Sunday, October 21, 2012

Starfire Friend or Lover? Part 1 Kori and Jason

This has been bugging me for awhile because most seem to assume a lot based on the first issue and what critics against the series say. Let me start off by saying, no Kori does not have random sex with any guy that passes by. I was actually surprised by the lack of attention Kori gets from most of the opposite sex compared to some issues pre-relaunch where her sex appeal is almost always brought up. Of course since the first issue started it begs the question: What exactly is Roy Harper and Jason Todds’ relationship with Princess Koriand’r?

In the first issue it was assumed that Kori and Jason slept together. This is only alluded to in a conversation between Roy and Jason. Shocked that Starfire is helping Roy asks if she's with him. Jason says, "With us. But yeah she's been "with" me." The wording is interesting given the fact that the title character isn't always forthcoming. (*1) I don't think it should be taken at face value. At this stage Jason is very uncomfortable with terms like team and friends. Just prior to Starfire showing up Jason verbally lashes out at Roy for suggesting that their a team in a partly self deprecating way.

By hitting a sore spot for both of them (their falling outs with their mentors/their perceived failures) Jasons’ also giving a reason for his reluctance to get close to others. What happened with Bruce hurt him deeply and the idea of letting anyone else in scares him because it opens him up to potential heartache. Roy immediately jumps to the conclusion that Kori and Jason are together, something Jason never actually confirms or denies. After Roy voices his disbelief that someone like Kori would “lower herself to a you” Jason jokes about girls liking him, something that we later learn isn’t what he really thinks. (*2) When she ignores Roy, well Jason rubs it in that Kori showed more interest in him. That scene and the one at the beach have Jason acting more like a jerk than he does after this issue.

Though Roy will become something of the truth sayer in further issues he doesn’t really understand his traveling companions at this point. It's something Jason uses to his advantage as he's trying to keep an emotional distance from them. While acting very causal about the whole thing Jason shrugs off Roys’ questions, stretches the truth and acts like it’s no big deal when he encourages the archer to talk to her about her past. But as we’ll see in issue #6 there’s more going on than he says.

The truth of the matter is I don’t believe Jason and Kori had sex. Scott Lobdell has this habit in writing this title that’s both a blessing and a curse. It’s that he doesn’t explain everything. The problem is when he doesn’t go into detail on things like how character A meets up with character B even though they were previously going to different places. It’s a good thing, at least as far as I’m concerned, when he doesn’t insult the readers by holding their hand to explain the main character interactions in full. The hints I've picked up on make it look like the two never hooked up. Issue 6 shows how Kori and Jason met and explore just what their relationship is.

After saving his life Kori nurses Jason back to health. The first time he sees her isn't a tender moment as Jason was playing possum to learn this strangers' intentions. Lost in a memory of Dick she makes the mistake of brushing his bangs to the side. I think his reaction to this innocent gesture speaks volumes of his trust issues. But given the hints writers have been giving it could mean something deeper. (*3) Regardless waking up on a strange island with an unknown person touching you when they think you're passed out, you're naked and wounded would freak anyone out. He passes out from the exertion then wakes up days later. The two meet up and it's shown why Kori thinks he's a clown like Roy. He shows childlike excitement at meeting an alien but reigns it in once he sees how much it annoys her. The tone shifts when she offers him some male clothes--Dick Graysons' former duds to be exact.

This gives another big reason why I find it so hard to believe these two got together. As soon as he gets over his shock he assumes she wants him to play dress up and gives a firm no. (*4) This starts a nice conversation where Kori says she doesn't need anything to define herself. Not men, not clothes. Her advise is that Jason shouldn't let them define him either, something that he will later take to heart as he uses one of Dicks' armored costumes. Given Jasons' issues with his adopted family I can't see him wanting to start anything with Dicks' ex. He knows she loved Dick and given his low self-esteem I doubt he'd want to put himself in a situation where he was fighting against Dicks' memory. Maybe she wouldn't see it that way but he would. The issue even has a flashback of Jason believing he's competing against Dick when he was Robin.

But he feels the need to be honest with Kori something that's brought up again when he feels uncomfortable lying to Isabel in #10. Simply that Jason wants people he cares about to know the truth about him. Not just to see if they can accept him for who he is but because they deserve to know these things about a person their trying to be close with. Misunderstanding his meaning Kori kisses him. Shocked he breaks the contact asking why she did that. This wasn't a romantic embrace as she tried to do the skin to skin process that allows her people take in information. (*5) Jason sits down and for the first time since his return has a honest heart to heart with someone, one where he tells her everything. This takes a whole night and once finished he thinks she'll be mad.

That isn't the case as Kori thinks it's foolish to be mad for past actions. (*6) She talks about her people believing in living in the moment and encourages him to let go of his anger as it'll only destroy him. Jasons' thoughts as he narrates give a little insight as he compares her to Bruce as a teacher.

What's really interesting is his speech about the thin line between friendship and romance. Jason believes the only difference is the degree of closeness one wants. While it's not clear if he has romantic feelings towards Kori I read this as him realizing he could fall for her and is determined to stop it from going that far. (*7) Either way he curses the idea that someone else knows the real him. This is a partial explanation for why he's more aloof in the first few issues. The other reason is Roys' presence which ironically makes Kori act in a similar manner.

Although Roy will bring up his encounters with her outloud and in his narrator boxes neither Kori or Jason ever truly allude to anything happening between them. Kori has talked on her relationship with Roy (though not to the extent he does) but not a word on being with Jason in a sexual manner. Though Roy did directly ask her if she was "Jasons' girl" she only stated that she belongs to no one. She doesn't show the same annoyance when Roy refers to her as his girl. Likewise Jason pretty much echoed her statement saying that they weren't together and she was free to be with anyone she wanted. I admit that would be a refreshing attitude to see in comics if they did sleep together but I don't think he'd be so cool if they did. I think there would be some resentment if someone he was with in any sexual/romantic way started something with someone else they traveled with. All he does when he discovers the two in bed is give a glance as he gets his things. His expression isn't shown but his body language doesn't suggest he's upset. Their close friends that care deeply about each other.

In #17 it's been confirmed that they didn't have sex. (*8) Jason also has his doubts on whether what she says about her memories is true. This means that what he told Roy was also something Kori was claiming, which might be why he wanted Roy to talk to her.

The next half of this will talk about Kori and Roy as well as her memories.

*1 Though Jason has told Kori "everything" he gets frustrated with his friends attempts to get close. He mainly keeps Roy in the dark but there is at least one thing he's been less than honest about with both of them and even himself. When Essence shows up he thinks how they met as students of Ducra. Not long after he admits to himself that he was lying because they were more than fellow students. It's not clear how serious the relationship was (likely his first love) but his hurt over her betrayal isn't something he could really hide. Kori and Roy clue into how close they were by overhearing Jasons' talk with her and a comment he murmurs under his breath. When Roy calls her Jasons' ex he denies it.

*2 The only time we see Jason react to getting hit on is with Isabel. While he flirts with her the fact that she's interested enough to give her phone number completely shocks him. Jason doesn't understand why she's attracted to him. In #7 he thinks it means she's clearly nearsighted. Not a guy that feels nearly as confident as the way he acts in #1. Since some of this was presented in #2 it's one of the reasons I think the misleads in #1 were always in the cards. Given the stories I've heard of the planning in DCnU it seems unlikely that they'd have time to change things.

*3 Some writers have hinted at Jason either being sexually abused or forced to sell himself on the streets. These mentions are vague enough to slip past the editors but not strong enough to say anything one way or another. Judd Winick had Jason exchanging some curious words to Mia in Green Arrow about them knowing how hard it was to survive on their own. In an interview he even said there were things DC wouldn't let him do. Tony Daniels was more blunt as he stated that Jason suffered some awful trauma in BFTC. Scott Lobdell might be suggesting something like this in the zero issue. Then again Willis Todd was holding an envelope when he was working the area, so he might have been forcing his son to act as a mule for selling drugs. Still his wording here sounds like he's concerned he might be attacked in such a manner.

*4 This reads more like Jason than a lot of pre-DCnU non-Winick stories do. Why would someone that wants to break away from the family he feels abandoned him take on their IDs? After all the crap he went through during his Robin days I can't see him trying to be Nightwing or Batman.

*5 It's the same process she uses to learn how to speak English when she first kisses Dick.

*6 Although it doesn't show how detailed his talk with her was in his narrative he says he told her that like Dick he was taken in by Bruce. He claims to have told her "everything" so she likely knows her ex lovers' rather violent interactions with Jason. Of course Jason acts like it's no big thing when Roy asks if Kori knows and claims she doesn't know Dick at all. While her memory of him seems to have missing pieces she does remember him. Jason knows that. Really it shows how different Jason acts (at the start) with Roy than with Kori. After their talk Jason even thinks she will be angry at him, likely for his fights with Dick.

*7 It's not that farfetched as Jason never been shown as the one who starts things, on panel he's let women make the first move. It was this way with Talia pre-relaunch (unknown if it's still canon.) Isabel hits on him and while not shown he might have been the one to get in touch with her. It's likely that Essence started things since she's older and more experienced. If he thinks things won't work I could see him trying to stay friends.

*8 Before someone brings up Depalo, her first mate on her ship Starfire, he wasn't a person per se. While they were friends I'm not sure if she felt as close to him as she does to Jason. Given Roys' thoughts on Kori and him not being close before they started hanging out with Jason I don't think she was that close to anyone else back then. Except Dick.

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