Today, Mikyzptlk and Patrick are discussing Red Hood and the Outlaws Annual 1, originally released May 29th, 2013.
Mikyzptlk: Our past is a part of who we are. Often enough, it can be something that defines us if we let it. Now, that can either be a good or a bad thing depending on who you are. The last few issues of Red Hood and the Outlaws have focussed on Jason erasing his own past from his memories in an attempt to start fresh. Things haven’t gone as smoothly for Jason as he had hoped it seems as he is finding it harder to escape his past than he thought. Jason’s teammates are no strangers to a past they’d rather forget too, and this issue finds everyone looking back, when all they really want to do is look forward. The Annual is definitely another step in the right direction, even if I do have a bone or two to pick.
Jason feels the weight of the man he once was and Googles himself to find that he’s killed, like, a ton of dudes. He takes the news…not so well. Meanwhile, Roy is having a hard time dealing with the revelation that Starfire has been dishonest in their relationship and has actually been repressing her memories all this time. Before he can sulk too much more about it, he leaves in response to a perimeter alert. Turns out, it’s his old “pal” Green Arrow! He’s there to warn Roy and his team about the bounty that’s on their heads. One explosion later, they come to the conclusion that GA’s accidentally led bounty hunters directly to them. Oops. Fights ensue and days are saved. Well, sort of. Jason’s super pissed that his friends lied to him about who he was and leaves to figure things out on his own.
Alright, first off, there’s a lot to like about this issue as the series is going in a much better direction since James Tynion’s take-over. What I liked best about this issue, though, boils down to two things: Roy and Kori. Tynion is beginning to peel back the layers of Roy’s still-fairly-mysterious past with Green Arrow, and I’m definitely enjoying what Tynion has to reveal. Roy begins to think about his past relationship with Ollie and, what most of their interpersonal issues boiled down to was a lack of trust. It’s fairly simple, but it’s a problem that plagues so many relationships in everyday life that it’s easy to relate to. Of course, there is the matter of Roy’s alcoholism, but Tynion makes sure to emphasize that even without those problems, the lack of faith that Ollie had in Roy would still have doomed their partnership.
Now that’s how you break up with someone! The other element that made this issue work for me: Starfire. As far as I’m concerned, Tynion has fixed the character. With the simple solution that Starfire has simply been repressing her memories, she’s no longer the sex-crazed goldfish she’s been characterized as since the inception of the New 52. She is once again the emotionally charged character that fans have known and loved for decades. That said, she’s certainly not the character she was in before the New 52, but Tynion has restored the essence of who she was. As long as he has the right base to work with, I’m excited to see what new avenues he wants to take Starfire down. One of those avenues seems to be her continued relationship with Roy. It’s quickly turned into something complex, and if both characters want the relationship to continue, they will need to face their past, and I hope this will afford us the chance to look further into each characters respective past’s.
What about Red Hood, you ask? Here’s the thing, I find myself hating Jason in this issue. The impression I got from Jason is that, even without his memories, this guy is an asshole. There’s nothing wrong with this in general, I figure that even without my memories, I’d still have the same personality. The problem I have though is that Jason is simply too quick to throw away his friendship. Twice in three issues, Jason has completely abandoned his friends who will seemingly stop at nothing to protect his ass. Granted, the Jason of this issue does remember the friendship he had with these characters, but don’t they deserve at least the slightest benefit of the doubt considering they rescued him? Don’t get me wrong, I’m still very much interested in seeing where Tynion goes with the character, but I hope that Jason stops being such a douchecanoe about everything.
Lastly, I need to talk about the artwork. It’s a big improvement over the first two issues of Tynion’s run as I haven’t been a fan of Julius Gopez’s oddities (EYEBROWS). Al Barrionuevo delivers some great action scenes and page layouts in this issue, my favorite being the shot of Arsenal vs. Green Arrow that I posted above. However, I do take issue with one thing in particular. Cheshire is the villain that crashes the party in this issue and while I enjoyed her reintroduction for the most part, I found some of her frequent poses to be… distracting.
I’m referring to the upskirt here. Now I might not even be mentioning this right now except for the fact that this her third upskirt featured… in this page alone! There’s one preceding this page and another one after, but you better believe there are other shots with her just bending over for no reason and plenty of side-skirt shots as well. It’s laughable. Except, ya know, NOT.
I don’t mean to end things on a sour note Patrick, as, overall, I enjoyed this issue. Even with the page above, while the art was a distraction, the dialogue itself is fine, and Roy totally makes a great joke at the end of it. It’s something I didn’t get into, but I found Roy’s humor to be another of this issue’s strengths. Patrick, is that something you’d agree with? Did you find yourself enjoying any other elements from this issue? Overall, would you agree that Tynion’s run is going in the right direction?
Patrick: Tynion’s definitely picked his pet-projects within this series: The Outlaws. Mik, you pointed out that Jason’s sort of a pill in this issue, but he’s also robbed of all of his agency. For all the things that Scott Lobdell mangled in his time with these characters, he always endowed Jason with a no-bullshit ability to Get Shit Done. He was comically efficient – like Leslie Knope, but dual-wielding pistols. Taking away Jason’s memories also means taking away that agency and it’s frustrating to watch the scrappiest character in the whole DCU basically sit around twiddling his thumbs while his buddy’s island paradise is attacked. He throws one punch. One. At it’s at Green Arrow!
But I do think Tynion knows how disappointing Jason’s inaction is. Early in the issue, Roy asks Ollie to keep an eye on Red Hood, to which Ollie responds,
He’s a Bat-kid isn’t he? He can take care of himself.
Ollie’s got the facts 100% correct: Jason, by virtue of having been a Robin is capable of fighting his own battles. The choice of language is interesting though: “take care of himself.” Each of the Outlaws has proven themselves impossibly well equipped to fight demons or aliens or gangsters or whatever, but the reason they all hang together is that there’s a sense that they need to take care of each other.
Essentially, that’s the difference between Green Arrow and Arsenal – and by extension, what makes the Outlaws different from the Justice League of America (and most other superhero teams, for that matter). The JLA was formed for tactical reasons — as were the other Justice Leagues — but Roy, Jason and Kori pal around together for emotional reasons. The contrast couldn’t be more stark: as the issue closes, Green Arrow calls back to Steve Trevor, asking him not to invade Outlaw Island, as was previously their plan. That’s right, Ollie triggered that emotionally charged reunion accidentally – he was there of League business. He’s like the dad that never shows up to a baseball game, but then the kid sees him in the stands and he finally knows “dad cares about me” – only to discover later that Dad was just there to close a deal with another kid’s parent.
Mik, I think you might be a touch too forgiving with Barrionuevo’s cheesecakery. You’re quick to point out the all-too-abundant upskirt shots, but there’s an equal number of panels where one superpowered butt or another is sticking out for no damn reason. Additionally, the camera is so frequently placed in a manner where we’re basically staring right down Starfire or Cheshire’s cleavage. It’s the same kind of shit that dogs this series constantly – and while the leering posing are one thing, there’s an elasticity to these characters that make their twisted anatomy prime targets for Escher Girls or the Hawkeye Initiative. Roy might make a joke about Cheshire being sexy, but there’s nothing sexy about this:
Although, Cheshire does successfully tear away a piece of Jason’s shirt (which… shouldn’t that be something that can’t just be torn willy-nilly?), leaving part of his chest exposed for the later quarter of the issue. Maybe Barrionuevo just really wanted to draw some nipples before the issue was over…
All body-issues aside, I also found the face and acting work to be inconsistent. Nothing reaches the depths of Gopez’ wonkiness in previous issues (love Spencer’s collage of rubber faces), but there are enough heads that come to weird, lumpy points. It’s sort of a shame, because Borrionuevo is fairly adventurous with his camera angles and facial poses – in fitting with the theme of the issue, we see Ollie’s face from below awful lot. Sometimes it’s looks great and is dynamic, but just as often, it’s kind of a mess.
Plus, Roy’s hair is CRAZY in this issue. It’s like he’s always standing in front of a fan. Seriously, his hair’s always whipping around – even when he’s stationary indoors. There are adjacent panels, where his hair is billowing in the opposite direction, with no discernible action between them.
I didn’t really get a chance to dig into Bronze Tiger and the League of Assassins, who are teased on the first page and then make a confusing return in the last panel. If anyone’s got more familiarity with these characters, and their relationship to Jason Todd and/or the All Caste, I’d love to hear about it in the comments.
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?