Today, Mikyzptlk and guest writer Pivitor are discussing Red Hood and the Outlaws 16, originally released January 23rd, 2013. This issue is part of the Death of the Family crossover event. Click here for complete DotF coverage.
Mikyzptlk: As we all know, there are A LOT of comics out there competing for our dollars. Books like Scott Snyder’s Batman or Brian Azzarello’s Wonder Woman attempt to push the boundaries of reader expectation and deliver tales that are legitimately astonishing to behold. I’ve given two examples from one publisher from barely over one year of publishing, but there are even more possibilities just as astounding from publishers such as Marvel, Image, Vertigo, IDW, Oni Press, Archaia, and more! That said, not every comic is great, and with so much out there to consume, it’s getting harder to convince myself to continue to spend the $2.99 a month on a book that lacks the quality of its competitors.
The issue picks up with the Outlaws (minus Red Hood) and the Teen Titans (minus Red Robin) battling against “Jokerized” homeless people. Since everyone feels that these people can still be saved, Arsenal uses his “Analysis Arrow” (I actually liked that bit), to determine a cure for the Joker-venom plaguing its victims. A warehouse nearby has the appropriate chemicals, so Arsenal directs Starfire, Kid Flash, Solstice, and Wonder Girl to pick up the drugs while he and Bunker stay behind to keep the Joker-Zombies (Jombies?) at bay. The drugs are retrieved by Kid Flash and then everyone is cured by…Kid Flash…again. Oh, and then there were two epilogues awkwardly shoved in at the end. Here’s the one with the Joker, since, ya know, this is a tie-in remember?
So, let’s break down what I didn’t like about this issue. First of all, Scott Lobdell offers us a structural mess. While I appreciate the fact that Arsenal takes center stage, the stage he’s on is shoddily built. We start smack dab in the middle of the action, which is fine, but we are then treated to some awkwardly positioned asides. Out of nowhere, Arsenal starts reminiscing about his past and tells a story (to no one) about how Killer Croc (yes, that Killer Croc) helped him to find a new pad shortly after his falling out with Green Arrow. The purpose behind this is to lead to the realization that he’s come far from being an addict, and that he does have great potential as a hero and even a leader. This is all great, and while I enjoy seeing Arsenal realize he’s worth more than he gives himself credit for, this could have all been accomplished within the action of the current issue by having Arsenal display a bit of self doubt in the beginning. As things go more and more his way, Lobdell could have transitioned Arsenal to having more confidence in himself as we see at the end of the issue. As it is, his flashback feels forced and simply interrupts the flow of the issue.
Speaking of interruptions, we are given yet another scene that simply crops up out of nowhere. I’d call this an epilogue, but it happens on page 14. Hugo Strange is introduced by an omniscient narrator who also comes out of nowhere and we are told that he’s up to something that I’m sure we’ll be finding out in another issue. The problem is, I’m not so sure which one. Normally, these kinds of asides are used at the end of a story arc to set up whatever will happen in the next. However, at the actual end of the issue, we are treated to what I can safely call an epilogue. Actually, I’d need to call it “Epilogue One of Two.” “Epilogue Two” contains the Joker sequence I showed you above, so here’s “Epilogue One.”
Okay, so wait, what’s the next arc going to be about? Will the Outlaws face off against Hugo Strange or Deathstroke? Maybe both? But what about the Joker and his twisted plots? I was told to stay tuned for that at the end of this issue I thought. Maybe the next issue will feature all three villains? That’d be nuts! Then again, none of them really seem to have anything to do with one another so that’s kind of weird. My point is, I found it confusing to have three distinct set-ups all in one issue. The Joker epilogue makes the most sense since this series is still caught up in DotF, but the other two asides simply felt thrown in and out of place.
I also had problems with some of the logic behind this issue. Should Arsenal really have sent the two most powerful heroes along with the only speedster and…whatever the hell Solstice is to get a few crates, when the opposition was a gang of super strong Jombies? Surely Wonder Girl or Starfire could have stayed behind to lend some additional muscle. Especially when you consider that Kid Flash did, well, pretty much everything. Not only did he save the medicine from being destroyed, but he administered it to all of the victims! Although, I guess the others did help him carry the crates back.
All in all, is it fair to compare a book like this to Scott Snyder’s Batman? Maybe, maybe not, but my $2.99 is hard earned just the same. It’s issues like this that’s making me think I’d rather spend it on something else. Well, I’d love to continue my rant, but I have to leave something for our new guest writer, Pivitor! How ya doing Piv? I’ve long enjoyed the various comments and conversations you’ve shared with us, so I’m looking forward to what you have to say about this issue. What was your take? Was I too harsh on poor old Lobdell or did you take issue with this particular…issue. I didn’t get into Timothy Green’s art at all (cheap action figures anyone?) and I had some additional problems with some of the characterization featured here. What say you Piv? Am I off my rocker here?
Pivitor: Nah Mik, you’re not off your rocker. Red Hood and the Outlaws is a book that uses breezy, irreverent character interaction mixed with a few well-placed moments of poignancy to cover for its slip-shod plots and pacing, and while it’s never been a literary masterpiece, when it works Red Hood is a fun little book. Unfortunately, when it doesn’t work (which has been increasingly often since Kenneth Rocafort’s departure from art duties), we get issues like this one.
You already highlighted a lot of the problems I had with this issue, and I don’t want to beat a dead horse, but the multiple epilogues were so distracting I feel the need to go back to them for a second. Hugo Strange’s aside came out of nowhere, and was so jarring that I worried for a moment that the main story had ended already and that a back-up story was starting. Then I thought that it was an ad, like those Subway ads featuring the Justice League from a few months back. It’s probably the most distracting scene transition I’ve seen in years. Also, Mik, you mentioned not knowing when these epilogues will be touched upon, and I’m worried about that too. Scott Lobdell is only writing Red Hood for two more issues before James Tynion III takes over, so is he planning to address both these epilogues in that very limited timeframe? Or is he just going to abandon one—or maybe even both—of those plot threads? The outlook looks grim regardless.
Still, the most problematic aspect of this issue for me was the Joker’s plan itself. The idea of keeping Jason and Tim’s allies busy by infecting civilians is perfectly fine, even if Joker’s methods (as seen in Teen Titans #15) are distractingly complex. When it came time find a cure, however, Lobdell completely lost me. Even with Roy explaining it away, even with booby traps set to protect them, just the fact that Joker had conveniently pre-packaged needles loaded with the cure to his toxin just sitting around in a warehouse for the “Teen Outlaws” to pick up is ridiculous. The miraculous convenience of it all kills any possible tension, and it robs the Teen Outlaws of some agency by basically having the Joker solve their problem for them. Even worse, it just plain doesn’t make sense. The Joker’s out to keep the teams distracted for as long as possible, right? Then essentially handing them the one way to end the attack is completely counterproductive. It’s insane, even for the Joker!
Furthermore, was the distraction even necessary? Red Robin had already told the Titans he was leaving town before the Joker kidnapped him; the only reason the Titans even knew he was kidnapped at all was because Joker left them a note (Teen Titans #14). Instead of purposely luring the Titans to Gotham just to divert them with an elaborate distraction, couldn’t the Joker just have not alerted the Titans at all and saved everyone a lot of time? Honestly, this entire tie-in was unnecessary, and that’s probably this issue’s biggest crime.
As for Timothy Green’s art, I found it hit-or-miss, but with a bit more hit than miss. Green’s bright cartoony style is a nice change of pace from the dark, gritty art that plagued this book during the Outlaws’ outer space travels. Unfortunately, any good will he builds up is completely overshadowed by a few sloppy panels, a few unnatural facial expressions, at least one drawing of Wonder Girl with conical breasts that look sharp enough to cut glass, and, well, whatever this is:
Seriously, what’s going on here?
However, there are a few moments I enjoyed. Mik, you mentioned having problems with some of the characterization, and while I can’t blame you—I could write a whole review just on my problems with Roy and Croc’s bromance alone, and sadly, Starfire and Solstice are complete nonentities—I still feel like characterization is the issue’s strongest point. Wonder Girl’s grumpy impatience and Kid Flash’s flippant joking are in-character and gave me some laughs, but the real highlight of the issue for me is the scene where Arsenal first glimpses Bunker’s hidden potential as a hero.
It’s a proud moment for our young rookie Bunker, but it also manages to fit a surprising amount of insight about Roy into a mere two panels, especially compared to some other clunky attempts to do the same earlier in the issue.
Unfortunately, it’s not enough to save the issue, which is a shame. With Jason and Tim both off facing Joker, pairing up their two teams seems like an inspired idea, but forcing the team-up to be related to the Joker’s plans and making that plan as convoluted as possible instead just turns this into the least essential Death of the Family tie-in since Joker and Catwoman’s bizarre little chess game.
Pivitor has been obsessed with superheroes since he first saw the Adam West “Batman” series as a child. He spends way too much time online, especially on Twitter and Tumblr. You should also totally check out his potentially embarrassing old fanfiction, his “Flash Family: The Animated Series” pitch, and his band’s music video (he plays bass!).
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?
Thanks for letting me do this guest review, guys! It was a blast!
I mentioned having problems with Roy and Croc’s “bromance.” It’s popped up in several issues before, but it’s always bothered me, and I think my biggest problem with it is the idea that Croc would be so generous to an enemy, especially one that was trying to take him down. Croc says in this issue that “I wasn’t always a monster”, but my understanding of Killer Croc was that he WAS always a monster. Or, perhaps more important, it was that Croc isn’t a monster because of the way he looks, but because he’s just a huge immoral jerk, and he’d be that way no matter what he looked like, which is why he can so easily use excuses about his looks to try to gain false sympathy, why he can convince civilians and even other villains to support him with sob stories but simply not care about them at all and betray them at a moment’s notice. I’ve just never seen Croc been portrayed with an ounce of sympathetic traits before, and while I understand what Lobdell’s going for, he hasn’t done enough to sell me on it.
I don’t know if there’s a whole established journey that Killer Croc’s been through, but I actually really like the idea that the version of the character we know now is the best version of that character – that is to say that he fought addiction to get to the point where he can just be a monster-supervillain. It’s a weird jumble of logic, but there’s something massively appealing about even these semi-supernatural characters battling with vice in a way that normal people would – and I think that’s part of what makes Roy-as-recovering-addict so appealing of a concept.
Showing that relationship also gives a little bit of context for Roy taking an interest in Bunker as a possible protoge. Obviously, Bunker doesn’t need the same kind of help Roy did, but he is a little lost and doesn’t quite fit in with the Titans (especially now that Superboy is off playing in pocket dimensions with Superman). As with most of this issue, it could have been handled more gracefully, but the core concepts are compelling.
I’m sure Crocs past has been outlined somewhere, with the amount of Bat-books out there and all, but I’m largely basing my understanding of the character off the animated series. Maybe that’s my mistake. I love your take on Croc here, Patrick, that’s hilarious and makes me more receptive to the idea.
I also agree on why Arsenal’s interested in Bunker, but I’m not sure I agree about Bunker being isolated or out of place on the team. I know they’ve been highlighting his friendship with Superboy over in that book, but Bunker’s basically BFFs with everyone on the team. He’s had moments over the course of the series where he and Solistice bonded and proclaimed each other BFFs, where he and Bart have hung out, where he’s worn down Wonder Girl’s prickly exterior and had friendly banter with her, plus he was introduced as a Red Robin fanboy to begin with. Not to mention that, according to Lobdell, he has the most accepting family on Earth and his entire village is rooting for him to be a hero. I think Bunker’s definitely got confidence issues when it comes to using his powers, but I’m not worried about him being lonely. He’s kind of the heart of the team.
Also, what’s the deal with Kid Flash being afraid of needles? Was it just supposed to be some comedic relief, or is there something more to it? I think it’s such a tired trope that I didn’t find it funny, just a little distracting (what I DID find funny was Wonder Girl giving Bart permission to pass out “once he finished injecting all the victims”, and Bart doing exactly that).
The only reason I mention the possibility of it being something else is because of Bart’s currently unknown history. Kid Flash can’t remember his past, but we know he came from the future, that he may have been a not-so-great dude there, that there’s someone else from Bart’s time period here in the past tracking him, and that Bart lost his memory somehow. I’m wondering if needles have something to do with it. Maybe he was experimented on or something, and that’s how he lost his memory, and even though Bart can’t remember it, he has an intense, lingering fear of needles from it.
I’m probably just grasping at straws but I sincerely want that moment to be more than a “miss” of a joke.
Yeah, I thought that was weird too and thought that it was only there to give a reason for Wonder Girl to be a leader and get respect from Arsenal which is suddenly important for some reason. Idk, it’s like he’s suddenly realized he’s worth his own salt and now he feels he needs to pass it on? I really like Arsenal becoming the hero I know he can be (instead of just comic relief), but this whole thing felt really forced to me.
I didn’t hate this issue nearly as much as you guys did, and it was largely due to Arsenal, especially his charming “older brother” scenes with Bunker.
Also, anyone else chuckle when Arsenal called Kid Flash “Speedy” and KF asked if he was talking to him?
Actually yes, I loved that moment, though it took me a second to remember there never was a “Speedy” in the DCNU.
Honestly, I probably didn’t hate this issue as much as I let on. Like I said, the character interaction was the best part, and like always with a Lobdell book, it helped to make up for a lot of problems. It certainly has a lot of charm and moments I liked, but I walked away from it more frustrated about the Joker’s ridiculous plan and that jarring Hugo Strange aside than anything else, and unfortunately, that’s what stuck with me.
Yeah, two leads for new arcs is definitely weird, though I’m always a little bit hopeful when I see Deathstroke. Oh, how I long for the days of Kyle Higgins writing that book!
Hugo Strange is one of my favorite Batman villians but I’m not gonna go out of my way to get this book for him. Good review though, everybody, its nice to know what’s happening on teh books that I choose not to buy for money reasons (because let’s be honest, if they were free I’d read not only the okay books but probably some of the actually bad ones as well)
I wonder if there are so many epilogues to this book because it’s setting up both the conflict for the rest of Lobdell’s run and whatever Tynion wants to do when he takes over (on like 18 or 19 or whatever). That’d be a big dumb reason to do it, but also EXACTLY what I suspect.
You gonna give this bad boy a try when Tynion takes over?
Yeah, I supposed I will. I ended up dropping Talon but I don’t think it was because of the quality of the writing so much as the concept and the desire to keep some ammount of secrecy for the Court Of Owls in my mind. And since they’re both friends with Snyder, I’m also very curious about the posibility of an eventual Lemire Green Arrow/Tynion Arsenal crossover
Now THAT would be interesting. Someone’s got to get those crazy kids back together again.
You sonofabitch, that’s a beautiful sentiment. I’d love to see both of those characters – guided by their wiser masters – coming together and then MINING IT FOR PATHOS.
Yeah, that was pretty good. That was always a long running joke in old DCU so it was definitely a nice nod.
Also, oddly good team-dynamics in this issue. Not only with Roy taking charge, but just with jamming together two different team-styles and letting them work together… even if, as Mik points out, Kid Flash does most of the work. I like seeing teams succeed, what can I say?
FUTHER – props on “Teen Outlaws.”
Thanks! It was either that or “Red Hood and the Titans” and that doesn’t work, for obvious reasons.
Last comment I promise.
Mik: “and…whatever the hell Solstice is”. She’s basically Starfire-lite. She can fly and create intense bursts of light she can use to blind enemies or use as a Starbolt-like blast (she seared a navy warship in two earlier in the series). She’s only missing Starfire’s super strength. Her unique look has nothing to do with her abilities, really; it’s the result of experiments done to her while she was held captive by NOWHERE. She had her meta-human powers before she looked like that.
It’s interesting, Solstice was actually the last brand new Titan created before the New 52 reboot. She was intended to be a positive influence on the Titans, a hero not motivated by tragedy and with a sunny, optimistic attitude. She also didn’t look like a smoke monster–she wore traditional Indian clothing. I was happy to see they kept her around after the reboot, especially since she had less than a year to catch on before it happened, but was a little disappointed by the choice to drastically alter her appearance and make her a victim of NOWHERE. The smoke thing gives her an unique look, but honestly, I thought her old appearance was unique enough as it was. And while Solstice has remained somewhat unique even considering her experiences at NOWHERE, it’s still added an element of angst to a character that wasn’t really supposed to have any.
This is unrelated to what I said above, but I just really want to say it and never got a chance: This issue really should have been in Teen Titans, and Jason and Tim’s struggle really should have been in this issue. It would’ve felt more natural to me if they switched places, especially since this issue was much closer to being an issue of Teen Titans than Red Hood.
Holy CRAP, that’s the same Solstice?!? I have never made that connection. That arc was pretty good too, the art was especially gorgeous.
Even though I have not been reading Red Hood, I was really looking forward to these tie-ins to see Todd vs. the Joker. The plot possibilities were amazing but instead of Batgirl-level intensity, we get a DetectiveComics-style diversion. However, to this issue’s credit, at least this issue is a decent little adventure comic with some nice character interactions, even if it has its faults which you have expertly outlined above.
I am hoping that today’s Teen Titans sees some good action between Jason/Tim and the Joker (the solicit makes me cautiously optimistic) but I won’t be surprised if it is a let down, too.
Man, it really doesn’t bode well for this series if we’re hoping the next issue of Teen Titans outdoes it.
Drew, you forgot to add an “(on sale TODAY!)” in your comment there.
Well, TT#16 only has 3pgs of non-Joker action, so that’s a plus, and they come all together so at least the issue isn’t all chopped up. I am even willing to give them a pass on these because they advance the TT plot for those who are not simply buying it for the tie in.
Otherwise the issue was just ok when it could had potential to be stellar. I don’t know if it outdoes RedHood16 but it is more focused on the main action, which is what I bought it for. I’m not disappointed as much as underwhelmed.
I’ll leave it there until your post on Monday.
I’m just going to grit my teeth and wait until James Tynion IV takes the reins of this title come issue nineteen. I believe in him.
+1, I really liked this series for the first 9 or so issues, the story wasn’t always top-notch but the characterization (especially Jason) kept me coming back, but since Kenneth Rocafort left if seems like the writing has really gone downhill (which I assume has to be circumstantial, ’cause he was only drawing the damn thing as far as I know). I hope James the Fourth can right the ship or I will bw dropping this title really soon.
Pingback: The Flash 17 | Retcon Punch