Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Red Hood and the Outlaws #1


The Who: Jason Todd the second Robin who was killed by the Joker only to come back as the Red Hood. Now Jason crosses paths with another former sidekick in Roy Harper (Arsenal) and the alien powerhouse known as Starfire.

Why I chose this title: Along with JLI this is the other title I knew I was going to get although I didn't expect it when the titles were announced. I love Jason Todd. I'm not going to go into detail why because that will take too long but I'm also fond of Kory and Roy. When I heard Scott Lobdell was writing and read his interviews I got really excited about this book. If you haven't read his interviews you should sometime just to see how good they are. It's obvious he's excited about all three books he's writing. From what he says it seems he gets these characters and has plans to develop them. All three have been through the wringer prior to the relaunch. Korys' main plot through the last few years was being unable to come to grips with Dick Grayson not loving her anymore. Roy lost his daughter, his arm and all traces of his personality. Jason suffered through writers who didn't get him such as Daniels and Morrison, even Winicks' last story seemed off. Seeing them explore redemption is something I'm looking forward to.

What I expect from the book: Character studies, interactions, growth, friendships and a whole lot of fun.

Thoughts: One of the biggest (that I'm aware of) controversies at the moment. I'll get into that but let's look at the positive parts first. It starts off A LOT faster than any of the books I've read so far. Combined with the instant chemistry between Jason and Roy it's a whole lot of fun. Their banter is hilarious and there's even a moment when Jason seems to realize he went too far when he snaps at Roy and that shows some nice potential growth even if it's just internally.

I might be reading into it too much but I think it's interesting to note that Jason helping Roy in an environment that's tied up in red tape to keep him there is a nice connection to Death in the Family. It's the reason the Joker could never be charged with his murder and here he is saving another former sidekick. There's also something very ironic about Jason saving Roy in the guise of a priest. Yes it's a disguise that works with his plan but not only is he offering Roy a chance at freedom he's unintentionally asking for him to believe in his ability to get them out of there. And although Roy expresses doubt he still takes that leap of faith. He never says no to the idea just goes with it.

I think I would have liked to see how they all got together as Roy mentions listening to Jasons' advise before he got himself in trouble. Apparently both Roy and Kory met Jason prior to the rescue mission. The best parts are the non-Starfire parts where we see Roy and Jason bonding or intrigue with Jasons' untold past. Essence, a character only Jason could see seems pretty cool. And although it was short the cameo of the new character Crux already has me wanting to see more of him.

Now for the big deal. Yeah this is the comic that had spoilers posted the day before without a warning. Was the twist truly shocking? Yes and no. Before this book even came out, starting from when the first solicit was released actually, fans have been rather excited about these characters being together. I've seen fanfiction, various fanart and yes even a handful of music videos devoted to these main three. Most having them in a romantic relationship. Yes, it went there in canon. Sort of. Like I said I would have preferred to read about it myself then have seen the scanned pages with big text in vulgar language of who Roy was with sexually.

I confess that it made me feel queasy, not because I had objections to the pairings but because I knew how readers would react to a female character having sex with two different men. Sadly this is the norm for female characters especially when it's used as "proof" from their detractors. Mainly from those who want the females' main love interest with someone else (a.k.a. "shippers.") Nevermind that Kory hasn't been with Dick Grayson in years and the last time she was he admitted that he wasn't in love with her. Or that this is supposed to be a fresh start. I hate the shaming that follows. Since reading the spoiler comments my view was colored so I reread this to get a better idea which I'll try to make clearer.

The uproar is that Kory seems to forget her Titan years and some think that the boys took advantage of her. Here's what actually happens in the context of the book:

After Starfire destroys the tanks chasing them Jason explains she's there because she is currently "with" him. Roy is shocked and pointblank asks how a classy girl like her could lower herself for a you. Yes he says "a you" not Jason specifically but anyone like him, which is an important distinction for later as Roy is just compared to the former Robin by Jason himself. He's bummed that she didn't say hi to him and it's rubbed in that yeah, she notices Jason. Three weeks later their still all hanging together at a bench where we get the infamous memory scene. It's brought up when Roy asked if he's afraid Kory will be pissed to learn about the Red Hoods' fights with Dick. (Note he's more concerned how she will react than Dick.)

Jason says that unfortunately it's a non issue explaining how he believes her race sees humans. As sights and smells (which might be true given her thoughts on them.) Her race seems to have little patience for humans and forget them over time if their not around to sense. I think? It just rubbed me the wrong way but I think Jason is just coming to this conclusion himself. It's not mentioned when Roys' upset that she didn't greet him. Nor for the three weeks they were together when Roy didn't notice any changes in her. When Jason says "turns out" it doesn't seem like he's too sure or is just coming to this conclusion. 

But it seems that both Roy and him are more concerned with the memory loss (despite the art saying otherwise.) Jason says she doesn't remember Dick nor the Titans implying he did ask, he even encourages Roy to see for himself. Which he does to her irritation, likely because she heard these questions before and shows not interest in it.

Roy says "interesting" and some have read this as him thinking of using her for sex. I have to agree with another poster that Roy isn't thinking about sex as they were just talking about her and Jason. The guy who just saved his life and is supposed to have a temper. Roy is indeed under the impression the two are dating before she corrects him saying that she belongs to no one. He's even shocked that she would ask him for sex in the first place (remember the "a you" line?) What was with the "interesting" line then? Likely that she'd forget the screw ups he made since you don't always get to get rid of peoples' perceptions of you. 

They do have sex but what fascinates me is the non reaction from Jason over this. True we don't see his expression but he walks into the room they are sleeping in, glances over, gets his stuff and leaves without a word. No cliches over feeling betrayed. How does Kory feel about these men? When she first sees Jason she's beaming, he politely asks her to see if there's danger ahead and she smiles like it's not big deal. She thinks of how they both make her laugh so yes I think she really likes them.

The memory thing is troubling though because it makes no sense. Some think she's faking it so she can have sex without being judged and hope her cope with heartbreak. The writer has said she's not very happy with Dick which wouldn't make sense if she forgot him for good. I think this will be explored later so we'll see.

How do the characters fare writing wise? Kory suffers the most as she makes it clear that love has nothing to do with sex. I don't think it's bad that she slept with two different men, many skim over it when Bruce Wayne is a player.

Roy isn't as confident as he previously was, he's a little goofy but as Jason say "a nice guy." He obviously feels down on himself and his past. I was pleasantly surprised by Jason as this is the healthiest he's been written in awhile if not ever. He's given up on Gotham and his family there to move on with his life. He's social, especially with Roy then a woman from his past. Vulnerable when grieving for another person he's lost and well, sweet. 

It makes me more confused than anything else, I was far more pissed off during the Giffin/DeMatteis run on Booster Gold where most of the women were written in unflattering lights. I almost dropped that run before Jurgens came back so I'm willing to see where this goes as I have more faith in this writer than that pair of writers.

Say What?: The country Roy was being held captive is the same on Cheshire nuked in previous canon. 

While it's unclear how much is still canon Roy makes a comment about Arkham doctors thinking Jason was crazy. In the last arc featuring Jason in Batman and Robin (written by Winick) he was locked up in Arkham. The reason for this still doesn't make a bit of sense to me ( because Arkham is "safer"? WTF Batman?) but Jason passed all the sanity tests. Of course Roy is saying he's heard all of this and doesn't know from personal experience what Jason is like suggesting they had limited interaction. They have interacted in past canon both as Robin/Speedy and a panel in Outsiders they were standing together as Red Hood/Arsenal. Jason mentions that Dick tried to have him locked up a couple of times. Only in the Morrison run was he locked up because of Dick. The first time was because of Tim when he was injured. 

I know that Lobdell has said that he likes reading what fans think because he didn't get the chance to do so while he was on titles like X-Men but is he using the "Jason has killer thighs" meme? Yes, there is this thing online where it was noticed that artists tend to drawn bigger thighs on Jason. The joke was if Dick has the best rear in the bat family then Jason has the best thighs. Hence Jason sporting the lower half of his fat suit caused many chuckles as did the priest call back to Flashpoint.

Did the dead just come back to life?

Did you notice?: Lady Flashpoint in the alley in Chicago. Miscolored white with purple swirls I thought were supposed to be bloody walls. Same page has the tell tale shadow of Crux.

Verdict: This would be a perfect comic if Starfire wasn't in it. Look, I could buy Kory having one night stand sex because she feels like it, even with these two if written right. But the whole forgetfulness of humans is off. It doesn't fit. It reads like there were two different writers and the one doing the Kory part was trying to do a sci-fi twist that came out awkward and feels wrong. I don't think that Lobdell feels this way about women, he's written some seriously kickass women but he also likes to try wild things to see what works. This doesn't. I'm hoping for a plot twist like Crux ending up having similar desires because of the alien DNA he's using.

Roy and Jason have a great dynamic especially in the Kory-less scenes. I loved the quip about Jason finally breaking down to ask for the batmobile only to see their ride and have Jason saying it was worth it to have Roy speechless. Or Roy yelling out "tanks" and Jason thinking he was saying "thanks." I do wish the editors would have listened when Lobdell asked not to have Kory in his formally street level book because this would have been so much better as a buddy book.

The hidden backstory with Jason is fascinating although I have a feeling it was overshadowed by other things. Was he talking to a witch? Someone who's dead? Who is this woman he's mourning? Was Lost Days retconned? Because Jason was pretty young when he was restored by the pit. Bottom line to a very long review: I hated the way Kory memory thing but I enjoyed everything else. This has potential. I'm willing to give Lobdell a little leeway and keep reading but please work on this. I get that none of these characters are supposed to be in the best of places and it's about their developing, redemption, recovery, etc. But it could have worked fine with them all just being friends. 


  1. Wow. Nice review. I picked this up while traveling because I knew you would review and you were excited about it. I thought it was a good read, but before I can really comment on much of your review I feel like I need to read it again. You noticed some of the small stuff that I didn't.

  2. Thanks. I liked it better the second read, since I was spoiled the first read really bothered me. I liked most of it but like I said the memory thing bothered me. I'm hoping it's going some where positive.