Political Power And Syrian Metaphors In Red Hood And The Outlaws

With the current political climate in Syria, it’s natural that events would be reflected on the page. Such is the case with the latest issue of Red Hood And The Outlaws written by Scott Lobdell and drawn by Dexter Soy. The comic follows the former Robin, Jason Todd, leading a team that consists of Artemis and Bizarro. All three characters have a dark history that’s put to good use against the backdrop of political strife.

In the current arc, they’re searching for a mythical weapon called the Bow of Ra in Qurac. The Bow of Ra is capable of destroying entire cities by harnessing the power of the sun. Qurac is a war-torn country that has multiple factions battling for control. As soon as the issue starts, a journalist called Jack Ryder reports on the devastation of the Quraci city of K’Kyesh. An unidentified weapon has caused mass destruction and left thousands displaced. This can be likened to the recent chemical attack that happened in the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun. At least 74 people were killed and a further 350 were injured.

Who is Heinle?

Ryder says K’Kyesh is the home of the political rivals to Supreme Leader General Ahmed Heinle. It can be argued that Heinle serves as the figure who represents President Assad.  Assad has been accused of attacking his own people, with a suspected chemical attack being the most recent.

Heinle is responsible for the attack on K’Kyesh and he threatens to shoot Red Hood and Artemis out of the sky when they enter Quraci airspace. Bizarro has been carrying the plane the two of them are traveling in. Bizarro then fights off Heinle’s cronies until a bright light appears in the sky and sends the plane crashing to the ground.

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Red Hood wakes up in a field of ice and believes Heinle has the Bow of Ra. He’s quickly taken prisoner by Heinle’s men and interrogated. What makes Red Hood’s journey to Qurac personal is the that it’s the place he was murdered by The Joker. While being interrogated, he sees the destroyed compound where he died and starts ranting at the guards. After they’ve left, Jason comes face to face with a younger version of himself while reliving his death.

Suffering Is Universal In Syria

As a metaphor for the children who’re suffering in Syria, Red Hood’s trauma is appropriate. By returning to the place of his death, Jason is forced to confront the worst experience of his life. He died at a young age, just like the Syrian children who’ve been caught in the chemical attack.

Red Hood’s perspective as an outsider is noteworthy because it represents the viewpoint of the reader. From a western perspective, he’s seeing the needless slaughter of innocent people. We’re also seeing a similar situation in Syria. Jason feels powerless to help and this elicits a strong emotion in the reader. A lot of people want to help the Syrian refugees, but there is only so much one person can do.

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By being confronted by his younger self, Red Hood is forced to face up to his fall from grace. As Robin, he was meant to live up to all of Batman’s ideals of stopping crime. As Red Hood, Jason has taken matters into his own hands and deals with crime by using lethal force. It’s a tragic juxtaposition that makes the comic even more poignant.

Next, Artemis’ role in the story is that she’s seeking to prevent more bloodshed. She was forced to kill her friend Akila, who was the previous wielder of the Bow of Ra. She’s quoted as saying “Humans – Man in particular – can’t be trusted with the destructive power of the sun.”

This could be taken as a general commentary on the political situation in the USA and Syria. The ‘power of the sun’ is the political power men like Trump and Assad wield. They are the ones who’re making dangerous decisions when international tensions are at a recent all-time high.

Artemis’ status as a woman is significant because she’s stepping into a country that is a hard place for women to live. If Qurac represents Syria, then we can assume there is a similar level of inequality for women. Artemis’ origin as an Amazon is a beacon of strength that makes her stand out against the destruction around her. She’s a warrior with centuries of experience and she won’t let anything stand in her way.

Hope exists in the darkest places

Finally, Bizarro’s role is interesting because he could represent a warped version of American intervention. As a clone of Superman, Bizarro is meant to live up to all the ideals The Man of Steel stands for. The difference is he’s nothing like Superman. There’s a naivety to him that can be described as child-like. He doesn’t fully comprehend his own strength, which makes him unpredictable.

Bizarro wakes up in a village of Syrian refugee and old man recognizes the symbol on his chest. He’s mistaken for Superman and Bizarro agrees to help the villagers when they beg him for help.

To me, this is the most optimistic sequence in the comic. Bizarro’s innocence is meant to shine a light on the everyday struggle of the Quraci/Syrian people and by choosing to help them it shows a glimpse of hope that is sorely needed in any conflict.

Survival is everything

Red Hood, Artemis and Bizarro together are known as the ‘Dark Trinity.’ The idea of their formation was to mirror the relationship between Batman, Wonder Woman and Superman. What sets them apart from the original trinity is their willingness to do the things no one else can do. It makes them the perfect candidates to be used in a story that has direct ties to the real world.

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Author: thecomicvault

Short story writer and freelance copywriter from Manchester, England. I run the pop culture website The Comic Vault and animal protection website Wings And Wild Hearts.

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