Artemis and Jason have to deal with their past while Bizarro tries to be a hero by himself.
One of the reasons I was excited about this arc was the focus of Artemis and her people. I did worry about how the Amazons would be portrayed given their history. DC loves making the Bana-Mighdall the evil Amazons. I was concerned about the role being returned since Diana's Amazons are back to form and not the man killing New 52 version. I've been reading a lot of work with Artemis in back issues and while I still have some runs to go over I've noticed something.
In general writers didn't give Artemis much if any backstory. What we were given was very little and some of it didn't make sense. (*1) To sum up Artemis was usually just a background/supporting character. She's basically a blank slate and this background is needed desperately for the character as well as the Bana-Mighdall. I would have enjoyed this anyway but reading her old appearances really highlights how incredible it is to for her to actually have a history to speak of. Having a friend (girlfriend), talking about their home and even making her more formidable. She was supposed to be the other side of the same coin as Diana but their abilities were never equal. Neither were their origins since Artemis was basically just an Amazon from the sister tribe. I don't think her mother was even mentioned prior to this run.
I loved that in his first arc Lobdell had Artemis mention how odd it was that she was part of a group of Amazons worshiping Egyptian gods yet she was named after a Greek goddess. That to my knowledge has never been explained and is weird when you think about it. Why name her after one of the gods after these warriors felt abandoned by them?
I saw some mocking over this arc dealing with the fact Jason died. Why? Batman still goes over his parents deaths. Trauma doesn't just go away and these moments were life changing. Other writers have dealt with Jason's death but there's been a difference. It's usually been used for drama and we've still barely tapped what it means to Jason himself through his POV. A bulk of the time it's about how his murder effected others. Sure he's started mentioning it under Lobdell but it's not a topic Jason dwells on long in the narrative. This is the first time Jason's been forced to relive it (well when not triggered in another book) and can't have anything to distract him. He's stuck by himself with his PTSD is fully active. Not dealing with it prevents character development and ignores an important part of his story.
Jason knows he's seeing things by reliving his memories just as he's knows there's nothing he can do to stop it. He says he's re-lived it over and over every day since he's returned from the dead. I think that's something we've suspected and it makes sense that he wouldn't confirm that to anyone else.
I can't tell you how much I love the fact this Bizarro isn't stupid. He's innocent, wants to help, he just doesn't know how. If something like mountain is in the way he'll just clear it. That scene might be simple, Bizarro might be kind of blunt but he still has that Superman optimism. That's something Jason and Artemis need.
While I wasn't crazy about the number of resurrections in Red Hood/Arsenal I like having Akila being brought back here. Not just because it makes her a living ghost that torments Artemis but it's a great comparison for Jason. Even a great meta comparison to Artemis who returned from the dead in old canon in Artemis Requiem.
Artemis' line: "When I think of you--alone--in that sarcophagus for so long...it tears a my heart."
That happened (but in a coffin) to Jason and he freaked out last issue when he thought he had returned to a grave. Akila seems to be taking it better which makes sense as they worship the Egyptian gods who always viewed death a different way. Plus the whole evil thing.
I don't buy Jason's conclusion that his death was his fault for not letting anyone in. Yes I believe Jason blames himself but this is presented like that idea is true. It isn't strictly true. Bruce kept him at a distance and in DITF he made it clear he was only helping Jason because it lined up with his mission to find Joker. Dick and him started to get along but they were still a little strained due to the conflict between Dick and Bruce. Jason was eager to be working with the Titans, he had the pen pals thing with Kid Devil (*2) and he LOVED school. Jason was trying to make friends but had trouble balancing his life. This was a kid that wanted to be part of an after school activity.
Can I see him being cautious about who his friends were and who got close to him? Yeah but not to extent Jason alludes to here. Even before Kori and Roy became a team we saw he made the effort to patch things up with Tim. He was nothing but friendly to Roy in his Robin flashbacks. If you still believe the Tynion run is canon he put up with his jackass friend. Jason might have been short with Gabby (in the flashback in RHA) but they were close enough that she was delighted to see him. They hugged and that didn't shock her. Bruce was the distant one which is why Jason struggles to believe he was ever loved as a son and why he looked for his mom.
I don't mind when Jason owns up to his fault, in fact I preferred it over Tynion's "everyone else is to blame" take. I still don't agree with this take. I'm not mad just confused why this is a thing. It's not a new idea as Lobdell had Babs ask why he had to do things alone when he went after Roy. That didn't make sense then either. (*3)
The solicits pretty much gave away the fact Akila was evil but the build up makes it possible for the readers to deduce this themselves. Artemis seems to know something is wrong and wants to believe otherwise. We're told only a Shim'Tar can use the Bow of Ra. It just makes sense. I did like seeing more of Bana-Mighdall and the rare time Artemis is vulnerable. It's amazing when you realize how neglected the character has been for so many years. So much is being added it's incredible to think no one else made the effort.
Not much to say on Bizarro other than he's always fun to see. I would have liked to see more of Jason's story. All in all I really liked this issue even if I disagree on the whole "Jason was a loner" thing. I can brush off the idea that Jason is saying he's to blame for his death since it's his POV.
*1 I have yet to read her role in Trinity and the Byrne run. I do know that she spoke out against her people fighting against Amazons when she was 14. Artemis Requiem claimed she grew up poor which made no sense as the introduction to the Bana-Mighdall showed they manufactured weapons and sold their services as mercenaries. Their home had no signs of the women being poor.
*2 The pen pals thing is canon Pre-Crisis and Post-Crisis as Eddie makes a point in bringing it up.
*3 The bat family, particularly Babs, have treated Jason like crap so I don't think he asks for help because of the shutting people out thing. At least with the bat family. Babs herself has been written differently since the reboot but when she was Oracle she would have called in back up without his content anyway. Jason had previously called Ollie when Roy was burned and got Essence to heal him. Jason has called for help.
Say What?: According to Jason Jokers' skin stinks, it smells like death left out in the hot sun. I like this detail since it reminds me of him confirming Jokers' Daughter was lying since he was able to find the Jokers' skin mask by smell. It also works for the Snyder stories when Capullo drew flies whenever Joker was around.
Early on Artemis' narrative implies she knows Akila has the Bow she just doesn't want to admit it.
Akila says Artemis and her used to talk about teaching man's world how to live much like Diana's mission. To show how to maintain order through strength and compassion. This is such an improvement over the original Bana-Mighdall way it's amazing. Akila and Artemis weren't apart of the original misdeeds of their people in old canon but it's still a good change.
Artemis' axe Mistress is apparently sentient.
The text implies multiple times that Akila and Artemis were a couple. Not surprising and this is written really well.
Jason's PTSD was so strong that he didn't notice he was being tortured. Oww.
Did You Notice?: The mixture of skin tones for the Amazons. The Bana-Mighdall always had some controversy and a big part of it was the fact they often portrayed as evil when their ranks were mostly filled with darker skin toned women. Artemis usually stuck out as one of the few lighter skin toned women and it didn't help that she was portrayed as the best of them.
The pilots are seen in the background after Bizarro tosses their ride into the mountain. Good thing too otherwise he would have killed them and it didn't look like he was trying to prevent their deaths.
How Akila was buried. When Artemis died I was a little mystified at the lack of her people's customs. The art detail really goes a long way.
Questions Raised?: Have their gods abandoned them or not? Artemis was seen talking with a goddess who forbade her to have the Bow of Ra when she was sixteen. Akila didn't believe in the gods will until they chose her to be Shim'Tar. Does Artemis believe the gods abandoned them when Akila went insane or when their sandstorm barrier was breached by their enemy?
What's up with the Amazons? Did they all die and these are recruits Akila trained? Are the rest outside the dining room the surviving Amazons that decided to trust Akika?
Why is the Bow of Ra called Mistress? Does Akila control Artemis axe?