RED HOOD AND THE OUTLAWS #34 by Scott Lobdell with pencils by RB Silva and Cory Smith, inks by Wayne Faucher and Cory Smith and colors by Matt Yackey really came out in the wrong week.
Lobdell started his return to RED HOOD AND THE OUTLAWS with as big and as dumb of a bang as possible and even introduced some new bad guys that I thought would be the main focus. Instead, it turns out that first issue was actually more like the type of James Bond pre-opening credits scene that starts the movie off with a big, unrelated action sequence so the movie can feel better about spending the next hour on plots points. In this case, it seems like from the very beginning of his original run on the series, he’s had an idea for Starfire. Whether or not anybody liked that idea was beside the point, and here it feels like he is really doubling down on, “Seriously guys, I’m not misogynist. I’m totally going somewhere with this Starfire thing.” And perhaps against my better judgement and my desire for this series to be as dumb as possible, I’m actually kind of interested in seeing what he does.
My favorite part of this book and the thing that keeps me coming back continues to be the characters and their interactions. One thing that really stands out is the contradictions between how the characters present themselves and how they actually are. Roy Harper, the former junkie, tattoo covered, perpetual trucker-cap-wearer is the smartest guy in any room. Jason Todd, the murderous, revenge fueled ex-Robin legitimately cares about his teammates in ways that aren’t usually touched on super team books. And then there is Starfire, who wears the skimpiest costume possible, yet is by far the strongest, most independent member of the team. Except for one major misstep (that I’ll be getting to in a minute), I really dig the way these characters interact.
Most of the things I said about the art in last month’s review still apply to this one. I still really dig the thick outlines, the bold color choices and plasticy sheen to all the skin. Maybe it’s just because I’ve been reading a lot of old comics lately, but I really liked that in a few sequences here Lobdell stepped back, cut down on the word balloons and let the art tell the story. One of the artists (not sure which because the book still isn’t crediting page numbers to the two artists) uses a technique that I’ve always been a fan of on one page where a flashback is told with the panels framed in the shape of something else, in this case, Starfire’s silhouette as she reminisces on her past as a slave.
In a week when my social networking sites are filled with nothing but pictures of cops lined up pointing guns at citizens in Ferguson, it feels really uncomfortable seeing Roy and Jason doing it to Starfire here. Of course, I think it would be a bad choice on any week, but right now is just particularly bad timing. I’ve praised the comradery of the team before, so it’s a really weird choice to have them standing over her pointing weapons at her. She’s poised to kill someone who wronged her in the past, but now seems to have turned his evil ways around and feels remorseful, and Red Hood and Arsenal just show up with weapons pointed immediately. The weapons probably couldn’t hurt her, but that’s beside the point. Then the weapons pointing is treated as no big deal. Starfire leaves feeling betrayed by her teammates, but not because they pointed weapons at her, but because they asked her to not kill the person. The whole thing left me feeling very uncomfortable.
Along with that, the issue could have used another editing pass as well. There’s a typo here and there and a a really confusing headshot panel. I think it is supposed to be of Jason speaking, but seems to be either mis-colored or just completed drawn incorrectly as another character in the scene. The line the character says makes sense if it was Jason saying, but that’s not what’s on the page. It tripped me up for a bit.
Despite what I said in my review for Lobdell’s return issue about now wanting to see this comic have a plot, Lobdell is doing enough actually good work with Starfire and her storyline here that I’m actually enjoying it. The issue ends in an interesting place with Red Hood and Arsenal potentially wanted for murder and Starfire feeling betrayed by the closest thing she has to a family and having taken some sort of drastic but as of yet unclear step, and I’m eager to see what’s going to happen next to this group that is surprisingly becoming my favorite DC characters.