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.
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.
The 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?