Perusing my Twitter feed a few weeks back, I came across the new Lobo redesign destined to debut during DC’s Villains Month. I wasn’t entirely surprised by the reveal – New 52 equals new ‘do – yet still found myself conflicted by the end product. It wasn’t bad, per se, but it also wasn’t Lobo. The teaser appeared more Twilight-esque brooder than bulky, cigar chomping bastich, and I must confess feeling a snooty disdain. This wasn’t “my” Lobo, but rather Bloodshot’s hipster cousin. Well, Lobo is finally back, bogarting the cover of Justice League #23.2. How does nuBo stack up?
First off, I have to give writer Marguerite Bennett credit; she manages to set the tone of the book in just a few panels, easily introducing us to Lobo and his means of employment. From there the issue traverses the stretch of space, as Lobo makes stops and collects jobs, proving he’s still the “Main Man” when it comes to bounty hunters. Bennett’s Lobo is a cocky bird; he knows he’s good, and there’s the sense that he sees himself as unbeatable. He’s also got a dark heart, something that sets him apart from previous incarnations. Lobo has always been a creature of bombast, but here he’s just plain dangerous, his devil-may-care attitude paired with an icy determination that leaves no room for sympathy.
In fact, it’s these scenes of darkness that save the issue for me. Bennett does a nice job finding the character’s voice, but too often the character reads like “old Lobo,” with a new can of paint. Obviously when rebooting a character you want to retain certain elements, but much of the book reads like a straight up cut and paste, with a prettier lead. Luckily, Bennett throws a Hail Mary at the end of the issue that lands with a satisfying thud, as much of my criticism turned to curiosity. It’s too early to say whether this Lobo will reach the same level of popularity as the LAST last Czarnian, but it’s apparent that Bennett has some grand plans for the character.
On art, Ben Oliver and Chris Richards come up with some excellent stuff in their otherworldly debut. Their pencils are tight and expressive, and they really nail the sci-fi feel. My initial qualms with Lobo’s new look weren’t necessarily sated, but Oliver and Richards do manage to make him a bit cooler than initially expected. The backgrounds can be a bit minimalist, usually just large swaths of color, and as such I would have liked to have seen more in the way of alien terrain/culture.
Love him or leave him, Lobo is back, and I imagine reaction to this issue will be as divisive as the character himself. For all DC’s trumpeting of going “New,” there’s still a lot of the same, and it’ll be interesting to see how Bennett and Co. tackle the plot point introduced in this issue. While nuBo isn’t necessarily my favorite of the new takes on old characters, there’s still plenty to enjoy. Now, where’s Dawg at?!