Red Hood and the Outlaws 9

Today, Patrick and Peter are discussing Red Hood and the Outlaws 9 originally released May 16th, 2012. This issue is part of the Night of the Owls crossover event. Click here for complete NotO coverage. Not caught up on Red Hood and the Outlaws? No problem! Get up to speed with our video Cram Session.

Patrick: Being that the Retcon Punchers and obsessive-nerd-completionists, we feel the need to know as much as we can about a subject. The Night of the Owls presents an interesting challenge to us – and to many comic readers: what do you read and what do you ignore? I suppose it’s a question we all face every day, and it applies to a far broader band than “what comic books should I read?” We decide which foods we eat, which concerts we attend, which causes we champion, which people we befriend. There’s literally no way to shake the nagging feeling that (no matter what choices we’re making) we’re missing something. This is compounded by the all-too-frequent experience of discovering something that you had previously blown off is really good. That has been my experience with Red Hood and the Outlaws.

This title, and these characters, are STEEPED in nutty-nutty-nutty DC Universe mythology. If you haven’t already watched our video recap for this series, I urge you to do it before reading any further.

Okay, good? Let’s press on.

The Outlaws kick off the action by flying their stolen spaceship over to Chinatown and discover that the place has been ravaged by Mr. Freeze’s ice gun. It quickly becomes apparent that Freeze might be able to take care of himself… in fact, maybe they should try to stop him. As they are wont to do, our heroes split up into two teams: Arsenal-Starfire try to minimize Dr. Freeze’s damage, while Red Hood takes on the Talon solo. The Freeze-fight is pretty straightforward: all participants bicker as they brawl, and our guys eventually capture the villain.

But that Talon fight? The Talon fight is weird. Red Hood and Talon jump around Chinatown, just long enough for Jason to recognize his opponents moves as those of an acrobat. They flip ‘n’ fight their way over a vacant lot that hosts Haly’s Circus when it’s in town. Jason and the Talon realize that they have A LOT in common, and it leads them to have a HEART TO HEART conversation. The Talon asks to be set free from his servitude with the Owls and Jason grants him this with a bullet through the brain. And then the group wraps everything up neatly by dropping off an unconscious Mr. Freeze with Batgirl and bugging out of town.

But let’s start with that Red Hood / Talon heart-to-heart, because… whuh? Talons are ninja-zombies with interesting backstories, not characters to be pitied in the present. Writer Scott Lobdell astutely observes the tragic similarity between these two characters. Much as it has become his custom in the series, Lobdell plays the humor for pathos and the pathos for humor. The clever little trappings slip away, and even the fact that these characters are bound to kill each other cannot override the fact that they have some profoundly fucked-up things in common.

The art in this book is also crazy — almost chaotic in its devotion non-traditional paneling. Artist Kenneth Rocafort has this really cool habit presenting panels that appear to be in motion in sea of white space. His characters can occupy either the panels or the white space, it doesn’t matter. But the result is a bunch of really vital and exciting action sequences. Check out the beginning of the fight between Red Hood, Talon and Mr. Freeze:

The rest of the series looks just as cool as this page, with equal abandon regarding space and motion. Also that bold red border that sometimes accompanies the paneling? That’s rad, right?

Of the issues just crossing through the Night of the Owls (so excluding Batman and Nightwing), I think this easily my favorite. This series is so isolated from the rest of the goings-on in the DC Universe, and Batman’s world in particular, that it’s incredible how effortlessly this ties into Batgirl‘s issue, the Batman Annual, and the general themes of the event in general. Everyone else helps Batman because they’re basically obligated to, but it’s a big character moment for Jason Todd to answer Alfred’s call. Given the icy reception he gets from Babs at the end of the issue, it’s not even like he can expect gratitude from the Bat family.

Also, Arsenal is funny. He’s a funny character that says funny things. Like when he zaps Freeze with electric arrows, he says he’s hitting him with 1.21 gigawatts. I can only assume he’s pronouncing it “jigga-watts.” Also, how about on the first page, when he just out-right calls Alfred’s ABP an “info dump?” How cool is that?

How’d you like this issue Peter? I might be riding the high of binge-reading the whole series (and making that video) over the weekend, but I genuinely had a great time reading this one.

Peter:I read the first two issues of this book back when is started, and it didn’t make it to the third month for me, mostly because of monetary constraints at the time. Then I really just didn’t get back into it – until now. Now all I want to do when I go to the comic book store next week is buy all of the issues I have missed. This issue got me really excited about these characters again. Thinking back on it, this is one of the real anti-hero stories going on in the New 52 (except for All-Star Western, Deathstroke and maybe Grifter? I don’t know I’m not reading that one). Jason Todd’s character has come along way since he was brought back from the dead. He has danced on the line between good and evil more than many characters, which always leads to some pretty interesting stuff.

The thing that sticks out the most to me in this issue of Night of Owls is the Talon. I talked a lot about William Cobb’s character in my review of Nightwing 9, and this Talon is very different. Also born from Haly’s Circus, this Talon shares similar traits and skills with William, but there is a HUGE twist. It is pretty clear that this Talon doesn’t want to be a Talon like William does. He sees the Court as this overbearing organization, going so far as to make his death the one thing he has complete control over. It’s a very humbling moment. I paused for about a full minute while I was reading this issue on this image.

Even in the wide shot, there is this intense sense of emotion between the two characters, and then that incredibly real sense of peace of Xiao’s face. Gets me every time.

Mr. Freeze’s inclusion made a lot of sense. I remember commenting weeks ago when the Retcon Punchers got a look at the list on the Court’s hitlist and thinking that Freeze must play some large roll due to the Talon’s weakness for cold. Since he was working for them, and it’s clear that his research still is in saving/reanimating human tissue, that the Talon’s newfound powers where somehow connected with him. I am anxious to see how his role will develop as we get into Batman Annual in a few weeks, which he is reportedly playing a pretty big role in.

I definitely plan on picking this title back up (maybe fill in an inevitable hole created by Deathstroke?). The characters, Jason especially, are very amazingly done, and I can’t wait for more.

For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page.  Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore.  If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to DC’s website and download issues there.  There’s no need to pirate, right?

14 comments on “Red Hood and the Outlaws 9

  1. I can’t get over how much I’m enjoying this title. I had completely written it off based on how much it leers at Starfire, but both the art and the writing are much smarter than that. I loved Roy’s 1.21 gigawatts joke, and all of the other pop-culture references that have permeated this title (the punny titles are at least snicker-worthy, even if they’re not always clever). It honestly feels like it was written for our particular brand of fandom.

    Starfire’s costume is still an issue, but Lobdell has mitigated it a bit by making Roy a caricature of a leering fanboy. They’ve also done more to flesh-out her character beyond air-headed nymphomaniac.

    I only realized this recently, but I think one of the reasons I like Jason as a character so much is because he’s kind of an exaggeration of middle child syndrome. He chafed at being held up to the near-impossible standard of Dick, and felt replaced with Tim came along (though, granted, that’s a bit more literal than in a normal sibling dynamic).

    I’ve also said many times that I think Jason would make a lot of sense as a gay character, and I think that might actually make sense here. Sure, he had some kind of relationship with Essence, but he also told Roy he had slept with Kori, which he apparently didn’t. Sounds like bro-y straight-boy posturing to me. We’ll see if he ever gets around to calling that stewardess.

    And HOLY SHIT is the art cool.

    • Drew, Starfire’s costume has always been incredibly questionable. It’s probably as/if not more famous and Power Girl’s boob hole. I like that they have explained it in a way that this isn’t weird for her people at all, not unlike some ancient cultures had smaller amounts of clothing as a whole. It’s more cultural than pervert.

  2. When I first saw the Outlaws were crossing over with the Court of Owls, I wondered how they were going to make the Talons a credible threat to the team when Starfire could easily incinerate the little buggers. For that reasons I was glad to see how they handled that situation, both by having Kory taking on Freeze instead and by having her acknowledge the possibility but Jason passing it over.

    When I first saw this string of Bat-family vs. Talon issues, I was expecting a series of issues about the heroes fighting unstoppable, zombie-like, silent killers, but the crossover has really subverted my expectations, and I’m so happy it has. Seeing the Talons fleshed out as actual characters has been very satisfying. I’m continually surprised by how much story this story is packing into single issues.

    So yeah, I’ve been reading and enjoying this title from the very start, but I was still surprised by how good this issue was.

    • And honestly, who would have thought this would be the title where the conflict with the Talon is worked out with words. OR that Red Hood would be the hero to show his adversary mercy? It manages to subvert all of my expectations, but still feel totally organic and true to the characters. I agree with Patrick, after Batman and Nightwing, this is my favorite NotO issue.

      • Actually, wait can we talk about that? I assume Jason does shoot Talon in the head, per his request, but we cut away from that sequence before seeing Jason pull the trigger. Drew, the act of mercy you’re referring to is the killing, right?

        Piv, the focus on the character-histories of the Talons is really interesting. I’m not always super won-over by the individual stories, but when all is said an done, we’ll have this great mosaic that really colors the background of who the Court is and what they do to their soldiers. Which is ultimately much more rewarding than zombie-ninjas.

  3. DC UNIVERSE QUESTION TIME: What’s the deal with Red Hood’s mask? Jason is surprised that the Talon is able to crack it at all – is it made of some special material? Is it magical? Can we trace it back to Talia and the League of Shadows? Or maybe back to the All-Caste? It could be alien tech for all I know.

    • I assumed that’s just regular Bat-family tech. His knives are super sharp, able to cut Bruce’s equally hard-to-cut grappling hook lines. It makes sense that his helmet would be super strong, but we’ve already learned that the Court has access to equally impressive weapons.

    • Jason is resourceful enough to procure some pretty sweet stuff. Drew mentioned his knives, he also has an array of guns and other weapons. He also was resourceful enough to create the Red Hood in the image of the Batman when Dick was wearing the cape and cowl, complete with a sidekick and all the trimmings. I’m not surprised that his helmet wouldn’t be made out of something really nice.

  4. Speaking of Jason’s helmet, the slight redesigns that they have done with it moving into the New 52 are really great. They allow for this very plain helmet to still convey a huge amount of expression and emotion. I think that’s why I was especially floored with Jason’s conversation with Xiao. He goes so far to take his mask off for it, both to show even more emotion and personality, and yea, it did have a huge crack in it.

    • I really like that Jason’s costume is essentially the Batman with but a few SUPERCOOL changes: 1) no cape, 2) a casual brown jacket, and 3) that bitchin’ red mask. Plus, he always looks cool double-wielding pistols.

  5. Not to over think it, but as per this issue’s Talon-mercy-killing and the way Lincoln March was able to take out a Talon with one shot, is the secret to putting a Talon down for good a shot in the head? We have seen them get up from falling dozens of stories and after being impaled by all manor of sharp things, but in those two situations, it seemed to be that a brain shot did the trick.

    Are there zombie rules at play here or is this something best left unquestioned?

    • I mean, they talk and think and have identities. They’re not really magically reanimated corpses, so physically removing the brain or the heart or any vital organ should kill them for good, right? I think zombie-rules are a pretty safe bet.

      Which leads to the obvious conclusion: if a Talon bites you, you become a Talon. Duh

      • We’ve also got vampire rules to consider. They do, after all, sleep in coffins, and I’m just going to assume those coffins are filled with dirt of their homeland.

  6. Pingback: Talon 0 | Retcon Punch

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