebranded as the Justice League of America), the League would now face down real world threats. Real world threats like those of the post-Vietnam Cold War—rogue mid-East Nations, anti-Communist incursions into Latin America posing as War on Drugs skirmishes, the black market profiteering on Soviet WMD’s.
Giffen and his collaborators saw the inherent gallows humor in the world they faced and crafted a ridiculous, garish and politically hazardous version of the League, staffed by woefully childish and self-aggrandizing superheroes, to deal with parodies of the late Cold War, real-world threats. But perhaps the most enduring, and arguably the most endearing of these threats was the Main Man himself, Lobo.
What Giffen spearheaded in the pages of JLI and later in a half dozen or so separated miniseries working with writer Alan Grant and artist Simon Bisley, and then later in a five year-long monthly series that brought the Main Man to the doorstep of new Millennium, was first the makeover of and subsequently the re-imagining of a virtually unknown second-string Omega Man.
Within the space of a single issue of JLI (issue #18), Lobo’s original orange and purple spandex from his Omega Men days, replaced by space-biker leather. And in place of neatly style purple-gray hair was instead wildly and gnarly hair that would eventually become dreadlocks. And with the revised optics, came a new, harsher attitude. A man who would hunt down and kill anything or anyone.
What Will Pfeifer’s overseen in the pages of Red Hood and the Outlaws #31, released this Wednesday, May 21st, is remarkable second evolution of Lobo. One that sees him reappear as exactly that kind of geopolitical threat tackled by the original JLI, rather than just a cartoonish bruiser. But there’s no shortage of cartoon violence here—as Lobo enters into a tirade of hard science fiction discourse about evolving the planet-slaying weapon he’s about to by, he becomes a brutal parody of the kinds of Strong-Man dictators that present the greatest threat to modern geopolitical stability. And in introducing this radically evolved Lobo, Pfeifer has managed to evolve the storytelling of Red Hood and the Outlaws as well.
Please enjoy our exclusive preview of Red Hood and the Outlaws #31.