Red Hood and the Outlaws 13

Alternating Currents: Red Hood 13, Drew and ShelbyToday, Drew and Shelby are discussing Red Hood and the Outlaws 13, originally released October 17th, 2012.

Drew: I hate recommending art. From movies to books to music, I think there’s something really presumptuous about the statement “you’d like this.” Moreover, I hate what recommending that art says about me, especially if the person I recommended it to didn’t like the art in question. This may all stem from a particularly traumatic recommending experience where, while staying overnight at my cousins, I insisted that we all watch the TGIF programming bloc — a mainstay of my Friday nights at home. For whatever reason, this particular Friday aligned with all four shows delivering episodes uncharacteristically romantic in nature. I’m sure it was as tame as a kitten fight, but it struck my young mind as profoundly inappropriate — at least in part because I was acutely aware that my aunt had already banned The Simpsons in her household, which seemed unfathomable to me. As if to intentionally make me feel more devious in my tastes, at the conclusion of the night, she remarked, “well, that’s really not the kind of thing we like to watch around here.” The absurdity of being made to feel TGIF was inappropriate aside, I still get incredibly nervous when someone consumes art on my recommendation. That feeling is only exacerbated in cases of serialized narratives, where the sampled episode/issue may not be indicative of what you actually like about it. That’s more or less the feeling I have introducing Shelby to Red Hood and the Outlaws with issue 13.

That’s not to say it’s a bad issue, but it still fails to meet the quality of the first arc that set Patrick and I raving about the title in the first place. It is, however, a marked improvement over issue 12, which had me questioning whether I should even stick with this title at all. This issue has won me back over as a booster of the title, but that support comes with a qualified optimism that wasn’t there before. My point is, my relationship with this title is complicated.

The issue begins with Kori and Kom descending to Tamaran to fight the Blight, which have enslaved the entire planet. They attack the Blight High Lord on the planet while Kori’s first mate,  DePalo, runs a kamikaze mission into the Blight mother ship. Kom is impaled, prompting Kori to pretty much destroy everything before killing the Blight High Lord with kindness. A week later, we see that Kom wasn’t killed, after all, and she shares a teary goodbye with Kori, who has decided to return to Earth. Meanwhile, back on Earth, the Joker has found the Outlaw’s paradise hideout, and has set to doing something to Jason’s helmet.

My complaints with issue 12 mostly revolved around Timothy Green II’s art, which has improved greatly here. There are still a few places where he is obviously avoiding drawing faces or choosing full-frontal shots that feel stiffly posed, but they are MUCH less prevalent than in the previous issue. I also found his faces to be much more expressive in this issue. Take this scene after the battle, where Kori is helping her still-recovering sister.

"Are you sure you're good? You still look a little pale. Also, your boobs are way smaller."That concern not only feels real, but is way more natural than any of what we saw in issue 12. It comes much closer to holding up to Scott Lobdell’s writing, but it’s still clear Green is no Rockafort — especially when it comes to layouts. I’m not sure why Green was given the leeway to make every spread a two-pager, but it feels totally gratuitous. His panels rarely do anything to justify their oversized proportions, and are otherwise laid out as traditionally as any comic on the stands. Being traditional isn’t inherently bad, but it’s frustrating that other titles have sequences spoiled by poorly-placed ads, while this issue — which could probably hold up to interruption just fine — enjoys relative freedom from any such distractions.

I talk about the art in terms of “holding up” to Lobdell’s writing because that’s still the sticking point of this series. Lobdell writes some very sarcastic characters, which places a great deal of burden on the artist to make them sympathetic. He also has a very peculiar sense of humor, which leads him to strange exchanges like this one.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholderThe strangest thing about this issue is the question of the narrator. The issue features a great deal of voiceover from Roy, but since he doesn’t seem to have control over what we’re seeing — and in fact, Roy isn’t even present for most of the scenes in this issue — he can’t really be called the narrator. What’s especially strange is that we’re often privy to other character’s thoughts via thought balloons. That device feels by turns unnecessary and cheap for delivering exposition in a way that violates the basic tenant of “show, don’t tell.” Maybe it’s important for us to know that Kom might sacrifice Kori to protect the universe from the thirteen, but since Lobdell hasn’t even gotten to explaining what that means to us, I think he could have found a more elegant way to show it.

I know it seems like I only have horrible things to say about this issue (and I haven’t even mentioned the fake-out death, which was delivered with exactly no conviction or drama), but I actually liked it quite a bit. Seeing Kori actually choose to stay with the outlaws ties her to the team in a way her flighty personality hadn’t. It’s interesting to me how her version of being an outcast is shaded differently from Jason’s, giving a legitimate, believable reason for her to return to Earth.

So what’s the verdict, Shelby? Am I terrible at recommending things? Were you able to enjoy any of those elements I just mentioned, or were the problems too distracting? What’d you think of Kom’s battle gear? There’s a lot I can’t defend about this issue, but I think there’s enough to like. I’m curious to hear what you think.

Shelby: I thought this issue was…okay. I think Green’s artwork definitely leaves something to be desired, because we are all in love with Rockafort. One glaring issue I had with the art was Kom’s NIP SLIP when they land on Tamaran.

I don’t feel any need to talk about their huge racks or anything like that, mostly because Isabel already made a comment about it. Hell, I think the tongue-in-cheek attitude for the way Kori is depicted is a smart way around what is characteristically known as one of the worst (or best, I suppose) ladycostumes in the DCU. But come on, that is a nipple! It looks like he might have made Kom’s boobs way bigger, but forgot to adjust the costume/uniform/battle pasty to compensate. I think that’s a mistake so bad, it’s laughable.

But don’t worry, Drew, I recognize what you see in this title, as well as the fact that this issue isn’t a great example of it. The tone of the series is really light-hearted; even as the team is descending to an alien planet to fight monsters they can’t begin to comprehend, Roy and Jason are total smart-asses. The only character I don’t really have a good feel for is Kori; she’s supposed to be this creature of love, but I’ve only really seen her in this arc as the most badass starship commander around, so I’m having a little trouble reconciling these two images. Nevertheless, I get what this team can be; it’s cheeky, irreverent, and goofy as hell, and I’m on board.

What I’m really looking forward to is seeing how Death of the Family will touch this title, how that goofy irreverence will blend with the Joker’s horrifying madness. The two characters that I’m most interested in seeing interact with the Joker are Barbara Gordon and Jason Todd. Jason, especially: he lost the most from the Joker, and considering that the Joker made him into Robin in the first place, their relationship is even more snarled than ever. I’m really looking forward to the inevitable confrontation; honestly,  I don’t know if Roy’s quips are going to be able to get the team out of this one. 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?

15 comments on “Red Hood and the Outlaws 13

  1. I thought Isabel’s comment about “never fill[ing] out a space suit” as well as Kori was particularly goofy, given that the two characters are drawn with essentially the same body type. As long as this arc was an excuse to put Starfire in something a little less revealing (hopefully permanently), I’m glad it happened. Too bad they couldn’t do the same for Kom.

  2. Starfire’s always been a bit of a contradiction of a character, Shelby, being both a being of great love and compassion and someone who would kill an enemy on a moment’s notice. Before the New 52, I took her as someone who wore her feelings on her sleeve and was almost a slave to her emotions and impulses; whatever Starfire was feeling she felt it STRONGLY and it affected everything she did.

    With this new version of the character I think they’re trying to go for a similar contradiction but Kori is a little too cold and flaky of a character to really pull it off. I LOVED the “killing him with kindness” way she took down the enemy, and I think they’ve been doing better with the character as the series progresses, but there’s still something slightly off and I miss the Pre-Reboot version; she was one of my favorite characters.

    Other general thoughts: The scene with the Dominator sacrificing himself was not only one of the highlights of the issue, but perhaps one of the highlights of the entire series. I actually felt something, and as much as I enjoy this series’ amusing snark and quirky characters, this is one of the very few times it has really made me feel something (the other primary time being in Issue 3 where we saw Jason’s most treasured memory of taking a sick day with Bruce)

    I also agree with you guys about the art: while it’s still no Rocafort (and never will be), it’s a huge step up from previous issues, and this is the first time since Rocafort left that the art hasn’t distracted me from the story.

      • Yeah, the scene with the Dominator was nice, but I was a little distracted by the thought bubbles. I agree with Drew, I don’t think those are the best way to depict an inner monologue.

  3. So was I the only one skeeved out by the way Roy talked about Kori? Normally I find the affection Roy has for her adorable or even a little endearing, but in this issue it came across as patronizing at best and sexist at worst. We get it Roy, she doesn’t look like the powerhouse she is at first glance, this book has hammered us over the head with that point, you can stop now. While I feel this issue was a huge step up from recent issues in a lot of ways, this aspect felt like I was back in issue one getting hit in the face with backlash.

    Why did we need Roy’s narration at all, come to think of it? It would’ve been nice to get KORI’S POV on some of this, it being her world and story after all.

    • For whatever reason, it seems like Lobdell wanted to take the focus off of Jason for a little bit. Giving the story over to Kori and letting Roy narrate is a pretty effective way to sideline Red Hood, but you gotta wonder why we didn’t just get Starfire VO. Especially — as Drew points out — considering that Lobdell wants the reader to be privy to Kori’s thoughts. I guess it’s just not as easy to write smart-ass quips in the voice of a being of pure love and violence.

    • Kori’s POV would have been a really natural — and possibly better — choice for this issue. We’ve already spent a good deal of time in Roy and Jason’s heads, but we haven’t gotten really anything from Kori, who has remained incredibly aloof. Lobdell was writing her as forgetful and flighty, which I actually thought was an interesting choice (aside from the nymphomania, which struck me as over the top fan service), but he seems to have backed away from that take. Unfortunately, no new character traits have really replaced that, so we don’t really know anything about her. This was a missed opportunity to get inside her head.

  4. I feel your pain, Drew. As someone who reccomended “Achewood” to a friend and watched him read a dozen strips without cracking a smile, I feel your pain. As someone who sat through “Scott Pilgrim” with a girl who just didn’t get it and was very vocal about that fact, I feel your pain. As someone who’s been trying to sell his best friend on his favorite band for years, I feel your pain.

    I love things way too much to stop myself from reccomending them, but I’ve learned to be a lot more selective about it. Your experience was like reliving my childhood Drew.

    • Oh man, I saw Scott Pilgrim with my girlfriend, who absolutely adored it.

      But the same girlfriend also has a little bit of a vendetta against Firefly. She came to the show years after the rest of our friends had discovered (and loved it). Ever the contrarian, she went into the pilot looking for the cracks. And when you’re looking to make Firefly seems silly, it’s pretty easy to spot all the TV-isms, and even easier to write off Whedonesque dialogue as too clever by half. The point is, I’ve never gotten her to finish the series (with only Objects In Space left) and it remains a point of contention between us. This trivial shit ends up being important and fuck if I understand why.

      • It’s so easy to make someone feel dumb about what they recommended if you want to. I feel like everybody receiving a recommendation has a responsibility to go in with an open mind. That said, I’m notoriously suspicious of things that are delivered via explicit recommendations. For whatever reason, “you’d love this” or “you should watch this” make me instantly skeptical, while hearing that someone loves something is totally alluring. I don’t know why.

  5. Shelby, I’m not totally sure that’s a nip slip. I think there’s material (which is slightly darker than Kom’s skin) below those metallic blue strips on her breasts. It certainly doesn’t make the costume much better, but I think her nips are at least covered.

  6. Hey, how about that GL name drop? Is there any malevolent force in the outer-space corner of the DCU that isn’t constantly swearing revenge against the Guardians and their Green Lantern Corps?

  7. Pingback: Blue Beetle 13 | Retcon Punch

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