Red Hood and the Outlaws 12

Alternating Currents: Red Hood 12, Drew and PeterToday, Drew and Peter are discussing Red Hood and the Outlaws 12, originally released August 15th, 2012.

Drew: We tend to talk a lot about writers here at Retcon Punch. We certainly pay attention to the art, and have often found rewarding things to discuss when doing so, but we always seem to come back to the writer. Writers have so much control, particularly over the kinds of things we like to talk about here — character development, voice, plotting — but forgetting how much influence the artist has over the final product is a mistake. It’s like valuing a film or playwright’s input over that of the director or actors’; sure, it make sense in theory, but you don’t have to see too many community theater productions of Shakespeare to know that even the best scripts can be muddled in the wrong hands.  It’s unfortunate that it often takes examples like the community theater to emphasize the importance of the other collaborators, and it is also unfortunate that this issue is one such example.

The issue picks up in the middle of Roy’s explanation for how he ended up on the Blight’s ship. The crew of the Starfire were still recouping when Blight soldiers teleport on-board in an attempt to kidnap Kori. Roy acts the hero and is taken instead, which catches us up to the start of the previous issue. As it happens, this was all part of a plan the team cooked up to rescue Kori’s sister, who is apparently a prisoner of the Blight. Roy grabs her and teleports back to the Starfire. The sisters have a tearful reunion before gearing up to attack the Blight as a two-woman army. Meanwhile, down on the planet’s surface, the blight have enslaved the people of Tamaran to serve as hosts to their larval young. Am unnamed leader of the Blight questions a human man about his presence on the alien world, and the man insists he is there in search of “the thirteen,” which the Blight guy doesn’t like the sound of.

It’s a weirdly talk-y issue — including a few additional side conversations I didn’t mention — which is truly unfortunate, as new artist Timothy Green II seems to struggle with the talking head stuff the most. His faces lack any sense of expression, which he covers for by keeping them awkwardly out-of view.

I don’t mean to suggest that a more conventional take on that panel — one that shows the face of the character that is speaking — is necessarily better, but without her expression to tell us what she’s thinking, we’re left with only Scott Lobdell’s high-flying, cheeky dialogue, which kind of requires context clues to decipher. Isabel is kind of tough to read anyway, what with her seeming comfort being on a spaceship and all, but this sequence really makes me appreciate how hard Kenneth Rocafort had been working to make her relatable.

The lengths Green goes to in order to avoid faces is often distracting, employing pretty much every trick in the book. I mean that literally, as almost ever trick is used in this book.

Another 3/4 shot of the back of a character’s head, a silhouette, and a panel that focuses on the characters’ arms. I can see why these aren’t conventional choices for a conversation between two characters, but I can’t see why Green made them anyway. The two faces we do get are utterly inscrutable, though since Depalo’s design doesn’t allow for a wide range of expression, I’d like to focus on the close-up of Kori at the bottom of the page. In Green’s defense, Lobdell didn’t give him much to work with. The line jumps from lovie-dovie happiness to a sense of duty and assurance on a dime, and there’s no real explanation for how Roy is different. Without anything to work with to make that sentence mean anything, Green is left only to interpret the latter half of her line, giving her a determined look that curiously resembles a mugshot.

If I’m sounding a little down on Lobdell, too, it’s because I am. I’ve always liked this title more than I thought I should, which was mostly by virtue of the charm of the characters. Without a strong artist elaborating with expressions and postures, the characters only have the charm of the writing, which is really only half of the equation. The characters carry this title, and when their voice is lost, we’re left only with hollow space operatics I feel totally uninvested in. You take the “fun” out of the “dumb, but fun” equation, and you’re only left with “dumb.”

I don’t mean to sell the rest of this series short — Lobdell has mined a lot of pathos from these characters’ histories — but Green isn’t really capable of selling those moments. Instead, we get a weird attempt at recreating the magic of the silent “team moment” image from last issue, where Jason and Roy take a minute to just think.

I always enjoyed Rocafort’s art on this title, but I hadn’t realized how integral it was in the personalities of the characters. It’s a happy realization — one that might find me picking up the new Lobdell/Rocafort Superman — but it comes at the cost of a kind of crummy issue. I sure hope things improve, but until then, I’ll be missing Rocafort dearly. Peter, were you as disappointed here as I was?

Peter: I have to say, this was a little disappointing. Last issue was such a good build up, and this was somewhat of a let down. However, I will say that I did like many things about this book, many of which you touched on, Drew. I’m not sure if I qualify it with a ‘like’ but I am very intrigued by the new character of Komand’r/Blackfire. She came about last issue, but it was only for a brief intro. Now we really get to see her in her true light, and I’m confused. Now, I never read a lot of Teen Titans stuff back in the day, but from what I do know, this Blackfire is weird. I’ve always known Blackfire as a villain, and she HATES Kori. But here she seems all sympathetic and loving.

I guess it fits well with the new/most recent interpretation of Kori and Kom’s past. Maybe after this whole thing with the Breach is over she will go back to being a villain? That would be cool, since most of the villains up until this story arc have been centered around Jason.

Roy returns to the spotlight here, and I still love it. His narration is superb. Especially since we see even more dynamic sides of him. First, we again learn that he is super smart. Second, that under all the joking, tomfoolery, and banging aliens, he still is rather troubled, yet determined.

The ominous part of the story involving ‘The Thirteen’, and the Breach coming to Earth. I have no idea what The Thirteen is referring too, but, if I was going to guess, I would best it’s something mystically, and wholly unexplainable. At least, that’s the way this book is trending. Unless it does a 180 and changes significantly. Since the first arc was Jason-centric and this arc has been Kori-centric, maybe we’re due for a Roy arc? That would be cool. He is a character that can do a lot for this book, and with his turbulent past would be awesome.

On the subject of the upcoming #0 issue, I’m interested to see the New 52 version of Jason’s resurrection. It’s an event that originally relies heavily on Superboy-Prime and his punching. This could be the first time the New 52 encounters an event that is directly influenced by a Crisis. I’m not sure DC’s stance on the Crises since the New 52, so this will be a good way to tell how they are treating them. Of course, I’m sure they’ll choose to take the easy way out, and pick and choose the events that remain true to a Crisis or not, in no particular fashion.

Lastly, I cannot get over how much I love this cover! It’s got a very sci-fi-epic-Star-Wars-movie-poster feel.

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?

8 comments on “Red Hood and the Outlaws 12

  1. I actually thought Roy’s mastery of space-flight strained credulity a bit (you know, more than the general fighting aliens in space stuff). It’s one thing for him to intuit a control system designed to be intuitive, but his suggestion to “override the tachyon containment field in the ships core” not only reveals a abstract, theoretical knowledge of those concepts, but a specific familiarity with how this particular ship works. The former strikes me as unlikely, but the latter is downright impossible. His familiarity goes beyond a working knowledge, to the point where he’s able to suggest radical changes that actually improve efficiency. How does he know that this ship even has a tachyon containment field? It’s an alien ship — I wouldn’t guess that it would necessarily rely on any technology I would recognize. There are lots of ways to make Roy smart, but this one is entirely unbelievable.

    • Hey just knew to say some Star Trek bullshit – that always works.

      Did you know that (at least in TOS and TNG) scripts for Star Trek would occasionally just include a notation [TECH], and they had a writer on staff whose sole job was to make up shit like “override the tachyon containment filed in the ship’s core?” And much as is the case in this issue, the actual technology was irrelevant to the story or the characters. I have mixed feeling about that sort of thing on Trek (that is one of the defining characteristics of the show), but it definite adds a “who gives a shit” to RHatO.

  2. Sorry if this conversation has already been had, but any Jason Todd experts out there that can give me a quick recap of his ‘back from the dead’ experience? I remember a story about him waking up on the street, not remembering who he is, and also one involving Ra’s and the Lazarus pits. I feel like I am confusing what actually happened with what is in the HUSH storyline and the Under the Hood cartoon, so a quick explanation would be appreciated.

    I know this should probably wait until the zero discussion but I gots to know.

    • Of course, it all comes back to the Retcon Punch (would you expect anything else here?) — when Superboy of Earth Prime altered reality, it allowed Jason to rise from the dead. He wandered around as an amnesiac, was hospitalized, and wandered around some more before Talia picked him up in a misguided attempt to please Bruce. She did immerse him in a Lazarus pit in hopes of restoring his memory, but it may have also made him even more homicidal than before.

      I highly suspect that some or all of that might be different in the DCnU. I can’t see them trying to trot out the Retcon Punch as justification for anything. I can’t help but notice that they’ve been pretty coy about saying Jason actually died, so I wonder if even detail might be changed. Who knows? It’s all conjecture until that zero issue comes out next month, but you can be sure we’ll discuss the hell out of it then.

    • Yeah, I’ve been looking for a reason to pick up a Superman title, and following Rocafort is a good enough reason for me. I only wish he were somehow also still on this title, which I think really needs him to work.

      • Yeah man. Drew mentions over in the Bird of Prey write-up how important it is for an artist to have a sense of the space his characters are occupying, but I don’t think there are many with as good a sense of the space the characters take up on the page as Rocafort. The way we has these sort of independently floating panels with characters and actions jumping between them – it’s just incredible. Looking forward to seeing what he does with the Man o Steel.

  3. I like this new Blackfire. I also love how it made a 180 from the original series where she and Starfire were bitter enemies and it made me wonder what would happen if they had more of a sisterly bond and now I am happy to find out. I think it’s rather interesting.

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