Saturday, October 19, 2013

Red Hood and the Outlaws #24

I believe this is part seven of nine? Ten if we count the Year Zero tie in but we'll see if it actually fits or is more of a stand alone. So just two more issues to go with this arc and another tie in issue between those before it ends.


Last time we saw the "Blood Mage" Graystone was being cliché saying it was time to kick ass assassin style. The first page of this shows that didn't work out well for him since he was almost killed when he was punched up to the broken gates of the hidden city. Graystone knows the robed guy helping the Untitled and says he figured he was part of this. Which makes the man's ID more obvious than it was before. Like the Untitled have done in the past issues Graystone uses his magic to show how the fight's going to the other man. The Untitled are fighting the Council of the League and Jason which should be entertaining. It's not. In some places it doesn't even make sense.

Take for example what Jason says within his first couple of pages. Why is attacking the Untitled "payback" if he can't remember his past? All he should know is that they threaten the world. Apparently he knows how to fight them thanks to Ducra telling him what to do. Which--again--goes against what we were told in this arc about Jason knowing what to do since he needs to be spoon fed information and trusts it despite not knowing why he should listen. This is a character that knows people are trying to manipulate him. And Bronze Tiger doesn't know the bit about copper? Then how were the LOA supposed to fight against these guys in the first place? (Of course Ben never bothered to tell Jason why the fountain was important.) For that matter why even bother having magic swords that come from Jason's body (sigh) when copper is still the thing that weakens them?

Every time Roy and Cheshire are forced to share panel time I want Lian to be born less and less. Their interaction just doesn't feel genuine and hasn't been as fun as it was in the annual. Why does Roy feel compelled to share his feelings with the woman that previously freaked him out? That's sort of random. Although the place and person Roy is talking to doesn't make sense I will give Tynion credit for having Roy own up to his mistakes even if he still comes off a little too "woe is me." It was wrong of him to try to force Jason to do things he didn't want to and be someone he can't remember. I can sort of understand his friction with Kori since he felt like she'd throw him away. I'm not fond of that retcon but I could at least see how Roy would feel that way. Was he selfish to her too? Yeah, because whatever she's hiding does cause her obvious pain that she's not ready to face.

Back at the fight Jason tells the others the obvious that they need to lure the Untitled into the Well. This is pretty much the extent of his "leadership" role to the LOA as it's the only thing they follow. They always argue with him anyway so it's a pretty meaningless title. The Untitled decide to pull the "chosen one" in for a closer look. For some reason Jason expresses shock that the magical formally transparent enemies can turn into black smoke. Pretty sure Cheshire mentioned that bit to Jason and the others in one of the past issues. The Untitled leader Drakkar is curious how good Jason is, if he's really Ducra's best pupil or just part of a trick. He decides to test the theory out trying the newly made retcon of the Untitled having mental powers. You know, the ones they didn't previously have. Otherwise the first one Jason fought could have read his mind instead of trying to steal his liver to get the information.

So this whole pointless memory loss arc was done for an unneeded complication to the mythos that's gone within seconds. Not sure how simply reading his mind would achieve anything if they can't control him. Something they could do enough to stop people in #5 but not Jason himself. After that we get another anti-climatic bit with Jason forcing Drakkar into the Well of Sins. That's right, the big threat Lobdell built up and Tynion made seem so impressive that they needed another army to fight them is easily beaten.

Now Cheshire suddenly acts less psycho apparently touched that Roy cares for his friends. Which she would have known from the annual since he almost died trying to save Jason and freaked out over Kori being hurt. But the fact she saw it in his eyes is apparently more moving. Cheshire laments that no one would have broken into the city of assassins to save her. This gets her to help Roy even though he doesn't trust her. It seems a little late in the game to make her have sanity and try to get us to care for her just because she makes sad faces. I'll remind you that this is the same woman that told Kori she'd cut off Roy's arms and threatened to chain him up to use as a poison test rat. That a few issues ago gleefully killed off three men (I assume they were prostitutes based on what was said) then told Jason she couldn't get Roy out of her head. The one that laughed at the thought of them all dying against smoky cavemen and otherwise didn't seem to care. I don't feel sorry for this insane woman and can't because none of this feels earned.

I already had enough trouble buying the idea of such a loose canon being at the top of the LOA. And if she had such a vulnerable side I can't see Roy being the one to break through just because he shed a tear and wore his heart on his sleeve. She wasn't so nice when he was poisoned and crawling in a desperate attempt to save his best friend. So Roy would affect her but a younger more innocent Jason didn't? Not even the mindwiped one that is so against killing and has repeatedly said he misses his friends? The person she should know a little better? Why? Because she wants to get into Roy's pants when she's not harboring maiming fantasies?

Drakkar commands the other Untitled to save him from having his powers taken by the Well of Sins. (Even though this once again goes against what Lobdell wrote since they don't work together and want to control others.) He gets depowered and they tell Jason he can't take them down. Shiva takes what could be a good Jason moment to attack with hundreds of Manbats. Cheshire teleports Roy to Kori's cell to tell her that she's sorry and gets emotional watching them together. Off panel the rest of the Untitled are put into the Well and Drakkar tries to kill Jason from behind only to get his neck snapped by Ben. So Jason apparently couldn't take care of a weakened human and a potential ongoing threat and arch-enemy is once again easily swept away. Jason can sort of understand the need to kill Drakkar but points out that they can't cull the others without his say so since they put him in charge. Which of course is the cue for the robed informant to turn up. Ben and Shiva know his voice and the man says that the "little bird" played his part.

Jason wants the LOA to stop the guy but Graystone reminds them that they shouldn't. (Even though he's wearing white robes just like the guys they were fighting.) Having memory loss and not being up to date on who the obvious baddie is Jason asks. Our new big bad admits that he betrayed the All Caste to the Untitled knowing they would come to the lair of the assassins next. That they would fall and he would finally get the power he only got scraps of before. It's--well it's Ra's Al Ghul of course. It's been obvious for awhile, it would have been sooner if the artist didn't make him look like one of the Untitled with the white robes. Back at the Acres of All S'aru and Ducra talk about whether or not Jason can end this by himself. Ducra says he can because he's done it before in Gotham which will be shown in the Year Zero issue.

Overall: I remember when people were saying Lobdell should have left TT and stuck with this. Staying with the title he did the best work on and leaving the one many consider his worst series. I feel like the same thing can be said about Tynion leaving Talon and staying on this book. The dialogue is really bad especially the attempts to make characters look badass.

Jason Todd: Pretty sure it's a simple case of kicking your smoking ass.

The Ra's Al Ghul connection does makes sense but other than that I didn't like much. Roy's confession was good although it would have worked better if it was said to someone who made sense not just baiting Cheshire/Roy fans. For the first time in the series Roy admits that Kori is his girlfriend, something that's been unclear up until this point as neither seemed to clarify their relationship. My favorite part in this whole thing was the panel Roy and Kori touching the glass that separated them. Just the longing and the love between them that's really shined in the past and made me want to go back and reread older issues. I would have liked more of the nods Ra's makes to Jason if they were more original or made more sense. A good attempt although "little bird" is Shiva's name for Tim preboot and Dick in the new 52. But that's not the one that bugged me as "young detective" is actually hilarious in hindsight since Tynion's Ra's/Untitled retcon means Jason was completely wrong about the All Caste murderers. Plus he's hasn't done anything impressive or smart in this arc.

I know this isn't the end of this story but it wasn't worth what was taken to make this arc happen. It wasn't worth throwing away the fragile bond Jason and Bruce were rebuilding. Nor the memory loss plot that has such a weak footing to begin with. And certainly not at the expense of making the series biggest threat into pathetically weak opponents. The leads don't shine at all. Kori was reduced so much she has no presence. Roy at least gets some development but not without forcing the Cheshire plot. Jason may be the "chosen one" but there wasn't much of a fight, he hardly led the LOA and in it he barely did anything. He's still a clueless puppet throughout this which remains very grating. Nothing S'aru or Ducra say after this can be trusted now. I'm not even sure I trust the "Talia chose Jason to lead" bit even if Ra's echoed it himself. Besides being used as a pawn what purpose would they have for Jason to lead the LOA? The whole thing feels needlessly contrived to create a false sense of conflict.

None of this would be possible if Bruce didn't treat Jason like crap in Batman and Red Hood #20. For all the great planning Ducra and S'aru claim to have they couldn't have known the timing. That the fake hits would be put on the Outlaws heads? Sure, but that Jason would come to them right then? Unless they made Bruce act like an ass that was pure luck that things went their way. Everything hinged on Jason being affected enough by something to see S'aru right then and there.

I don't see the need for Bronze Tiger having the ability to change into his namesake which makes it a pretty pointless change. It's not a bad design but it should have been done for a new character. It's only shown for a good visual in any case as he's been in that form for no reason in past issues and it hasn't seemed to do anything to improve his fighting. Rictcus has no real character to speak of. The League of Assassins just aren't interesting in this. In general it feels like Tynion is doing some backpedalling like his attempt to make Cheshire more likable even though he stated in interviews getting together with Roy would be unhealthy.

I've been holding off on voicing this because I hate to say it but reading these issues a question always comes up. Did Tynion read the previous run? Sometimes it seems like it but most of the time he seemed to just skimmed it. I also get this impression reading interviews and comments Tynion has written on the series. One saying that the moment Dick Grayson sees/realizes Roy and Kori are hanging out with Jason would be amazing. Readers of Lobdell's run know Dick is aware of those bonds of friendship as he spoke to Jason and asked him to look after Kori. Still it's weird considering Tynion based his first arc on the baddies Lobdell invented. It's never even mentioned that Jason ACTUALLY KILLED AN UNTITLED BEFORE. It makes the Well of Sins bit kind of pointless for being something that can defeat them. But of course it was needed for the Ra's Al Ghul link.

While the connection is logical and the betrayal of Ra's/All Caste made sense it's also a disservice to the mythos Lobdell set up. Because the villains he created were made specifically for Jason to fight and their easily defeated in order to make way for Ra's. The All Caste were supposed to be the only group that could stand up to them, their killed which Jason says that nothing short of an alien invasion could do and then we get these push overs as the murderers? It's such a disappointment and doesn't even feel like Jason had to be there in order for this to work. We see Jason defeat one of them just because Drakkar was stupid enough to bring him closer. Shiva and the Manbats take care of the rest. The Untitled, the group set up as the big bads for the series are reduced to cheap thugs and dismissed as nothing important.

If I understand Tynion's view on this destiny thing then Jason wasn't just the All Caste's chosen one. Now it seems he's going with the "the Al Ghuls are straight up assholes" point of view that Morrison did. Ra's only wants power and maybe his family back (although that's not mentioned here.) For some reason Talia picked Jason for this leader-in-waiting thing. Because of his previous destiny? Connection to Bruce? I have a sinking feeling more of this unneeded pre-destined crap will be in Year Zero. So instead of taking care of Jason out of her love for Bruce, seeing Jason as a miracle and coming to care for him this is all a game. Jason has no agency and is just a pawn in his own life. ...This is one of the many reasons I'm dreading #25.

I doubt Jason will do more than depower Ra's Al Ghul since so much of Inc. has yet to be explored and other writers seem interested in doing so. I also dread the next issue since Tynion has yet to do Jason Todd's character justice and wants to connect this destiny spiel more. Nothing interesting or groundbreaking is done here. If anything it just reduces the series and the leads which is a shame after Lobdell built them up. I've been leery of Batman Eternal with Tynion as one of the writers. If Jason shows up I hope one of the other writers handles him because Tynion has yet to find his voice.

He seems to be under the impression that Jason Todd repeatedly lets himself be bullied into things he knew were morally wrong or dumb enough not to know better. That's not Jason Todd, read Red Hood Lost days to see him putting the breaks on his training--many times--to help innocent people and put a end to his teachers crimes. Or his actual post-crisis origin. Hell even his most infamous Robin story about him potentially killing/letting a rapist die showed he didn't put up with these things. Bruce always feared that Jason was never scared enough and rushed off too much to save others. How do you get that wrong? The conflict with his morals was that he wanted to end those things not meeky go along with it or allow others to do so! I promised to follow this arc through and maybe give the next arc a try. I never thought I'd consider giving this series up but I REALLY wish Lobdell would come back.

Did You Notice?: Can Jason fly now? Because that's what it looks like after he drops Drakkar in the Well of Sins.

Questions Raised: Graystone's magic wasn't strong enough to fight these guy but other non-magical assassins could face the Untitled? How?

Why is Jason the "chosen one" if apparently anyone can stab them if they have copper stakes? Neither Kori or Roy could ever do much against Essence under Lobdell and it was even hinted at him having special abilities like seeing Essence when no one else could. Whether it was a link between his death/rebirth or time with the All Caste wasn't clear. It was subtle not beaten into our heads.  Here the assassins--for the most part--can go one on one with them. Why was he even needed?

How does Jason know the leader of the Untitled is named Drakkar? They were never introduced and it can at least be assumed Drakkar knows him through his informant.

What was the deal with the glowing chest and creating swords? Seriously! Why couldn't he just use the actual copper All-Swords? I assume this, the memory loss and the McGuffin Essence mentioned (the "pure life essence") will be brought up again with Ra's Al Ghul but really it feels wasted.

The idea of this Assassin City sounds okay until you start wondering why no one told Bruce. According to Tynion in a interview Bruce is aware of it's existence just doesn't know where it is. So he never asked Damian for the location or even asked Jason if he knew after Damian's body went missing?

I'm guessing Ducra knew that Ra's wasn't someone she could trust but why let him protect the Well of Sins in the first place?!

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