Review: Justice League #23.2: Lobo

Review

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When I first got a gander at the new Lobo reboot, I admit to feeling conflicted. Nu!bo is very pretty, and it felt like finally someone was designing characters for my gaze for once, and all the outrage over the changes to his look were a balm to my poor frazzled forced-to-titstare-constantly-at-lady-heroes nerves. But the thing is I like Lobo, in all his absurdity. Often described as “Deadpool before Deadpool was Deadpool,” Lobo was a caricature of every swaggering, macho, excessively violent, no-fucks-given 80s and 90s action hero I’ve ever known, and I appreciated the constant parody. Lobo was the ultimate combination of every Blood Darksteel Grimface character every teenage boy in the 90s was into, and the results were intentionally hilarious and over-the-top. So, while I appreciated the aesthetics of the new Lobo design, I deeply questioned the wisdom of it.

Despite having already seen our usual Lobo in the rebooted DC universe, DC Editor-in-Chief Bob Harras had explained in the teasers that “The Lobo you’ve seen so far in the New 52 is not who you think he is. In this one-shot, you’ll be introduced to the real Lobo. A ruthless killer, Lobo is on a quest to kill the man who has taken his name.” Never one to get all judgey on a thing I’ve not actually read for myself, I decided to bide my time until the release of Justice League #23.2 where Nu!Bo is introduced by writer Margeurite Bennett, who’s been interviewed by The Mary Sue before.

I made my best attempt to set my own Lobo biases aside and dive into something possibly fresh and new.

I lost it by page two.

Okay, in Ms Bennett’s defense, the writing is very tight. It’s a solid story so far, our introduction to the character is brief (this issue clocks in at about 15 pages or so) but thorough. We immediately understand that Nu!Bo is a bounty hunter, a ruthless killer, flippant, and even cruel. This is a villain’s series, after all, and Nu!Bo definitely has his “kick the dog” villain moment in this issue to demonstrate that he is just that evil. Hey, he even has a snazzy almost-catchphrase:

The thing is, he talks like Lobo, he swaggers like Lobo, and all throughout the issue I kept hearing his narration in Lobo’s voice, a voice I’ve long imagined to be this deep, gravelly, smoked-a-pack-a-day throaty mumble, almost Ozzy Osbourne-like, in fact, and reading Nu!bo’s narration in that voice works fine…until you actually see him in-panel. It’s whatever the opposite of “having a face for radio” is. Having a voice for comics, I suppose you could say. I can’t stop giggling every time I see Lobo on the page, and it always strikes me as if someone had subbed in Ryan Gosling for Schwarzenegger in Commando but dubbed in Arnold’s voice. Which, as of right this moment, is exactly something I wish someone would do. I’ve already laughed myself to tears over this.

And then I start to wonder… maybe characterization can trump design? Is design integral to characterization? Can this comic actually be used to justify the iterative re-designs of lady characters into eye-candifying outfits? If Lobo can be re-designed and still be Lobo, should we all stop bitching about our favorite characters being drawn like Tits McGee? Is there a meta-narrative here about representation in comics and how it’s what’s on the inside that counts?

Yeah no not really. We do indeed find by the last page that Nu!Bo is out to hunt down Lobo and take back his name and reputation. I expect we are almost literally going to see a narrative where the new iteration slaughters the character we know and love. Or, at the very least, that is the intention of Nu!Bo, and as to whether or not he’ll succeed, well, that’s in the very capable hands of Ms. Bennett, I suppose.

And just to be clear here at the end—I actually enjoyed the introduction very much. However, this wouldn’t be the first time I’ve had to pretend I’m reading something that just coincidentally has the same name of something else I know and like, and I’m trying hard to not resort to that tactic to give this a fair shake. I like the cut of your jib, Nu!Bo series. Let’s see what you do with it.


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