Red Hood and the Outlaws Issue 1

By Vince

Red Hood and the Outlaws is undoubtedly one of the worst comics I have ever read. It’s not Neonomicon bad, but it’s a solid contender for second place.

When DC initially announced this title as part of their New 52, I knew there was little chance of it being good and had no intention of picking it up. However, when I started hearing the chorus of complaints, I couldn’t resist. Like a terrible B movie or a car wreck, I simply had to know for myself just how bad it was.

To be perfectly honest, there are aspects of a decent comic here. The mystery that pops up in the second half of the issue is interesting, and I wouldn’t mind reading a Jason Todd and Roy Harper buddy-adventure comic. The problem is that the few interesting bits are completely overshadowed by some serious issues for me.

Much of the criticism of this comic had been aimed at the interpretation of Starfire, and rightly so. The way writer Scott Lobdell and artist Kenneth Rocafort have overly sexualized her is unnecessary and embarrassing. The fact that somebody thought this was an appropriate interpretation of the character astounds me.

Before this goes any farther, put Starfire’s character from the Teen Titans animated series out of mind. While many aspects of her character, such as her sense of justice and fierce loyalty, are in line with her history in the comics, the pure, innocent young girl of the cartoon doesn’t fit. Starfire has always been a fanservice character. Her upbringing and Tamaranean ideals of modesty and love, coupled with her costumes over the years, mean that, by design, Koriand’s supposed to be “every guy’s fantasy.” That’s okay, I can deal with it; Starfire’s looks and attitude aren’t what made her an interesting character. Her ability to overcome her nature and forge meaningful friendships with the Titans, and even a long-lasting romance with Dick Grayson are what made her a fan-favorite over the years.

Over the years, Starfire has always been depicted in a revealing costume. Was it necessary? No, but it is what it is. However, I have no idea why Rocafort and whoever helped design Starfire’s new look felt she needed to be more naked. A major reason for the entire New 52 initiative is to draw in new audiences; this design makes it clear DC is really only interested in one particular audience. Overall, their portrayal of females in the New 52 is questionable, but that’s a discussion for another day. The costume itself isn’t the dealbreaker. After all, Starfire is only wearing slightly less clothing than your average Star Sapphire. No, it’s merely a small piece of what’s truly wrong here.

The first thing Jason says when Starfire appears is to proudly announce to Roy that they’ve had sex. A few pages later, Kory jumps into bed with Roy, completely out of the blue. Now, if Tony Stark and Ollie Queen are allowed to sleep with whoever they want, then characters like She Hulk and Starfire should be able to as well. It’s an aspect of their character and doesn’t have to define them. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what does define Kory in this issue. Through an immense bit of retconning, here’s what Jason has to say about how Kory sees people around her:

Turns out Tamaraneans don’t see humans as much more than sights and smells. And they have a terribly short attention span about all things Earth. Seriously, when you get a chance, ask her about the gang you used to hang with.

As it turns out, Starfire doesn’t remember anything about her time with the Titans, or even the Titans themselves. Dick Grayson, the man she almost married, means nothing to her. Due to this, she can sleep with whoever she wants with no repercussions or attachment. Congratulations, DC, you’ve given Starfire all the characterization of a blow-up doll. According to Bob Harras, Editor-in-Chief for DC Comics, the post-relaunch characters are “based on what’s most important to the character and what events have had an impact on their lives.” (Source) So, by that thinking, all her character development, the friendships and romances she’s developed over the years, obviously aren’t important to her character. Her ability to fight crime in pasties and have sex with whoever she wants is.

This is a problem.

Not only is this comic nothing more than macho-fantasy wish fulfillment garbage, it’s poorly-written garbage. I will admit, there’s one line of dialog I absolutely loved. Jason tells Roy, “The only reason I’m here is ’cause if anything happens to you, that would make me the worst former sidekick ever.” Nobody wants to be Speedy. Sadly, any good will earned by that bit is promptly lost on the very next panel, when Roy exclaims “TANKS!” and Jason responds with “Don’t mention it.” Boo. Terrible puns may be one thing, but I lost count of all the double entendres in this issue, between all the thinly-veiled references to breasts and genitalia. It’s immature, unnecessary and, unfortunately, a perfect fit for this comic.

The art is a mess. It’s obvious 90% of the effort in drawing this issue was dedicated to making Starfire look as attractive as possible, complete with ridiculous pin-up poses. The remaining 10% was sketching everything else in at the last minute. No thanks.

Again, there are bits of a fun comic in here that I would give a chance under different circumstances. However, after reading this issue, I find myself less entertained than insulted. At least now we know the reason for Jason’s “situation” on the cover for Issue 2:

Moon Knight would be proud.

Red Hood and the Outlaws Issue 1
DC Comics
Story: Scott Lobdell
Art: Kenneth Rocafort

Vince is the self-proclaimed “Massive Nerd.” His interests range from video games and comics to anime and Transformers collectibles.

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