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WHttDCnU? – Red Hood and the Outlaws: REDemption

WHTTDCU-Titles-031

I’ll be blunt with you, heroes and heroines. I wasn’t sure what inspired this team when DC announced it for the new 52. With Roy Harper, once Green Arrow’s drug addicted sidekick Speedy (this addiction came later, he was just called Speedy to unfortunately coincidence), changing later to Arsenal and then Red Arrow, and Teen Titan veteran Starfire on the team, I thought this might be something like Nightwing’s old universe team, the Outsiders.

No, that couldn’t be right, not with Red Hood in the lead over there. Jason Todd, the guy under that helmet/mask/not a hood was once Batman’s most unfortunate Robin, having been a street rat that Bruce took in after finding him stealing the wheels from the Batmobile. No, REALLY. Jason was enjoying life as Robin until later when he was brutally murdered by the Joker, and event that was actually voted for by readers back in1988, which is kinda messed up. 17 years later had the poor bastard come back to life in his casket. Understandably pissed that Joker was still running around free after Jason clawed his way out, he ironically took on the mantle of the Red Hood, the Joker’s old alias, and went on a revenge fuelled bender to kill Joker and force Batman to confess to the sin of letting a serial killer live to take more lives in turn.

So THAT guy, with the basics of his backstory intact to my knowledge, is now leading a team. I don’t know what to expect from here, but Wasusa and Funky Panda have tracked down Jason Todd and the Outsiders to find out. Join us now for:

WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE DC NEW UNIVERSE?

– QueenQeeko

WHTTDCNU-synopsis

wasusa-rRoy looks pretty beat up. He tried to do a good(ish) thing, helping some people overthrow a guy. Didn’t really work out for him and he got locked up. He gets a visit from a priest, who brings him a bow, isn’t a priest, is called Jason Todd and has a bat symbol planted on him. Anyway, they make their messy and violent escape, then run into some tanks which Starfire promptly melts. But only because she doesn’t like soldiers, and really, really likes Jason.

Then someone spooky and magical turns up, there’s a case of mystical missing organs without people being dead, or even cut open meaning some force called “The Untitled” are back, and that this is serious. Then Starfire says sex has nothing to do with love and jumps Roy, who jumps straight back. Jumping back to spooky magic, there’s a group called the All Caste, who apparently protect against the Untitled. Except they all appear to be dead. Todd walks in on the aftermath of Starfire and Jason, grabs his mask, then heads to the All Caste monastery to kill some things.

We jump to a flashback. Todd was a Robin, but was then killed, and somehow resurrected, and is extremely pissed off about the whole ordeal. He was taken to the All Caste by a Talia Al Ghul, probable relation, who apparently shacked up with Batman. Anyway, he meets Ducra, who is 3000 years old and she knocks him out cold. Apparently he came back without a soul during his resurrection, so it had to be reinstated by a magic pool.

Anyway, we then jump back to a plane ride before the killing things in the monastery happens. Apparently they decided Red Hood shouldn’t just ditch everybody. They fly, they land, Todd visits a safe house, runs into some people who are probably significant somewhere but not here, and kills them, then they get on more aircraft and finally reach the monastery. We have the Dying Mentor Speech, then they kill everyone else there who happen to have been corrupted in an unexplained way.

We then jump to a four millennia old bald child. He steals their most treasured memories in exchange for some passage through escher-esque dimensional space. He then watches Starfires memory, which is of one of her slave-owner-race people being kind to her, then her brutally murdering him. Back to Escher-Space, they fight a giant spiky head giant thing. Back to memories, Roy fights a Crocodile. Suicide-By-Croc, because apparently he got screwed over by Oliver Queen (Green Arrow). But Croc sympathises, and tells Roy to pull his head in. Back to Escher, they reach a snowglobe in Escher Space, which is apparently a clue. Then they leave, get their memories back. Except Todd doesn’t take his back. We then watch it. Todd is sick, wants to go out but can’t. Batman Sidelines him, Todd goes upstairs, sulks at Alfred, then is surprised to be joined by Bruce on the couch for a relaxing night in. With Popcorn.

We then jump to the gang in a town. They get in a bar fight, go to the police station. Meanwhile, someone called Rhux attacks starfire. Ostensibly human, but looks more like a giant mutant reptile bat thing. Back at the cop shop, turns out the Cop is the Untitled they’ve been looking for. They believe the All Caste broke their truce… implying there was one. Anyway, Fighting. Jump back to Korra, sobstory from Rhux, unlimited family resources, genius… blah blah genetic alterations. Then he tricks Starfire into a… Tamaran Substation, and it forces her to release all her energy? Kind of unclear Anyway, she’s a human with orange skin now. Back to the police station, Todd and Roy Run, then turn and prepare to fight.

We jump to Rhux being shot down by Roy. Rhux doesn’t understand why he cares about Starfire. Back to the other fight. Oh no! they’ve both been tricked by some other Untitled, or All Caste. We jump a lot, so to simplify I’m going to streamline the stories. Todd jumps into the water, we have a flash back involving Ducra, Todd being stubborn, and a talk about how all the training in the world cannot make someone mentally perfect or stable, but can merely provide the means to do so. Then he jumps out of the water and slices the Untitled with “All-Blades”, fed by his own blood. Don’t ask, I don’t know. Then a mob turns up, so he runs off. Back at Starfire, Rhux turns up, there’s fighting, arguing about how aliens are/aren’t evil, some minor scuffling, Starfire still has her powers because reasons, then Roy shows up so they fly off, with the now unconscious Rhux in tow.

…We now interrupt the plot for a prequel issue, that takes part a month before the first issue. The summary is, Starfire has few memories, Jason chills on an island with her crashed ship and technology for a bit, and calms down slightly from the angry person he was.

And back to the plot. Strange magical girl from the first issue is called “Essence”. They dump Rhux in Arkham. But they take his spaceship first. It’s full of magical spacetechmagic, with ridiculous powers for reasons. Then essence magics onto the ship, saying “word on the shadow wall is you killed the Untitled responsible for slaying the all caste”. There’s some history of betrayel here, so Jason draws a blade that can only be drawn in the presence of evil. Scuffling, “I can’t believe you, no I can’t believe you!” then it turns out Ducra was an Untitled, and Essence is her daughter and one as well. Her goal is to wipe out the rest of the Untitled. There’s fighting, she can’t be harmed by anything made by man… but they’re on an alien spaceship full of alien junk. They find something, zap her, then the arc ends. The hook is Jason calling then hanging up on a flight attendant, and the really fat unimportant person from the apartment way back when in Hong Kong waking up in hospital in Gotham.

WHTTDCNU-art

fighting-panda-lKenneth Rocafort is the artist this time around, and to be honest? I’m not really impressed with his art style. The line art is mostly scratchy, which oftentimes isn’t bad, but with it also being very sketchy, it just seems as if a lot of the artwork looks unfinished. Some parts you don’t even know what is supposed to be what because the scratchy lineart blends everything in too much. Detailing is left out in parts, case and point, on the alien towards the end of issue 7, with the encounter with essence, the insides of the spaceship doesn’t look like a professional drew it, with some panels looking no better than a kindergardener.

I’m not a fan of the design of Red Hood’s helmet in this. The whole point of having a helmet was to hide the face of the wearer, Jason Todd (who looks like Peter Petrelli from Heroes) but the helmet he has shows EVERY facial expression he has. I understand that you need to show some aspect of personality and it works when it’s just the eyes moving, but the rest of the face too is out of place to me. The rest of him is cool though

Starfire’s character design to me was also questionable. Sure, she looks great, but seeing as she’s a character I mostly know from Teen Titans, it’s very off putting to see a character mostly innocent being overhauled into what I can only describe as a Pornstar body. However on the flip side on the coin the tattoo’s and baseball hat combo on Roy wasn’t too bad though.

 

wasusa-rSimilar in style to Red Lanterns, which you may recall I savaged for its art. We’re once again saddled with inconsistency on inconsistency, even if it does tend to get a nice backdrop. However, unlike Red Lanterns, enough care is payed to the important details – Facial structure, costume layout, shadowing from scene to scene- that I can just about forgive any other artistic sins the comic could throw up. Though I should probably make the point that it’s easy to be consistent when they’re kept to a minimum. The overall style is simplistic: Key facial features (eyes, nose, mouth) are always well defined, while the rest of the face is mostly left to shades and shadows. The rest of the world fares the same: Only hard edges get ink. I appreciate this, probably more than I should. I also quite like how they’ve handled character hair. More than anything else, it feels dynamic. This is not the golden age of perfect, fixed unmoving hair. Here there is life, movement, and chaos.

I would give them credit for matching the dynamic of the story, but I can’t go that far.

WHTTDCNU-writing

fighting-panda-lWhen I heard that Scott Lobdell wrote this I got a bit excited, as his writing made Superboy’s New 52 reboot one of my favourites in this series. Unfortunately as it may have it’s great moments it didn’t quite live up to the Lobdell standard that I know of.

The story of Red Hood and the Outlaws follows Red Hood, Starfire and Red Arrow/Arsenal as they traverse to where Jason Todd was taken in by a tribe of monks called the All Caste. This is where he met his old mentor, Ducra, and in turn Essence as well. Apparently an Untitled has killed all his fellow monks and the spirit of Ducra leads them in the direction to help discover and solve what happend. With a little vengeance on the side.

The other two characters of the trio seem like they don’t have much to do except for being fan service to fans or comedic relief. They’re there just the fill the gap. They could’ve definately have been used more in this story, and while I get that this first story is a Red Hood centric arc, they could have tried a little bit better to make those two seem like the belong there other than old “My friend’s on a mission, not gonna ask me to come, but I’ll go anyway” trope.

It was fine, the basic premise was quite decent but the back and forth between memories and flashbacks could’ve been utilised better in my opinion. On a lighter note however I did enjoy the banter between the three, expecially Todd and Harper. My favourite is still the first issue when Todd says “If something happens to you, I become the worst former sidekick ever” and in their respective thought bubbles go “Too far?” “Too far”. Was comedy gold.

 

wasusa-rOverall? Reasonably solid. We have some solid foreshadowing, and the writing leans towards shown exposition rather than told exposition, which as you should realise by now is one of my biggest gripes. The flow of the story itself is a little bit clunky… most of the time. Their attempts to weave simultaneous events together felt jarring, rather than the suspense building I’m sure they were going for, and their jaunts into the past were poorly timed in respect to the main story. I can understand for plot reasons why they needed to be covered before the main story continued, but opening an issue with a flashback, when the end of the previous issue was primed with an unrelated hook is not the best policy.

I also need to take issue with the revisionism that happens between issues one and two. At the end of issue one, Red Hood is clearly seen leaving without his companions, as he sneaks in and leaves them while they’re asleep and ends up in a situation where he’s shown to be alone, and in a fight. In the next issue, after a poorly timed flashback we’re several hours before the first issue ends, and we’ve now got the gang back together. Either someone wanted to make a point a point about betrayal and snuck it in, or it was meant to be a dramatic first issue end, but it just doesn’t fit with what happened next. It was clunky, and they should have just handled it properly. Can you tell it’s jarring? I’ve written more on this part than the rest of the writing.

WHTTDCNU-characterisation

fighting-panda-lYou get a feel for these characters half way throguh this when S’aru the Protector goes through all backstories of the main characters, and all of a sudden These characters that are quite literally the bottom of the bottom, all of a sudden have depth to them, you feel sorry for them, and you start to care about the characters more which is rare in comics now.

I mean with Roy, you know you’ve hit rock bottom when Waylon Jones, aka Killer Croc is your voice of reason, to talk some sense into him but hey, Roy was pretty much desperately low enough to kill himself via Croc’s hands. Flashbacks aside he is the comic relief of the comic. Nothing more, which isn’t bad, a few of his lines are brilliant “found a new favorite memory, not even kidding, this is awesome!”

It is interesting to me how they did Jason Todd’s character, how they changed and tweaked his character a bit. I thought it was a nice touch how starfire had all these outfits from Dick Grayson in her ship just lying around and he just puts one of them on to go with the Jacket. He’s pretty much a young Bruce Wayne. During the day can be as charming as ever when unwillingly getting a flight attendant’s number, but at night that goes out the window and he’s calculating, dark, intelligent and no nonsense about everything.

And finally I’ve left Princess Koriand’r from the planet Tamaran, aka Starfire. Princess sold into slavery to free her people. I left her last because well, let’s address the elephant in the room. She’s gotten hot since teen titans. At first glance you see her as a woman with short term memory, (she cannot recall any of her teamates from the Titans) sees humans as sights and smells, and communicates via assimilating knowledge and language through intimacy (one way at least). But deep down I feel she’s using all that as a facade to sheild from the real her that’s no doubt going to be brought up in the future.

 

wasusa-rJason and Roy are pretty well rounded out by the time they burst onto the page. Our introduction by fire tells us they’ve spent a lot of time together, happily trade banter and will more often than not just get on with whatever they’re doing, damn most of the consequences. We do get a few more pieces from flashbacks and “most treasured memories”, telling us just how screwed up they are (Hint: despite having died, Jason is the most normal one of the group) and overall I’m pleased with how much backstory we’re given for the two. We’re given where in the universe these two come from and nothing (apart from resurrection) jumps out as unreasonable or overbearing.

Starfire is a little different. She’s an approximately all powerful alien entity who was a slave, has liberal views on love, and can more or less do as she pleases. Her progression is ok… except for a few minor details. The biggest of which is she seems to pick up a new backstory trait every time something comes up that could impede her. Seeming more relatable and human like? Show a backstory involving her killing someone showing her kindness and sympathy. Powers stripped in a foolproof manner because of technology targeting her races DNA? Nope, turns out she was genetically modified while a slave. She also receives the least amount of world relevant backstory: we know she’s run into Nightwing, but that’s about it.

Non-core characters are referenced briefly, framed, then moved past. The Untitled are an interesting concept who look like they’re going to get more attention as the arcs progress, but as of yet they’ve only been briefly covered.

WHTTDCNU-conclusion

fighting-panda-lBefore I mentioned I was excited to do this book because of Scott Lobdell as a writer. That was one reason. The other reason being that the Red Hood is perhaps my favorite anti-hero in all of comics, and the Death in the Family, is one of my favorite (and I know I’m not alone) graphic novels as well. The story of the one robin Batman couldn’t save. The murder at the hands of the Joker via crowbar, and the brutal resurrection via Lazarus pit to bring him back rabid, and angry, and filled with vengeance.

This is an interesting take on Jason Todd’s storyline though, as the New 52 rebooted that to say he didn’t, and Talia took him to the monks to better his potential, and hopefully sway from his aner to those that did him harm.

I enjoyed the story, and enjoyed the character interaction as well. The banter, the one liners, the backstories, the character developments, it was all there, and was all great. The one thing that deterred me with this comic is infact, the art.

Don’t get me wrong, I admit I may have been a bit harsh critiquing the art earlier, as there are very beautiful panels throughout the comic, it’s just a shame that such a sketchy art style is used to express this and the bad outweighs the good with this. I believe it needed a better artist for this, like Joe Bennet from the Deathstroke, or hell i’d even take the artist from Resurrection Man or even Stormwatch (that last one may be pushing it too far) My point being, I don’t mind Scratchy art, it just shouldn’t be used as a majority of the style as it has been done here, because it just looks unfinished in parts.

All in all though, I really enjoyed this. And do look forward to where it goes in the next couple issues.

 

wasusa-rMy view on this comic went through a few stages. First: I could read this, seems like it could have a good progression. Second: what the shit, why are you revising things which happened in your first issue. This could mean problems. Third: TELL ME MORE ABOUT THESE UNTITLED THINGS. Fourth: Stuff it, I’m going to keep reading.

The story is compelling, the art is adequate, and there are no real dealbreakers in terms of content. It’s a solid comic which I intend to finish, and would happily recommend to anyone.

WHTTDCNU-comic

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  • I’m honestly amazed that neither of you liked the art. Kenneth Rocaforte is one of my favourite artists in DC’s current line up. His pencil work in my opinion has a stunning grunge to it, that almost gives a sesne of realism, with a texture on mostly every surface, while still maintaining cartoony enough features to drive the comedy home.

    One thing I should point out though, and it’s my fault really that this wasn’t in the review. In the trade they reordered the issues. So issue six, the flashback to how Jason and Kori met, is actually at the start of the book. Of course this doesn’t change these guys conclusion which I agree with, and more so. I love Red Hood, and continue to enjoy the series. A lot of people gave it hell at the beginning of the run, but now the story has played out, and it’s a great story.

    I’m sad to see Starfire leaving the team in the near future though… but yey Starfire solo series!