Today, Peter and Patrick are discussing Red Hood and the Outlaws 11, originally released July 18th, 2012.
Peter: Red Hood and the Outlaws is a bit of an odd duck. It has the makings of a Bat Family book: it’s got Jason Todd, once Robin the Boy Wonder, now ultraviolent vigilante. It also has two ex-Teen Titans, one of whom apparently was a bad ass space captain, while the other was addicted to heroin. While the early story arcs really focused on Jason, (and the Night of Owls), this current arc is about Koriand’r/Starfire. Turns out, she used to be (and still is) a badass.
The issue begins from Roy’s point of view. He is being tortured by the Blight for information on Kori. So Roy details Kori’s big space battle victory over some Blight ships. After the action, Kori explains to Jason and Roy that she doesn’t want to fight for Tamaran. Then Kori recounts (this is within Roy’s flashback, mind you) a story about Komand’r/Blackfire, her sister. Turns out, Blackfire traded her own sister away to ensure peace for Tamaran. Kori patiently endures physical, mental and emotional torture for years, slowly gaining access to her captors. Eventually, Kori allies herself with fellow slaves Orn Depalo and Kitt’n (now members of her crew), escapes and returns home. But it’s too late – Kori has no love for Tamaran anymore because no one lifted a finger to help her. Back on the ship, Isabel seems to be getting along famously with the aliens. As Roy wraps up this little story-within-a-story nonsense, Blackfire shows up to threatens with some more torture.
This was a really good issue for Roy. One of my favorite parts of the whole thing is his recounting of the tale, his inner monologue. It’s really smart, but at the same time, a little cocky, just like I expect Roy to be.
Roy’s monologue really adds a lot of flavor to the whole story. His interpretations of Kori’s crew is fun to read as well. Jason takes a back seat in this issue, not saying more than a couple dozen words. Which I guess makes sense since, a) neither of the stories in this issue really are about him; and b) it’s being told from Roy’s point of view.
The layouts in this issue are crazy, shattered, and awesome. There are quite a few double page splashes, and he look marvelous, with lots of color.
Here we see the transition from Roy’s torture to his recounting of the events. The cell borders turn from red to purple, signifying something, probably the switch of focus from Roy to Kori. Also, the fade out shot of his face is great here, and really gives the impression that he is telling this story.
This issue is not all super serious. The interactions between Isabel and the alien crew members is hilarious. And how cool is it that she totally calls Jason out on the suckiness of their date before the aliens showed up? I found myself cracking a smile several times whenever Jason, Roy, and Isabel are all talking together. Also, the Blight getting totally fed up with Roy’s story is pretty awesome.
Other than giving us the inside scoop on alien swear words, it also shows that they aren’t all business like they are made out to be.
Kori’s history is… fine. Don’t get me wrong; I liked it. It’s a new retelling of her origin, in Reader’s Digest form. It just seems a little out of place here. Why didn’t she have such a crisis-of-conscience before they left Earth? Why now? Also, for a girl with breathtaking memory issues, she sure remembers a lot about her early life on Tamaran. It’s weird how much space it takes up when we didn’t even get details like how Roy was captured (and why there’s nobody around to save him).
This issue also brings the Essence back-up to a startling halt. Essence defeats the Untitled, and then shows a bit of compassion, which is nice. I really wanted to get a little more out of this however. Essence still is a enigma the size of Boba Fett. We find out why they call her Essence, and what she really is. Hopefully she makes another appearance soon.
Red Hood and the Outlaws is still the sleeper hit of my pull list. I’m glad that the title is focusing on someone other than Jason for a bit, especially because Kori got a major reinvention with the New 52. Hopefully more good comes from this, and her showdown with her sister is awesome.
Patrick: Much as I loves me some Jason Todd, I have to agree with you about the breath of fresh air the shift in focus brings. RHatO always plays it fast and loose with chronology, but couching Kori’s story within Roy’s story — and having him point out that absurdity — is fucking great. Roy’s telling the story he wants to tell – it’s literally the only power he can exercise in a situation where he is bound and tortured. It’s not revelatory character work, but it’s just the right kind of detail to make me even more invested in the character.
And while we get to see everything through Roy’s lens, the issue certainly has more to say about Kori. It’s interesting that when she was rejected by her own people, she formed a new family – this one comprised of aliens that would one day man her space ship. We don’t have the details of why Kori stopped zipping through space with her fearless crew, but the result was her forming a new family with Jason and Roy. Kori has patterns: she routinely sets up surrogate families to take the place of the one real family that rejected her in the most severe way possible.
But what sorta sends this thing into straight-up ouroboros territory is the twist at the end: Komand’r is working with the Blight. Which means that Starfire has reservations about fighting to protect Tamaran because of her sisters actions in the past, but the people she’s defending them from are lead by that same sister? I feel like I have to go back and check that emotional math, but it seems to me like Kori’s just got to discover the truth, and then she should be all about kicking her sister’s ass and saving her home world.
Scott Lobdell’s characters are just priceless. This is one of the few titles I read where the characters react to the comic-book insanity around them the same way I do reading the books. Even someone like Isabel – who by all rights could have zero personality – gets to score this great bit of dialogue.
My reaction exactly – your name is Kitten. But, and this is where the fun really gets going, Orn has an equally difficult time with the Earthling’s name, referring to her as “Is. Abel.” Empowering subtext notwithstanding, that’s adorable. It’s amazing to me how much this title gets slammed for its portrayals of women: look how well this incidental girlfriend character is developed. She’s relating to aliens, standing up to superheroes and even getting suited up for combat. Hell, she’s adjusting to SPACE MISSION better than either of the boys.
Peter, you pointed out the neat layouts and this sort of hyper-chunky, ultra-colorful framing throughout much of the issue. This has become a hallmark of Kenneth Rocafort’s art in this series, but I think the chunkiness is particularly well-articulated here, perhaps to reflect the science fiction-y nature of their current adventure. If you look closely, both Arsenal and Red Hood appear to be wearing space-versions of their costumes, which are appropriately bulky and space-y. Again, this isn’t a revelation, but it’s a nice bit of visual consistency.
I don’t really get the point of the Essence back-up. She’s able to soak up the blow from the Life Hammer because there’s a part of her that’s All, and then she’s able to to channel that energy back into her attacker, blowing him up. Okay. I guess the moral of the story is “don’t use All technology against Essence.” What a specific lesson. I suppose it’s nice that she returns the body of the formerly possessed-by-Untitled cop to her husband… but maybe that’s just decent. I mean, she’d have to be pretty shitty to just because like “yeah, I could do something about that, but I’m not going to.” As far as I can tell, this character is most interesting the way she relates to the All and to Jason, so mixing her up with the remaining Untitled feels like a bit of a misstep.
But I am glad that the back-up is out of the way, so the whole of the next issue can be committed to Roy’s rescue and the epic show-down between intergalactic fire-sisters. That’s cool right? Also, I hope Isabel joins the crew of the Starfire (with Kori’s blessing, of course).
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?