Thursday, May 23, 2013

Red Hood and the Outlaws #20

Now we know the why for Jasons' actions last issue thanks to Batman and Red Hood #20. I put most of my feelings over that in that review but I have to say this still feels off to me. Not just the extremely rushed nature of destroying a fragile reconnection between our bats. But there's a whole lot of crap happening to Jason back to back in a lot of titles that has him in some helpless roles more often than not acting as the victim. DOTF, the RHATO DOTF tie ins, Justice League, Batman Inc., Batman and Red Hood (more on a emotional level) and now this. Since this is happening right after Lobdells' issues it feels like I missed an arc and as much as I love the focus on Roy it's not helping that feeling.

I really want to like Tynions' run but certain things are bothering me. It's like one thing sorta gets explained then another problem pops up. Under Lobdell S'aru was a laid back guy that knew he shouldn't break the rules but figured why not since there was no one around. He was bored and became interested in the three leads. When they returned he didn't let them know he peeked at their memories. Here? He protests when Jason asked him to break the rules then changes his mind instantly when Jason explained his reasoning. Never informing him that he'd have to take all the memories if they were going by a certain definition. Not only does he freely own up to breaking the rules but the crowning gem--he decides to show them Jasons' personal memories! WTF! That's seriously violating Jason and is creepy as hell! Storywise this feels really forced, it just doesn't flow right. It's fairly obvious S'aru is plotting something but that doesn't help the creepy feeling.

If he's not up to something like Roy suspects then why would he be trying to convince them that they shouldn't be friends with Jason and should all accept what happened? To cover his own ass? Because that's the only reason I can think of. Who are they going to complain to? They don't even know Ducras' spirit is around, there's no one they could report to for the rule breaking. If I understand this right S'aru is claiming he can't just remove a few memories because their all connected. ...Except he already did that when they first met him and he had to take one "most cherished" memory from all of them. Mr. Expert was shocked that two of them weren't the standard happy memories. In short S'arus' actions and explanation are bulllshit. He never informed Jason what he was doing before he acted (he did it during when he couldn't object) and it doesn't match up with what we previously saw. Plus the All Caste are supposed to be about accepting the darkness and using it as stated in the last issue, so why would S'aru be all for erasing it? Neither Roy nor Kori even question these things which makes the "twist" all the more irksome for me even if I saw it coming.

There's a snapshot of Jasons' life that are, well, questionable. Three of them we already know 100% are bits from his past since they showed up prior to this. Jasons' mother being a drug addict, his infamous encounter with Joker that led to his death and demanding to know why Batman didn't kill Joker. Here's where things start to get a bit off.

  • Jason shirtless in bed asking Talia (dressed) why she brought him back. This is a bit weird for several reasons. While this isn't proof that they had sex in this canon it's not what was shown in Lost Days either. Odd pillow talk if they did have sex. This seems to contradict what Lobdell wrote in #2 as Talia tells Ducra that they don't know how Jason came back and all she did was throw him in the pit which restored his soul. Later in the same issue Jason confirms the story to himself in his narrative. Also Talia was shocked in Lost Days that Jason didn't care how he came back. He later told Bruce he didn't care. Retconning his unknown means of return also seems weird since Batman and Red Hood #20 had Bruce force Jason to go to the spot he was killed in hopes he could find out how it happened. Why would he do that if he was under the impression it was just the pit that did it? Since Tynion talked to Tomasi it'd seem like a weird miscommunication if he was brought back by the pit.
  • Jason, while shirtless (his boxers are seen here) shows Ducra a newspaper with the headline "Joker goes free." He asks how Batman could let this happen. Not really sure why any prison would let Joker go but I'll move on. I find this odd since Jason happens to have newspapers on him to show during his stay with the All Caste. In Lost Days Talia gave them to him (who knows why) which triggered a violent reaction. Did she stuff it in his bags this time or did he? Also why is he in his underwear? The only time we saw that was during the ritual he was doing under Lobdell and that was because he was under water.
  • Jason, wearing an undershirt and boxers, in a fetal position with Joker hovering over him repeating word for word what he said in RHATO #15 (DOTF tie in.) This one can't be a memory because it doesn't fit with anything. If Tynion is suggesting Joker did manipulate Jasons' life this would have to be in the past. Only his speech is clearly from a later point and Jason was never like this before him. At most he wore a towel while fighting the police while Joker watched from the distance. Which suggests this is in fact a fear/nightmare, not an actual memory. That instantly calls into question how much of this is his memory. Funny how most of these questionable memories have him in various states of undress.
  • Jason as Robin saves Roy during his addict days (the drinking problem being the only addiction mentioned.) This changes how Lobdells' run reads. While Roy implies that they met before he's saved in #1 it was alluded to being during Jasons' Red Hood days since he told Roy that he'd be by himself if he became a solider of fortune. Lobdell never got a chance to show how they met but the general impression was that Roy didn't know what Jason was really like. He questions if the rumors and persona Jason projects are true several times. Roys' shown to be amazed each time he learns something good about him and slowly understands him better. I'm not sure he would act the same if he met Jason like this because he'd already know he was a good kid that tried to help him out. Having Roy surprised over Jasons' "gooey center" for saving a village doesn't seem as likely.
Kori thinks Jason wanted this, given her own reactions and claims concerning memories it's not too surprising that she'd take this stance. Roy calls S'aru out on his bull about Jason wanting it, pointing out it wasn't what he asked for. S'aru continues to defend his actions no matter what Roy counters with. He says that the Joker did affect his friendship with them. The same night Roy met him was the same one that led to his death since he discovered his mother was still alive. Naturally Jason never told him that and Roys' assumed they never mentioned that meeting because of how messed up he was. While S'aru keeps on being an unlikable dick saying that Jason never told him a lot of things I have to say: so what? That's not news. The information doesn't change anything in regards to their friendship, it just has to do with him hurting over his past.

Should I make a list of all the things that change from Lobdell to Tynion? Because I'm fairly certain the All Caste were referred to as assassins more than once. They taught Jason how to kill. Sure it mostly had to do with the Untitled but read the section in RHATO #5 during the flashback with Ducra. Jason thanks her for teaching him how personal taking a life is. I guess we can throw Lost Days out the window for good because we have another new origin for how he learns to be a killer. (Despite learning from people who were repeatedly called assassins.) Instead of being taught by people Talia knows that hide the evil they do he finds mercs and goes along with what they said? Jason doesn't act like a lost puppy during this period of his life. Seriously, in Lost Days Jason uncovered several evil plots while in his revenge mindset. He had to wing it a couple times but he was far more together than this! Or the flashback in RHATO #8 where he kills a room full of mobsters. That was far more in character even if he was acting pretty damn rash. I'll also remind you that it was supposed to be a week after Jason left the All Caste and he didn't need any extra training to get him to kill.

Roy's affected by how lost Jason looked and says he never knew he went so far before he found his way again. ...WHAT? This is the same Roy Harper that laughed at the tale of Jason killing mobsters after demanding money with nothing but a sword. The one that heard so many bad things that he wondered if Red Hood was crazy. The same Red Hood that took over the drug trade in Gotham and killed in UTH? Yeah maybe the people they were fighting weren't bad guys in the memory but Roy thought Jason wanted to kill Dick at the start of this series. NOW he's shocked? It doesn't fit his previous attitude.

S'aru couldn't actually tell what memories people had unless he removed them. He seems to know everything now and despite having problems unlocking Koris' memories he's naturally knows all her secrets this time around. Oh he's a telepath now? Fine whatever. Roys' shocked to learn Kori hasn't been truthful with him regarding her memories which doesn't mesh since Lobdell implied that both of the boys knew but chose not to mention it. Tynion does clear out the mess with the memories--sort of--by stating that she can repress hurtful memories if she wishes to do so. Since S'aru isn't done being a rule breaking hypercritical asshole he decides to violate her mind too. It involves Dick and I guess she hurt him once? She stops S'aru from going any further than showing her firing in the direction close to Dick. While Kori attacks our magical peeping Tom Roy tries to protect Jason but the whole thing freaks the former badass. He tells them to stop fighting and talking about him as if he's not there. Then tells Roy to respect his choice if he's truly his friend.

Roy Harper: As your friend, I need you to understand--you would have hated this. I can't even believe that you'd want to forget a crappy hate losing the upper hand. They're playing you here, and you don't realize it.

The above is a example of why this makes no sense for the character. I don't think any writer is foolish enough to throw away the storytelling gold of Jason Todd to start with a blank slate so I'm not too worried. But I don't really see the point in any of this. Jason debates with Roy and Roy injects him with something to knock him out. He tries to get S'aru but his expanding random powers continues as he turns the arrow into liquid. Even though he already broke several rules S'aru states he can't give the memories back because--wait for it--it's against the rules! Only Jason can ask for them back. Teleporting the three out of the Acres of All and into the snow because he's tired of their complaining. Yeah he can teleport too. I'll give them this one because of the big gulp and sub he had in Rocoforts' art. The best part has to be the reveal at the end with Ollie finding out that trio has a price on their heads and deciding he has to save Roy.

Overall: I don't think Tynion gets Jason Todd. Not the whole picture at least. If BFTC is the extreme for writing him too violent and well, making him evil this is the other extreme. Tynion writes how Jason is basically ruled by his rage but most of the time he comes off as someone that's completely out of his depth, ignorant of his own actions and as a result comes off as dim. This is the street smart Robin that under this writer has gotten involved in a robbery involving a friend with a gun, freaks out and reveals his name resulting in a womans' death. Are we supposed to believe he's really so wide eyed that he didn't suspect a group of mercs would do acts of evil? Again look at Lost Days, he worked with mercs then told a group of boy soldiers where to find them to end said evil. Jason keeps his emotions close to the vest unless with those he trusts or reacts by lashing out at those who did wrong. Not falling to his knees with a stunned expression and wonder out loud if this whole thing was evil. Again this is someone we're told was overcome by rage. Sure he has more than one emotion but this is the guy that acted cool until he can react properly and more physically, depending on the situation. Sometimes he would lash out. He doesn't want to lose the upper hand. If his memories are gone then it's a waste of all the great development he's gotten recently. If it's not then why bother at all? I know people that use this plot to make the characters closer or explore the characters' past. But there are other ways of doing that.

S'aru, a character I found amusing and fun lacks all his former charm. He's a jackass that seems to do things simply because he feels like it. I don't get the feeling he actually cares about any of them when just a few panels of the first issue he appeared in made me think he did. I figured he was involved with Ducra but that doesn't excuse the way he was written. Maybe if he made it seem like a misunderstanding, a mistake that he couldn't take back and didn't rub their noses in their past I could buy it. This was too heavy handed.

Roy comes off the best in this but like I said a lot of this was changed from what was shown with the last writer. He obviously cares deeply for both his friends but I think his actions towards Jason might have made things worse. There was a feeling he knew Kori was stretching the truth but now it looks like they were taking advantage of each other.

The repressed memory thing works a bit but it also makes Kori come off really bad. Not just lying about Dick but because she apparently told (at least) Roy that she'd forget him if he left her. Something they should have known was bull because both Roy and Jason have left Kori for various missions. She was gone from their presence for a while in her issue of DC Presents. She said she would return to them when she thought she was going off alone in the space arc. The woman that told Jason that she wasn't defined by men is defined by men. She can't deal with Dick, seems to be controlling Roy and maybe even Jason to prevent them from leaving her. Right. This is the same woman that wanted to exile herself because she was tired of dealing with others and realized she liked having her friends around. I have no problem with her keeping things to herself but imagine if a guy told a woman that his memories made it so he'd forget her if she left. It seems desperate and controlling.

Essence having the same goal as Ducra and S'aru but using different means works well. It helps explain why S'aru was so relaxed about the Untitled walking past him after the All Caste was murdered. I don't think I can buy these three plotting this unless another new power appears with them all being seers. Although Bruce being a bastard can be predictable. I'm hoping the rest of this arc comes together because it's not working so far. I'm willing to see this out, I'm not actually mad although I know it's hard to get a feel with just text. Frustrated? Yeah.

Did You Notice?:

Arsenal has a mullet. Why?

The sign behind Robin Jasons' head is hard to read but it's obviously a wanted sign. The only letters at the bottom that are readable are "RE" pretty ironic if that's supposed to be a old Red Hood poster. I'm going to assume it is.

So now S'aru can do whatever the plot or joke demands. Including making snarky hats for Roy. WTF?

Say What?:

Kori stares out at Jason when he was Robin saying that he was so small. In the art work he's the same height as addict Roy. Still a nice touch for her to notice.

S'arus' claim that the night Jason met Roy was the same that he discovered his mother was alive. According to RHATO #0 Jason was basically grounded, on monitor duty which he viewed as one step away from being fired. S'aru then says that the next day Jason went to see his mother which led to his death. RHATO #0 says three days later he arrived.

Roy says it took him years to reach out again but the only time we saw that was after Jason saved him. Perhaps something happened prior to #1 with him trying to be friends?

What the hell is it with Jason giving out his name so freely in the relaunch? Lobdell did this too with Suzie Su knowing who he was but it makes no sense. Sure he doesn't legally exist but wouldn't someone be like: "Jason Todd. Huh, looks like Batmans' funder Bruce Wayne had an adopted son by that name. HEY! That looks just like the Jason I knew!" In Lost Days Jason refused to give his name, at least what I can recall. He did it at least twice. People let him get away with it because he had the money.

Questions Raised?:

Another question left over from Lobdell: What is S'aru? What were the dead All Caste members sans Ducra? They were really old and in S'arus' case had magic.

When is this merc period supposed to take place? Lobdell had Jason go from the All Caste to killing mobs for awhile.

Why was the memory of Dick so much worse than half her life in slavery? Kori felt betrayed by her sister, something she said was worse than any physical pain she suffered. Why didn't she repress those memories? This just comes off really bad.

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